By Victoria Stone-Meadows

Last financial year 177,824 people visited Cranbourne’s world-renowned botanic gardens. Director Chris Russell is the man in charge of the award-winning 363-hectare site.

The Royal Botanical Gardens Cranbourne took centre stage in June when executive director Chris Russell addressed an international congress in Geneva, Switzerland.
It was the third time Mr Russell has spoken at an international conference about the Cranbourne Gardens and the importance of botanical gardens in general.
This year the 6th annual world botanic garden congress hosted more than 200 representatives of more than 500 botanical gardens from 100 countries around the globe.
Mr Russell has been executive director of the gardens for a little over one year, and has been an integral part of bringing the wider gardens vision to life.
He spoke at the congress of the importance of plants and gardens in the urban landscape and the roles gardens play in the healthy development of suburbs and their residents.
“My talk explores the roles of the Cranbourne Gardens in urban greening, and will be showing the fundamental importance of plants within an urban landscape,” he said.
“Plants make for healthy communities; it is all about the air we breathe, clean water, green spaces for recreation, and the spiritual connection to the land we live on.”
“Cities with more greenery are healthier places to live, so I will be demonstrating that that is the role of Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria and in particular the Cranbourne Gardens in a local context.”
The annual world botanic gardens congress allows for botanical gardens from all over the world to share ideas and information as well as strengthening the bond and commitment gardens have to their communities.
Mr Russel said presenting at the congress gave the rest of the world a chance to gain an understanding of how botanical gardens in Australia are managed and curated.
“It is really critical for us to be active players on a world stage,” Mr Russell said.
“Botanical gardens in Australia are at the leading edge of contemporary garden management.”
“Not only in terms of the topics we cover but in managing our collections but also dealing in responses to climate change.”
Mr Russell said the Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens had been the triumph of his career that started as a love of gardening as a child.
“It has been a lifelong interest of mine,” he said.
“Often the things we do in our childhood influence what we do in later age, and I have fond memories of building gardens and landscaping at home.”
The Cranbourne Botanical Gardens boasts 360 hectares of native and threatened species of plants and Mr Russell said they played an important role in keeping these species alive.
“At Cranbourne we have a large area of high value conservation within the rapidly expanding South East growth corridor,” he said.
“We have the Australia Garden which is a world class showcase garden, and is award winning when it comes to providing inspiration and education on how to grow native plants at home.”
Mr Russell also believes the gardens are an important aspect of the growing region in terms of creating usable and productive spaces for new communities.
“We are working with planners and developers to maximise greening new communities and for the benefit of residents and wildlife,” he said.
“We have in the gardens habitat corridors and things like that to recognise not only the public open space but what people can do in their home garden.”
The Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens is open to the public seven days a week and attracts visitors to the Casey/Cardinia region from the local area, interstate and internationally.

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