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The Royal Botanic Gardens opens the Calyx

The Calyx

The Calyx

The Oompa Loompas are nowhere to be seen, but Willy Wonka would be thrilled by the first exhibition ever staged at Sydney Royal Botanic Garden's new horticultural gallery.

"Sweet Addiction: The Botanic Story of Chocolate" traces the story of chocolate from bean to bar. Housed inside the Calyx, a new $17 million steel and glass cathedral for plants, the exhibition centres on a miniature Amazonian rainforest. Cacao trees, vanilla orchids and flamingo flowers thrive in the tropical humidity, while topiary howler monkeys pose under palm trees in a central courtyard.

Entwined in the spectacle are interactive exhibitions and video installations that touch on the ecological issues surrounding chocolate production.

"Few know where chocolate comes from, or how it's made," says the garden's director of horticulture management, Jimmy Turner. "We tell you about rainforest ecology and conservation, but we're wrapping it in chocolate wrappers as a bit of fun."

Designed by PTW Architects and McGregor Coxall, the new structure also encompasses an educational centre and an outdoor podium framed in vertical steel to evoke a calyx, the whorl of sepals that protect a developing flower bud.

A living wall 51 metres long and six metres high (the largest in the southern hemisphere) features 18,000 individually potted plants, with curly parsley, alternantheras and heucheras thriving in their vertical home. Horticulturalists tend to the wall each day before it opens to the public to ensure a gorgeous display. Child-height sections of the wall are prone to being torn off by curious kids, although some are intended to be grabbed at - chocolate mint, for example, which smells exactly as its name suggests.

The Calyx is open  10am-4pm  daily. Sweet Addiction is showing until April 2017. The Caylx, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au.

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