Friday, October 22, 2010

Melbourne Botanical Gardens

I knew I wanted to see the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, but didn't realise that I would feel like I hadn't left Sydney!

Bits of the Royal Botanical Gardens, and Centennial Park and Vaucluse House, look pretty much like this. Apparently there was a peculiarly Antipodean muddling of the Picturesque and Gardenesque, and here you have it: meandering lakes and shrubberies, but specimen trees and elaborate borders included as well. (No, I can't quite conceptualise how people muddled Gardenesque and Picturesque together, but they did. It seems to be an Australian habit to pick the bits they like out of disparate ideas and mix them all together without regard for consistency.)

The garden, like the Sydney equivalent, is a lovely place to wander through but not so easy to photograph. Some of the borders were lovely:

How about these contrasts in texture and colour?

I took about half a dozen photos of Echium candicans, with stunning electric-blue spires of flowers. We wants it, my precious, we wants it! And I've seen Echiums growing in Sydney, so I know they can cope with our humidity. Now it's a matter of finding the plain Echium candicans, rather than a cultivar.

With the recent drought the Gardens staff have focussed more on water-wise plantings. I particularly admired this bed, on a steep bank overlooking the Yarra. I would love to know what the red-and-white bulbs are; I don't think they are tulips.

I definitely wanted to see the redesigned "Guilfoyle's Volcano". The famous director and designer of the Gardens had a reservoir built and designed a "volcano" garden for it as a kind of folly. The introduction of town water for irrigation led to the old reservoir being ignored for years, but recent drought has prompted a redesign. The new garden is very modern in style but still reads like a folly because it is so different from its surroundings. I loved it but felt I couldn't do it justice in photos. It is planted with thousands of different cacti and succulents in great drifts, and the red rock-mulch makes it quite startling on a grey Melbourne afternoon. The number and size of Golden Barrel cacti was also quite startling, and how often do you see a mass planting of Jelly Beans?

The reservoir holds water again, this time collected from local stormwater, rather than pumped in from the Yarra as it was originally. The surface has a number of circular planting-rafts floating on it, but they were empty. Enlarge the photo for a better look at the clever fencing. The boardwalk is a double-spiral around the top of the reservoir.

Unfortunately, I had somehow missed out on hearing about the other Botanical Gardens, at Cranbourne. I saw it as we headed for Phillip Island, but there was no time to investigate it. Next time...


Lanie said...

The echium is beautiful. My sister grows one just like that in Sydney (and it is gorgeous) and she got hers from Diggers Club. I just checked and they do have Echium candicans (although a bit unhelpfully it is out of stock). I guess that means they should have it again soon though.

Liz said...

It's a pity you didn't drop in to Cranbourne Gardens as they were affected by a fire that destroyed 20 hectares. They are saying it was a controlled burn-off that got away from them and that it only burnt land earmarked for burn-off...

Mistress B said...

Parts of that remind me of Brisbane botanical gardens too... lol

I'd heard about the volcano thingy from Jayne - Must get down there to see it for myself.

quu said...

Wow, what a beautiful contrast! :)

It's allways such a pleasure to watch photos from your country. :)

We have in here Northern Finland - 13 celsius degrees and 20 cm of snow..

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