Discovering the Public Art in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden

Did you know that along with all the trees and flowers and stunning harbour vistas, there are 55 sculptures scattered around the garden? Today we share with you some of our favourites.

A Folly for Mrs Macquarie by Fiona Hall

Sitting high on the path above the Opera House gates, this sculpture by Fiona Hall is my favourite in the garden.

Fiona Hall metalwork scupture Botanic Gardens
Fiona Hall – A Folly for Mrs Macquarie

Along with Mrs Macquarie’s Chair just a little further along the path, the site is thought to have been a place that Governor Macquarie’s wife Elizabeth passed the time overlooking the harbour and waiting for ships to arrive from home. The sculpture depicts the family crest, bones of animals who once roamed the area and Norfolk Pine fronds.

Boy Extracting a Thorn – Sculptor: Unknown

This marble statue is a replica of the bronze sculpture The Spinarius and was imported from Rome in 1883. The original sculpture is at Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome.

Boy Extracting a thorn
This sculpture dates to 1883

The boy was said to have been a messenger who delivered an important message to the Senate in ancient Greece. There are several copies around the world including one in the Uffizi in Florence and one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in new York.

You will find the statue on a path that winds down to the water. Directly in front of this is a bed of beautiful red calla lilies and the Opera House. It’s a beautiful shot.

Palm by Bronwyn Oliver

This metal sculpture is also a favourite. This “seed” a copper sculpture shows folded palm fronds and sits near the main pond. There is a second seed nearby.

Before European settlement, this foreshore was a mudflat. The waves washed seeds and flotsam up. Ships arrived on the tide in 1788 and crops were planted nearby soon afterwards. This area has been dedicated ever since to the introduction and propagation of plants reflecting the changing cultural and horticultural needs of the day. 

This sculpture is intended to symbolise an elemental form washed up by the tide, blown by the wind, eroded by water and laden with the potential for vigour and transformation. It began with the form of the palm above.

Herb Garden Sundial by John Ward and Margaret Folkard

The Herb Garden itself is lovely. You will find it at the top of the Garden near Macquarie Street and the Palace Gate entrance, it’s a beautiful spot to eat lunch or take some time out.

Sundial Royal Botanic Garden
Designed by John Ward and Margaret Folkard (1994)
Sundail in the Royal Botanic Gardens

I love the detail on this sculpture in the Herb Garden. The herbs depicted are planted in the surrounding beds.

Memory is Creation Without End by Kimio Tsuchiya

Technically, outside the grounds of the Botanic Gardens on Macquarie Street, this sculpture was created in 2000 and is part of the Sydney Sculpture Walk.

Memory is creation without end
Memory is Creation Without End

This area was originally a quarry, and these pieces of sandstone represent the work of the craftsmen of the time. The pieces are arranged in a spiral to symbolise the connection of past, present and future.

You can download the sculpture map and hunt down your own favourite

Have you visited the gardens? Do you have a favourite? We would love to hear which one. Leave a comment below.

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First published Feb 2012. Updated Nov 2020