Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne: A new experience every time

Ornamental Lake at Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

A shady spot by the river, perfect for a picnic

You could be forgiven for thinking this was the Murray River, meandering its way through rural Australia.  But no, it is inner city Melbourne.  The Botanic Gardens, no less.

These gardens span 38 hectares, quite something when they are only two kilometres from the CBD, and are home to over 10,000 different plant species.  I have walked through the gardens many, many times, but each time feels like a unique experience.

Sunflowers at the entrance to the Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

Sunflowers at the entrance to the gardens. I had been somewhat thrown by the subsequent, singularly dotted sunflowers throughout the garden (thought the curators had had an ‘off’ day throwing seed around), until I learnt they were part of the kids ‘Fairy Trail’!

A new garden has been planted since I was last there, funded by a keen supporter of the gardens, Meg Bentley.  I loved it!  Its soft colours blend together perfectly.  There are wonderful contrasts of textures and forms.  Each species is planted in large (but not boringly large) drifts and each is ultra drought tolerant.  This is gardening inspiration exactly as it should be.

Mauve and pink flowers in the newly planted bed at Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

Meg Bentley’s soft borders feel calm and restful.  Sedum, Yucca and Nepeta

The adjacent bed is brought to life with fiery oranges and citrus tones.  Solid, generous planting with the same, highly contrasting textures and forms and complementary colours; plants chosen for their hardiness to all the weather Melbourne can bring.  These bold, contrasting schemes are right up to date and tremendous to see.

Orange and lime colours in the newly planted bed at the Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

Bright orange cannas and lime foliage in contrasting textures and forms create a stunning, contemporary look

Contemporary planting continues in the Australian areas with Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos) and some unusual eucalypts.  In time, I would love to see a little more in the Australian style.

Native Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos) at the Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

Red, native Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos) amongst the Australian plantings

There are also the more traditional areas, and I do enjoy the mix. The perennial garden is always a joy at this time of year – bursting with bright colours and looking so full and so fresh.  The plants have been chosen to provide six to eight months of flowers and it is really quite a spectacle.

Perennial Border at Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

The Perennial Border, so bright and abundant

When supposedly clashing colours don’t quite clash, the result is tremendous!

Pink perennials at Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

Gorgeous mix of reds and pinks and purples and burgundies

The topiary is also fun; lovely curving shapes, immaculately pruned (I dread to think how often), created with the fast growing Lonicera nitida.

Topiary at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. Janna Schreier

Lonicera nitida topiary near the entrance to the gardens, underplanted with beautifully contrasting foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri); not really a fern but actually related to asparagus

The grey garden was also something I hadn’t seen before, located right up in the far northern corner of the gardens.  I admit that I did find myself desperately searching for a hint of yellow or pink or just something that wasn’t grey, but it was certainly ethereal in the fading light of the day.

Grey Garden at Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

The Grey Garden with delicate textures and soft colours

But in this garden of contrasts, there are always the bromeliads to cheer you up!  It is incredible the variety of plant types displayed; there genuinely is something for everyone.

Brightly coloured Bromeliads at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. Janna Schreier

Mixed bromeliads in the shade of the palms

The huge Ornamental Lake in the gardens adds so much to the peaceful, restful ambience.  Much of it was closed off for the outdoor cinema when we were there, but the ducks came to see us, nevertheless!

Ducks at the Melbourne Botanic Garden. Janna Schreier

Ducks visiting from the Ornamental Lake!

It turned out the cinema was a blessing in disguise, as it meant we explored new areas.  There is just so much to see.

I love the fact that these gardens are a real celebration of all things plants.  It isn’t about flashy hard landscaping, which you can see in spades closeby in the city, it is about getting back to nature, exploring soft, beautiful scenes of new and old and leaving the cares of the world behind you. A truly wonderful place to be revisited over and over again; one that you can never tire of.

Kookaburra guarding the maps. Janna Schreier

Kookaburra guarding the maps – I had to send Paul in for me; its beak was way too large and sharp. Good job he had his best camouflage on that day!

9 thoughts on “Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne: A new experience every time

  1. Adriana says:

    Wow – Is all I can say Janna. I haven’t been since I used to take students there – the last visit was about 15 years ago. Must go again. Another excursion once Ian retires. Brave Paul – perhaps the kooka was blinded by the brilliance!

  2. Catherine says:

    Yep, you’ve put it back my Melbourne to-do list as well. I had no idea there was a grey garden. I think there are also new additions to the Children’s Garden to see.

    • jannaschreier says:

      I’m glad – it is nice that great places have lots of visitors. The grey garden is quite sizeable – it really surprised me too. And yes, there were huge volumes of noise coming from the children’s garden, although I confess that I didn’t go in. Do let us know what you think!

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