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Green fingers say roots of the French connection run deep

Richard Barley CEO of Open Gardens Australia and Ambassador Stephane Romatet Richard discuss the influence of French gardens in Australia.

Richard Barley CEO of Open Gardens Australia and Ambassador Stephane Romatet Richard discuss the influence of French gardens in Australia. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Opens Gardens Australia chief executive officer Richard Barley has declared the National Arboretum Canberra an incredible and spectacular project while also visiting the gardens of the French embassy in the national capital.

Mr Barley and members of the ACT and country NSW regional committee of Open Gardens Australia attended a reception at the French embassy on Thursday night with ambassador Stephane Romatet.

He spoke about the influence of French gardens in Australia and the importance of building connections with the gardens of France and beyond.

Mr Barley, who has twice spoken at Gardens without Limits in Metz in north-eastern France, said there had been a botanical connection between France and Australia as far back as the earliest European settlement.

Napoleon's wife Josephine grew and promoted the use of Australian plants in France including grevilleas, banksias, eucalypts and casuarinas.

There was also the use of French design and Mediterranean-style plants such as lavender in Australian gardens and public spaces.

''You see the adoption of some of those French principles of grand design in the landscape,'' he said. ''The long vista, such as you see when you look from the War Memorial down to the houses of Parliament, that is out of that classic French label of grand estate design - proportion and perspective, the use of form and void in the landscape.''

Mr Barley also made his first visit to the National Arboretum Canberra and said he would be happy to look at promoting it through the channels of Open Gardens Australia, which works to foster the enjoyment, knowledge and benefits of gardens and gardening.

''It's spectacular,'' he said, from the arboretum's visitors' centre.

''This building we're standing in is just magnificent, I just love the form of it … You can see the potential and the amount of work that has already gone on here.

''It's incredible.''

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