Several young native trees planted in a mulched area, surrounded by sandstone and granite blocks that form a pedestrian walkway. To the left is a large building with rounded architectural features. In the background a light rail tram is passing by on the street.

This collaborative environmental group created a biodiverse urban microforest in Haymarket.

Artists: Dirt Witches (Scrub Collective)

Artwork description

This tiny forest is made up of a wide variety of local species to mimic the layers of an endemic ecosystem in the middle of our urban environment.

The installation incorporates plants belonging to the critically endangered eastern suburbs banksia scrub and coastal swamp forests that once existed in inner and eastern Sydney.

It serves as a poetic reminder of the 5,300 hectares of scrub that once stretched between Botany Bay and North Head.

“Barlow Street Forest is one of a series of projects realised by the Dirt Witches, a cross-disciplinary community of environmental and climate activists. Inspired by the microforest movement, this artwork aligns with local and international actions to establish fast growing, dense and biodiverse plantings. Complex ecosystems and nature conservation are key to meeting climate goals.”

– Dirt Witches (Scrub Collective)


Barlow Street Forest began as one of 4 temporary laneway artworks we commissioned in 2021 to reactivate the city during the Covid pandemic.

It was created as an activist environmental art project, in response to the catastrophic bushfires of 2020. The temporary version of the project included more than 30 species belonging to eastern suburbs banksia scrub and beehives containing sugarbag stingless native bees (Tetragonula carbonaria).

The temporary art project included a changing message board. A program of talks and workshops explored ideas of urban microforest in dialogue with traditional owners, scientists, landscape architects, environmentalists, politicians, activists and artists. The Dirt Witches group volunteered to maintain the garden initially and engaged with the local city community.

Following significant community support the artwork was made permanent as part of the George Street south pedestrianisation project inspired by Jan Gehl’s vision.

The Dirt Witches worked with us transitioning the site from temporary art to a permanent green space. They supplemented the plantings with species from coastal swamp forests that once existed in the area.

The permanent Barlow Street Forest was opened in November 2023, which was the focus of celebrations for the opening of George Street south following the pedestrianisation works. The official opening included a procession performance by members of the Dirt Witches from Sydney Town Hall along George Street to the microforest.

Plant species and maintenance planPDF · 1.06 MB · Last modified

A street corner with buildings and pedestrians. On the left is a concrete building with stairs leading up to an entrance. The road is empty and ends with pylons in a vehicle barricade. In the background, ‘The Great Southern Hotel’ is prominently displayed on a brown brick building.
A small urban garden with young trees and plants is surrounded by tall buildings. The garden is bordered by a stone barrier, and there’s a walkway on either side of it.
Aerial view of a raised, mulched garden area surrounded by a sandstone kerb. The garden contains several young trees and ground-level plants, all bending in a breeze. The garden is in the middle of a street in the city, blocked off by bollards.


The Dirt Witches (Scrub Collective) includes:

  • Dr Prudence Gibson, a writer and academic in the area of environmental aesthetics who researches the critical relevance of plants for all beings, during this epoch of extinction.
  • Jane Irwin, a landscape architect with a reputation for design excellence and an enquiring, sometimes experimental, approach to design at many scales.
  • Lara Merrett, a visual artist whose work interrogates the relationship between painting and its place through an expanded painting practice, that invites us to enter and navigate its folds.
  • Caroline Rothwell, a multidisciplinary and research driven artist, who works across diverse media and visualises the intersections of art and science, nature, history and time.
  • Rena Shein, a visual artist and art psychotherapist who has sought a way to work therapeutically at the interface of contemporary art practice and art therapy.
  • Floria Tosca, whose art practice draws attention to nature’s place in our psyche and our impact upon the environment. She makes drawings, paintings and large-scale mural works.
  • Vivienne Webb, a curator and writer with expertise in producing exhibitions, public art and public programs. Her practice is frequently collaborative and concerned with climate and environmental issues.
The Dirt Witches acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which the Barlow Street Forest is situated. We would also like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for these lands.

Temporary art project team

  • Jeremy Sparkes, event engineering
  • Michael Bates, Bates Landscape
  • Sacha Coles, ASPECT Studios
  • Tanya Excell, Gentle by Nature, supply of sugarbag bees

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