A hidden treasure
Shooting skywards, the branches of mottlecah (Eucalyptus macrocarpa) clad in hard silver leaves are your dramatic introduction to Roe Gardens. Other limbs range across the ground at strange angles with strong visual energy. The blossoms - red starbursts exploding from turban-shaped buds - are the biggest of any eucalypt.
Reaching up to five metres in height, mottlecah is actually one of the very few tall plants on the northern sandplains whose diverse flora is represented by selected samples in the 2210 square metres of the Roe Gardens.
Extending from Gingin to north of Shark Bay and east to Dalwallinu, the region is typically covered in low shrubby heath known as kwongan, which has no canopy - and is blessed by spectacular floral shows in late spring and early summer.
Roe Gardens' peak season drawcards include copper-cups (Pileanthus peduncularis), Verticordia cooloomia, red morrison (V. ethelianaformosa), sand bottlebrush (Beaufortia squarrosa), smokebush (Conospermum spp.), yellow kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos pulcherrimus) and black kangaroo paw (Macropidia fuliginosa).
Whichever time of year you visit however, it is rare not to find a few flowers on the magnificent old specimens of mottlecah.
Being the end point of the Botanic Garden, Roe Gardens are a hidden treasure of which many people are unaware. Most visitors who start their tour on foot at the Entry simply do not walk this far, so there is a quietness which enables you to reflect, if you wish, upon those who are honoured here.
Central to Roe Gardens is a monolith dedicated to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died serving with the Australian armed forces in every war since the Boer War. It is embraced by a granite sitting wall under an arbour roof which is elegantly tapered and curved like a gum leaf.
The Gardens' name celebrates Western Australia's first surveyor-general, John Septimus Roe, whose memorial bears a bronze plate depicting one of his earliest maps of Perth - showing very few streets, and many more lakes than exist today.
As Roe Gardens are accessible by road, for visitors with limited time this is a good place not just to see the sand plain species but also to explore the Grevillea and Hakea Garden and the bed dedicated to north-western flora.
After a rest on Drummond's Seat - a huge, semi-circular granite bench named after James Drummond, Western Australia's first Government Botanist - you can return to the car-park via the Place of Reflection, a tranquil location for quiet contemplation among plantings of eastern Australian species.
Given the elevation, Roe Gardens' other magnet is the view, which you can enjoy while lounging on the gently sloping lawns. With the Narrows Bridge as its focus, it's a river and city panorama to absorb at leisure - and at night the lights are magical.
But relaxing in Roe Gardens may not be enough for you. The beds of sand plain species are mulched with sand, to echo their natural habitat - but seeing them displayed as a sample within a Botanic Garden within a capital city can not possibly beat the gritty reality of seeing them in their homelands.
The Kalbarri and Moore River National Parks and the country around Badgingarra, Dandaragan and Mount Lesueur are harsh and gauntly beautiful. So be tempted to 'go bush' - the kwongan awaits you.