Autumn. In the words of the French writer and philosopher, Albert Camus, it's like a second spring when every leaf's a flower.
You don't have to be a philosopher to know how beautiful and uplifting the sight of autumn trees can be. And, while I'm not sure if Albert ever made it to Melbourne, autumn here is the mellowest of seasons – golden sunlight, crisp, sunny days (or, at least, a half-decent chance of one) and the smell of wood smoke in the air. It's the favourite time of year for many Melburnians. But where's the best place around here to see those glorious shades of autumn colour?
After extensive research kicking through autumn leaves, we've put together a list of Melbourne's five best gardens to welcome the stunning sight of autumn. And four of them are free.
Strolling through the huge formal gardens at Cloudehill, in Olinda, east of Melbourne, is a lovely experience, and the beech and maple trees are magnificent in Autumn. Following several walking paths, you can meander through twenty garden compartments. There are masses of bulbs in Spring as well, dazzling colour in the Summer flower borders, and acres of colourful rhododendrons in Winter. Note that the paths are well-made but steep at times.
This is the one garden featured here with an entry fee - $7.50 (families $20). It's definitely worth the fee, but if you'd prefer to spend your money on a coffee or something edible, you can get also excellent views from the restaurant, which overlooks the gardens. Click here for more information, including how to get there.
With 36 acres of lush green and numerous deciduous trees, the Royal Botanic Garden in South Yarra is justifiably considered one of the world's finest gardens. You can wander and admire the autumn colour on your own or with one of their friendly and knowledgeable guides. For more information, including how to get there, click here. And there's information about guided tours here.
This 11 hectare terraced garden in Olinda, east of Melbourne, has a vast range of trees from the Northern hemisphere that are rarely seen in Australia, along with colourful shrubs, native mountain ash and tree fern gullies. It's at its most colourful in autumn when the trees display a huge array of dazzling colour.
Pirianda is located on Hacketts Road (off Olinda-Monbulk Road), Olinda, in the Dandenongs. It's free to enter and open seven days a week. For more information, including how to get there, click here.
Five kilometres of walking trails wind among the different spaces within these gardens in Olinda. Autumn and spring are the peak seasons for colour, but careful planting has resulted in blooms at all times of year, so that even in winter, there's dazzling blossom to enjoy.
The gardens contain many rare and endangered species which are no longer present in their natural environment. For more information, including how to get there, click here.
Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Hints of colour in early autumn at Alfred Nicholas Gardens
Hidden away in the Dandenong Ranges, the Alfred Nicholas Gardens is an ideal spot for an autumn ramble, or in fact, at any time of year. The lake is a definite high point, and the reflections of the surrounding autumn trees are awesome.
It's free to enter and open daily from 10am to 5pm, except Christmas Day. The gardens owe their existence to a small, white tablet - the Aspro painkiller. Alfred and George Nicholas developed the Aspro formula after World War 1. With his pain-relieving fortune, Alfred bought twenty acres at Kallista in 1929 and proceeded to build his home, Burnham Beeches and gardens. The impressive gardens were created by his English head gardener and 80 assistants and were donated to Parks Victoria in the 1960's.
For more details, including how to get there, click here.
We hope you enjoy these spectacular gardens. Please let us know if you have any favourite autumn gardens in and around Melbourne - we'd love to hear your comments.