‘Gallant Desert Flora: Olive Pink’s Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve’, Historical Records of Australian Science, 25, 2014, 227-252.
In the mid-1950s Olive Pink campaigned to have an area of land in Alice Springs set aside as a flora reserve. In 1956 the area was gazetted as the Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve, with Pink appointed as honorary curator. Although Pink was not a professional horticulturalist or botanist, she established a garden that marked itself out from contemporary gardens, such as Maranoa Gardens and the Australian National Botanic Gardens, which were similarly committed to showcasing indigenous Australian plants. Pink’s approach was pioneering in that she aimed to create a collection of plants selected by a delineated ‘climatic zone’ and geographic area rather than drawn from all parts of the continent. This article argues that Pink developed a distinctive form of horticultural work informed by her passion for and close artistic observation of desert flora; her long experience establishing and maintaining gardens under central Australian ecological conditions; along with her anthropological insight into Indigenous knowledge of flora gained through her studies with Arrernte and Warlpiri people. Today we might recognize the principles that informed Pink’s garden through the concepts of ‘water-wise gardens’ and environmental sustainability practices.