Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Melbourne's fantastic seasons and temperate climate provides conditions which are the envy of many other Australians living in harsher climates. While the extended drought of the 90's meant that many gardeners were forced to re-think their plantings and consider more drought-hardy varieties, Melbourne continues to be home to some of the most varied and spectacular gardens public gardens in Australia. They are terrific places to visit with all ages, including small children who thrive in the outdoors. Where is your favourite garden in Melbourne? Here's some of mine:
The Billabongs at Royal Botanic Gardens (c) JP Mundy
1. Royal Botanic Gardens Everyone has a most loved part of the Royal Botanic Gardens - for our family, it's the oak lawns, others love the 'silver' garden where everything planted is in hues of grey and silver. There is rainforest, eucalyptus lawns, camelias by the dozens, palms, agarves and the most enchanting children's garden. There are also wonderful Aboriginal Heritage guided walks for a small charge, which I can personally recommend, though otherwise it is free.
For an altogether different experience, try the Royal Botanic Garden's Australian Gardens in Cranbourne, just near Frankston. This spectacular landscape, with sculpted 'ephemeral lake' mirroring Australia's desert landscapes of the red centre is dramatic and stark. There is little shade, so boiling hot days are not ideal for a visit, though there is a fabulous water feature which allows little ones to cool off.
3. Como House
Historic Como House in South Yarra, on the edge of the Yarra River, is not only home to its beautiful Italianate mansion, but also a beautifully manicured period and kitchen garden. Please note that the House and Gardens are currently only open for private advance bookings of groups of 10 people or more (or minimum of 20 on weekends). Tel 8663 7260.
4. Ripponlea Another historic favourite, Ripponlea mansion and gardens, which gives its name to the suburb of Ripponlea (between East St Kilda and Elsternwick) was the setting for the 1930's ABC detective series, Phrine Fisher. It's grounds are full of lakes, a Victorian grotto, rainforest walks, a 1930's pool and working kitchen gardens. It's very cool and shady on a hot day. Run by the National Trust, there is a small fee for entry.
5. Fitzroy Gardens Home to not only Captain Cook's cottage, but also a beautiful glass conservatory, a windy creek-side walk, a fantastical dolphin water fountain, a miniature Tudor village (which was a gift to the people of Melbourne from the people of South London as a thankyou for sending food parcels during WWII) and the much-loved 'fairy tree' - there is something in the very centrally located Fitzroy Gardens for everyone.
6. Heide Kitchen & Sculpture Gardens A little further afield, in Bulleen, is Heide, the prior home of modern arts patrons John and Sunny Reed. Quite apart from the magnificent Heide II, now used as an art gallery, and their original cottage, the gardens, which sweep down to the banks of the Yarra, include a delightful kitchen garden and an extensive sculpture trail, which includes the famous corrugated iron 'cows' grazing in the paddock. A really interesting garden to walk in for all ages, and access to the gardens is free.
7. Melbourne Zoo While everyone thinks of going to Melbourne Zoo or the animals (of course), the gardens themselves are very beautiful. From the famous formal round seasonal flower feature just after the entrance, to the lovely jungle walk to the elephants, and the tropical wonderland of the Butterfly House, there is plenty to please and intrigue garden lovers.
8. William Rickett Sanctuary Tucked onto a ferny hillside in the Dandenong Ranges is the quirky William Rickett's Sanctuary - full of the artist's romantic stone and wooden sculptures of Aborigines, incorporated into the garden scape. Children in particular love this garden, with it's winding paths and grottos. You might also want to pop in and visit nearby Cloudehill Nursery & Gardens while you are up here.
9. The National Rhodendron Gardens Just near Olinda, and not far from William Ricketts Sanctuary, the National Rhododendron Garden is spread over 40 hectares and holds the national collection of rhododendrons, as well as azealas, camelias and other cold-climate flowers - all against a backdrop of towering mountain ash: the tallest flowering plant in the world. Try and time your visit for November, when the flowers are in full bloom, though there is always something in bloom. Spectacular and free.
10. The Rose Gardens at Flemington Racecourse
As the nation which stops for a horse-race, almost every Australian is aware of the magnificent rose gardens which are nurtured and coddled along all year to ensure they are at their peak for the big horse race in November. 16,000 rose plants here represent the largest rose garden in the Southern Hemisphere, and can be visited on race days and via guided tours run by the racecourse.
This garden list is really just the start. Melbourne is home to all sorts of wonderful gardens - what are some of your favourites?
The Victoria State Rose garden would have to be one of the best public rose gardens open 365days of the year and free. It is managed by parks Victoria and looked after by about 100 volunteers every Wednesday. They prune and deadhead the roses to keep the 5500 roses , in 6 acres looking great. Its in Werribee South , next door to the Werribee Park Mansion, close to the zoo and equestrian centre. To get there go to K. Road, Werribee South head down gate 2 to main road to the car park for the Wbee Park Mansion. The big corten steel arch is the door way to the rose garden. The best time to see this garden in bloom is lat Oct, November peak, December , Jan, Feb & march. Its has plenty of birdlife, it relaxing and very quiet mid week. Its free or gold coin donation if you wish. Great for wheelchairs with wide gravel paths and cut lawns. There is a heritage border, a david Austin bud, an Australian leaf section of roses and the tudor rose section. IN total approx. 5500 roses, 600 types in 6 acres. Outside the park area are toilets, and bbq and gazebos for picnics. Dogs not allowed . check out their website& upto date facebook pagehttp://vicstaterosegarden.com.au/home.html