Garden of Discovery

Come to learn, have fun and explore in the Garden of Discovery!

Designed with pathways, soundscapes, outdoor books and interpretive signage, it highlights some of the internationally significant achievements of South Australian scientists in environmental and agricultural science at the Waite Campus.

Development of the Garden of Discovery concept

In 1995, a design team of Viesturs Cielens, Susan Phillips and Berenice Carrington, along with input from the wider community developed a masterplan for the gardens of the Urrbrae House Historic Precinct. It was decided to recreate some of the historical elements of the garden, but also to create new thematic garden rooms. These rooms make reference to the history of Peter Waite and the scientific achievements of the campus, and are stimulating interpretative places for people of all ages to enjoy. Artist Dianne Longley collaborated on the design for the Garden of Discovery and the attractive inlaid pavers were made by Lynn Elzinga-Henry.

Cultural historian Denise Schumann developed the conceptual themes and narratives, described below, which overlay the garden design and provide the intellectual framework for the Science Discovery Trail.  Informed by her extensive research and oral history projects she also authored the outdoor books and interpretive panels and produced the soundscapes.

The Garden of Discovery is divided into thematic sections

  • Beginnings

    ‘Beginnings’ marks the start of the Science Discovery Trail. Peter Waite’s bequest signified the end of one era in agriculture and the beginning of another.

    “We have now reached a point when it behoves us to call science to our aid to a greater extent then hitherto has been done, otherwise we cannot hope to keep in the forefront.” P. Waite 1913

  • New directions

    Since the early days of colonial settlement, Australia had a history of plant and animal breeding'. Fundamental genetics, however, was late in becoming established. After 1945, Australia seemed more connected to the world, and it was thought that as Australia was highly dependent on primary industry, it was necessary to strengthen research programs in the pure and applied sciences. From 1949 until 1955, there was a series of extremely important developments in the area of genetic studies, plant breeding and evaluation made at the Waite Institute.

  • Vision and revision

    The work at Waite Institute has always involved changing attitudes towards biology and agriculture. The philosophy that the Australian conditions would dictate the nature of the research was an important one. The economic importance of Australian native flora was identified, and as a consequence, there was a growing commitment to preservation and conservation of native bush. Constance Eardley's life and work with Australian arid lands, is honoured in this section.

  • Keeping the faith

    Insects are an essential part of ecosystems, but can at times become pests. The Waite Campus continues to play an important research role in the control of insect populations. Waite Institute's success can be seen in some ways to be directly related to the ability of its researchers to solve practical problems. Prof. James Davidson played a significant role in understanding insect pest management. The work of Prof. Tom Browning influenced our understanding of insects, sustainable development and biodiversity.

    Entomological research in the Waite Institute today focuses on the development of biological control measures -alternatives to the use of chemical pesticides. Waite Campus scientists have a strong commitment to protecting the environment and developing sustainable agriculture'
    In the future we expect to see staff on the Waite Campus making exciting new discoveries in the areas of biotechnology, DNA sequencing, molecular marker development, plant disease management, land use technology, and horticulture and viticulture production and processing.

    The Garden of Discovery is also on the "Sustainable Landscapes - Native Gardens Trails".

Grants, donations and supporters

Since 2009, with the collaboration of the Mediterranean Garden Society (SA Branch), a major refurbishment of the Garden of Discovery began. Members of the SAMGS donated and planted Australian native plants including eucalyptus, banksias, acacias and native grasses - some of these genera being subjects of research at The Waite. SAMGS members attend quarterly volunteer sessions organized by the university volunteer program to help with the maintenance of the garden.

University of Adelaide Garden Volunteers tend regularly the garden and help maintain the new plantings. 

State and Federal Centenary Grants
History Trust of SA
National Science Week 2001
Davidson Family
Australian Council for the Arts
Arts SA Art for Public Places