From small beginnings in a Bulli backyard 30 years ago, Illawarra Grevillea Park has grown to become a beautiful showcase of flora from every Australian state.
The backyard belonged to Ray Brown, and when the collection of wild-sourced grevilleas grown by the Grevillea Study Group of the Australian Plant Society outgrew that space, Ray started the hunt for a new home.
He negotiated with Wollongong City Council to lease land at the base of Bulli Pass, designed the layout of the park and took on the task of building the infrastructure for today’s Illawarra Grevillea Park.
Ray is now the park manager and he and a dedicated team of volunteers look after the park. They meet every Monday to carry out a range of jobs including planting, pruning, mulching, building new gardens and paths and undertaking special projects.
The park contains extensive display gardens, featuring plants from all over Australia, and a rainforest.
In 2022 it became a Botanic Garden and a new sensory walk was added in the rainforest area.
The park also has a scientific charter as a member of the South East NSW Bioregion Working Group. The group aims to increase knowledge of rare and significant flora, undertakes collaborative field collecting, promotes conservation, and shares information and resources in order to better facilitate research.
Volunteers are currently gearing up for the park’s annual open days in July, which help to generate funds to keep the park going.
Volunteer John Elton, who has been with the park for eight years, said everyone contributed “in our own little way”.
“We just keep maintaining the park and putting new plantings in and developing different aspects of the park we think the public would appreciate,” he said.
“We’re always after volunteers and we’ve got a fantastic group of people who get on really well and who put a lot of effort into making the park the great place it is.
“We don’t receive outside funding from any organisation at all, the park generates its own income from our open days and that’s enough to keep us going for the following year.”
The next open days for the park are 1-2 and 8-9 July.
John encouraged visitors to come along, enjoy the gardens and even buy their own grevilleas to plant in their backyards.
“We want visitors to go out and explore, enjoy and see something that they wouldn’t see anywhere else in Australia. The park is unique in that way,” he said.
“There are picnic facilities with information boards, we have a chapel where you can buy books at really cheap prices. Come and spend a few hours, have a picnic and enjoy yourself at the park.”
Click here for more information about the park and its open days.