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Blue Lotus Water Garden

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by Jen (subscribe)
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Take a picnic or dine at the Lily Pond Cafe
blue lotus water garden, water lily ponds, cafe, activities, entertainment, face painting, fairies story telling, lotus flowers, walks, attractions, giant alazon waterlilies, picnic, nursery
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I wouldn't be surprised if many of you have never been to the Blue Lotus Water Garden, or have even heard of it. Having spoken to a few locals, I was surprised to learn even they had not been, nor had my friend who lives in Warburton just 7kms away, and met me at the Water Garden. He'd never even heard of it. This makes me feel proud to tell you all about it because it's a fabulous place to visit, nestled at 2628 Warburton Highway, Yarra Junction - (03) 5967 2061. Living inner city, it was an hour and a half drive for me, enjoying the scenery that seems to get greener the further you get away from the city. See here to plan your visit, and get the FAQs here. It's also a good idea to read the T&Cs as the Garden has many water features and other hazards that are not fenced, including lakes, ponds, lagoons and waterways that can be dangerous, hence required that children are under full supervision.

Now is the best time to see all the flowers and lilies in full bloom. The seasonal Gardens are only open from 26 December to 10 April 2023, 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm (note: no admission 30 mins prior to closing time), so go ahead and get your tickets here and be gobsmacked by the beauty that awaits you. There's still nearly a couple of weeks of February left, so take advantage of the February Special! All child tickets (ages 4-15 years - normally $6) are free. The offer ends on 28 Feb 2023. Do note that the child must be accompanied by a parent or guardian with a ticket, and school groups are excluded. Adult tickets (aged 16 years and older) are $23, with Senior and Pensioner Tickets coming in at $20.50. Children 0-3 years and companion card or professional carers go free. Tickets are best bought online as the Garden has limited capacity and gate tickets often sell out on busy weekends and public holidays.

Aside from the beautiful surrounds, the beauty of the garden is that there are gazebos and seating dotted along the way where you can just sit and chill and enjoy the serenity and the beautiful lily ponds. It also means you can snag yourself a gazebo come time to have lunch, to have your family picnic shaded from the sun. Yes, you can bring your own food and drink (except alcohol) for the whole family, or make use of the coin-operated BBQs at the Gardens; making a day of it while the kids enjoy the playgrounds on the premises. This makes it especially affordable for families and big groups of friends who can get away from the daily grind to gather together in what has to be one of Melbourne's most beautiful places to visit.

There's plenty of parking on the premises, and you enter through the archway you see in the first image. That takes you straight into the nursery, which you can see in the second image; which is loaded with lots of gorgeous plants and garden related objects to buy. If you happen to buy Lotus plants and Waterlily plants, there's tips and care sheets on the website to help you out. When you can tear yourself away from the nursery (especially those plant lovers amongst us), head to the inner service area where your tickets get checked. On the right of the ticketing counter is the gift shop where you can buy a few souvenirs and more. Enter the Garden and you'll see the Lily Pond Cafe on the premises soon enough.

As the cafe is located inside the gardens, it's only accessible to ticket holders; hence you cannot casually enter just to utilise the cafe. Operated by a professional catering company, the cafe is open 10am-4pm Mon-Fri and 10am-5pm on weekends and public holidays. For ice cream lovers, stop in at the Garden Kiosk Ice Cream Shop for decadent gourmet ice cream. You'll also find a range of hot and cold snacks, cold drinks, coffee and more. I was particularly intrigued by the Grab and Go Hot Food cubicles where you can get your beef croquettes, spring rolls, nuggets, lotus root chips (you are after all at a lotus water garden), sausage rolls and the likes. Just tap your card, open the window, take out the food, close the window and enjoy.

The tropical-themed Water Garden spans over 14 acres (50,000 sq mt) in size with more than 40 different ponds, lakes and water features producing the biggest display of lotus and waterlily flowers in the southern hemisphere. You'll also find an array of exotic plants, garden exhibits, fountains, waterfalls, floral sculptures, walks and scenic vistas on the grounds. In the image above is the Giant Amazon Waterlily aka Victoria Cruziana which produces very large lily pads that reach 1.2-2 metres in diameter, and equally large flowers that grow up to 30cm in diameter. The image below is the Giant Asian Waterlily aka Crocodile Plant, which has colour markings and texture similar to the characteristics of crocodile skin, allowing them to hide under the leaves that offer great camouflage from unsuspecting prey. The flower is very small and beautiful with delicate purple petals often seen protruding through a leaf. The seed is popular and eaten extensively in Asia where it has been cultivated as food.

When you enter the enclosure of the giant lily pads you'll find it a tad warm because these full tropical plants require a special environment to grow. The specimens in the enclosure are amazingly grown from seed at the farm and kept alive over the winter with artificial lighting and a large natural gas hydronic heating system that keeps the water temperature between 25c-30c all year. With a very strong underside structure, the giant leaves (though not allowed) are capable of supporting the weight of a small child. There's a painted cut-out image on the side of the enclosure where you can put your head through and take a picture of, to give you the illusion you were sitting on a lily pad; as a baby of course.

The World of Waterlilies is the largest lake in the garden and holds over 11 million litres of water. There are little gazebos as above to sit and enjoy the almost 500m long lake that contains over 70 varieties of waterlily flowers. A feature of the display is the prized collection of Claude Monet's original waterlilies that he planted in his garden at Giverny in France. Don't miss the Kakadu Lagoon exhibit where you'll find Australian native waterlilies and native lotus. There are more than 7 species of waterlilies and 2 of the lotus that was discovered in Northern Australia. The Water Garden has been successful in growing a number of them in this new exhibit. You'll find all other features on the website to familiarise yourself before you pay a visit.

The kids might enjoy an adventure along the gravel path fenced by red timber supports resembling the tail/trail of the dragon, ultimately leading to its head, and to the right, sculptures of the mystical Red Dragons. The journey snakes its way through magical fields of white lotus flowers, cascading ponds and tropical gardens. Throw a coin into the Dragons pond and see if it brings you good luck for the rest of the year; as it is believed.

There's also a world of fairies and fun for the kids. With fun features like 3 fantasy cubby houses, a rainbow slide, flower boats and more, it's a world of free activities, fun and adventure. Grab a sheet and pencil on arrival for the kids for a fun way they can explore the gardens and the wonders of nature, with clues to a dozen features, animals and plants found in the garden. Kristabelle the fairy was there the day I went and will be flying back in on the last weekend in February. Be sure you're there from 12-3pm on Sat 25 and Sun 26 Feb for some fairy fun, face painting and story time. With kids getting in for free in February, what better time to go! Secretly, I loved Kristabelle's wings and costume and definitely wanted one just like it.

The Blue Lotus Water Garden property has been owned by the Cochrane family for over 50 years. Originally a market garden that predominantly grew Chinese cabbage, Geoff and Yvonne Cochrane decided to develop the property into a fly fishing resort which gave birth to the construction of a new dam 'lotus lake' and a number of smaller dams and ponds. A range of waterlilies and lotus flowers were planted as a shelter for the fish and to beautify the dams. The conditions were perfect for the flowers to grow and the couple went with the idea of farming the waterlilies and lotus as a commercial crop to supplement the cabbage production. As a result, you'll see the harvesting area on the property. The early 2000s saw the landscaping of the lakes and ponds and in 2004, a retail nursery was added with the nursery and gardens officially opening in 2005. Do stay in touch with the Water Garden via social media, and definitely visit this amazing labour of love. It will fill your heart and soul with its beauty. What a lovely treasure to find at the end of a rainbow so to speak. Make a weekend of it and explore the surrounds.

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Why? Blue Lotus Water Garden - Australia's largest tropical garden
When: 10am to 5pm daily until 10 April 2023 - Easter Monday
Where: 2628 Warburton Highway, Yarra Junction, VIC
Cost: $23 Adult; $20.50 Senior or Pension; $6 Kids 4-15 years (Feb 2023 special - all kids tickets are free); Kids 0-3 yrs and Companion Card - Free
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