Upon entering the garden, a short walking loop leads through statuesque gardens. Like the rest of the garden, the succulent rockery is divided into geographic ecozones where Joshua trees, cacti, and Aloes dominate the Americas, and prickly turgid Europhobia in the African section. The plants come in many looming shapes and sizes, some old and slow-growing looming over eight feet high.
The tall buildings of the CBD can be seen above the eastern entrance to the garden while the garden is boarded on one side by the NSW State Herbarium.
Like the grounds of the wider botanic gardens, the succulent rockery has a layered colonial history. Before the modern planting, the site held Australia’s first zoo which operated from 1862-1883. The zoo was started by the NSW acclimatization society, an organization whose objective was to introduce exotic flora and fauna to Australia. Its first residents included an anteater and Chinese deer. In 1883, the zoo was relocated to Moore Park south of the gardens.
In 1936, the first iteration of the cacti and succulent rockery was built and a larger garden was completed in 1983. The rockery also features a rustic sculpture garden by Jamie Durie which was added in 2007.