Although in the heart of regional cities, botanic gardens can make us feel like we're another world away. The beauty of plants among excellently maintained gardens provides the best timeout from our everyday life whether we spend just an hour or the whole day exploring. Here are five such oases located around regional Victoria.
The Bendigo Botanic Gardens was established in 1857 and is the city's first public garden. It has been on the Victorian heritage register since 2001. It features ten different precincts with a billabong as its centrepiece. The landscape, which incorporates a historic pavilion, is rather picturesque. There's also a walk-through aviary with various parrot and rosella species, as well as a national collection of lavenders and cannas. This popular botanic garden can easily be found on Napier Street.
Climbing up the hill
For a showcase of native plants in beautifully themed gardens, you can't go past the Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton on Botanic Gardens Avenue. But, if you're expecting a traditional botanical experience, you'll be disappointed. I did not realise the area was a former landfill until I spent some time reading up on it! The impressive 30-metre-high 'reclaimed tip' lookout offers expansive views of the surrounding landscape and a climb up the hill is a must. However, if you prefer something flatter, you can meander through regenerated grassy bushland along two nice walking trails.
Opened to the public in 1859, Portland's Botanic Gardens is the second oldest in the state and reflects an early European design. The first curator William Allitt gathered and propagated specimens collected from around the local district. He introduced dahlias to the garden, and since then, these 1300 or so dahlia plants have been the highlight when in bloom. Curators and their families lived on-site in a bluestone cottage that still stands today. Besides artists and photographers, the garden is also popular with croquet players. Its main entrance is located on Glenelg Street next to a Portland Community Tramway stop.
The Colac Botanic Gardens is one of regional Victoria's largest botanic gardens. It has many rare plant species including the Tecate Cypress, Pagoda Tree, Kohuhu, Bunya Bunya Pine and Huntington Elm. Its elevated position along Fyans Street provides a pleasing view across Lake Colac. Vehicle access to the garden is allowed via a kilometre-long oak-lined carriageway that goes all the way around. But, for those wishing to warm up their legs, there's a series of walking paths through the garden too.
Last but not least is the Horsham Botanic Gardens. Located on Firebrace Street, the beautifully maintained garden features lush green lawns as well as several thousand trees and shrubs. It was originally designed by the curator of Melbourne's botanic gardens in the 1870s. Among other art pieces, an intriguing chainsaw carving caught my attention straight away. The carving took seven days to complete and illustrates a man planting a tree. I also found the rotunda to be a peaceful place for contemplation.
The Cranbourne Gardens are my favourite to visit. There is a bus to take you around if you do not feel like walking. There is a lovely cafe to relax in with beautiful food and very welcoming staff. Worth a visit to the shop with helpful staff and gifts to buy.