Flora and the Baron

Walking piece details

Duration49 minutes

Baron Ferdinand von Mueller – eccentric outsider, global scientific powerhouse and the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s first director – has a tale to tell. Cut off from his beloved Gardens for the last twenty years of his life in self-imposed exile, his spirit re-enters the Gardens as your audio tour guide, delighting in the powerful beauty of the plants, revelling in his scientific legacy, and entertaining us with stories from his remarkable life. But he is also confronted by the environmental havoc produced from his own actions, like the introduction of blackberries, and the destruction of our native forests leaves him deeply saddened. Mueller challenges us to avoid the mistakes of the colonial scientific era, and to widen our gaze towards the future that we are in the process of creating. Use your smartphone and headphones to listen to this audio tour, which features Mueller’s prolific writing and also imagines his response to his considerable legacy.


Creators: Bowerbird Theatre (David Joseph & Karen Berger), https://www.bowerbirdtheatre.com/
Performers: Brian Lipson (Baron von Mueller), Karen Berger, David Joseph, Susan Bamford Caleo
Advisors: Dr Sara Maroske, Andrea James
Sound Engineer: Jem Savage, recorded at Wefo Studios


‘Kuller Kullup’ is included with the permission of the author Bruce Pascoe. Originally commissioned by Red Room Poetry and Australian Poetry for New Shoots: Garden of Poems.
“On a General Introduction of Useful Plants into Victoria”, Lecture, 1857. Transactions of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria
“Trees & Drought – The Prevention or Mitigation of Droughts in Australia”, Article, 1866. The Journal of Botany, British & Foreign, Vol IV
“Forest Culture in its Relation to Industrial Pursuits”, Lecture, 22nd June 1871. Industrial and Technological Museum
“Select extra-tropical plants”, 1895. Government Printer, Melbourne
“Regardfully Yours: selected correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller”, edited by RW Holme, AM Lucas, Sara Maroske, DM Sinkora & JH Voigt, Vols I, II & III
Hansard, 7th Victorian Parliament, Volume 14. 30 July – 14 August, 1872

Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111: II. Arietta
Clementi, Sonata in G Minor ‘Didone Abbandonata’ op. 50 no. 3. I Introduzione, II Adagio dolente
Bach, Book I Prelude and Fugue No 8 in E Flat Minor BWV 853, Prelude
Providence Brigade Band, Brass Band Music, mid 19th century, Coventry
Favourite Australian Birdsong, a natural soundscape, Andrew Skeoch & Sarah Kocshak (Redthroat & Pied Butcherbird), https://listeningearth.com/

Karen Berger

Karen Berger


Karen’s passion is to use her expertise in performing arts, research and writing to create connection through multimedia storytelling. She has an abiding commitment to social justice, as born out through her practice-led M.A. and PhD, which used theoreti...




David is a multi-skilled physical performer with over 35 years’ experience in the performing arts sector. He has worked as an actor, musician and circus performer for some of Australia’s best known performing arts companies including Chamber Made – ...

Near Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Avenue, Melbourne VIC, Australia

3 thoughts on “Flora and the Baron

  1. Hi there

    I wanted to let you know that I absolutely loved the Flora and the Baron tour.

    I found it very moving, evocative, informative, engaging, fascinating. I was utterly spellbound really, one of the best tours I have ever done. I just loved finding out about the baron and the history of the gardens. But it was also the perfect balance between listening and having time to contemplate, so you learn a lot but also get to enjoy and imbibe the serenity of that incredible place (my favourite place in the world, and i’ve travelled a lot!)

    It felt very cleverly devised, with just the right amount of pauses so you could easily stop and ponder or slowly make your way to the next part. I have to say I was so uplifted by the end, it was the perfect start to my week, it left me in such a beautiful headspace.

    I have been coming to the gardens for five decades now and this tour took me to parts I have never been to! How fantastic is that? The sensory garden, so peaceful and colourful at this time of year. And revisiting the fernery, where I havent been for years. The scene set in the pagoda where I have spent so much time over the years, priceless.

    Thankyou for making this tour and congratulations to the writers and performers. I really hope it goes for longer than the end of the year as there are many people who I know would love it and I really want to do it again too. I really recommend it be kept as a staple of the gardens. It is a standout tour in my opinion. I want to take my mum and my teenage son and nieces. I know they would all get a lot out of it. The rest of my family and friends will also love it. Have spread the word but everyone is so busy before christmas. Please keep it for longer!

    Thanks again,
    Tash Coleman
    #1 rbg fan

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