Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

Palm and pine: a Butia (probably capitata) and a Bunya-bunya Pine, Araucaria bidwillii, setting the tone at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.
RBG Melbourne is effectively a grand city park, much-loved and much-used by the people of Melbourne; big trees and lots of lawn-space between them give it a very spacious feel.

The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is just what you expect a 'colonial' botanic garden to be - lush with exotics, inviting a pleasant stroll and a gentle stimulation of the senses, but with a serious purpose too - originally the introduction of new plants to the colony of Victoria and the discovery of its flora, and with a research element continuing today. It was founded in 1846 by Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe but its fame was built up by two successive directors, Baron Ferdinand von Mueller (director 1857-1873), who was a pioneering explorer of the Australian flora, and William Guilfoyle (director 1873-1909). Von Mueller brought a great collection of plants to the garden, but planted them formally and apparently rather boringly, so much so that, despite his reputation and position as Government botanist (held until his death in1896), he was replaced as director. Guilfoyle used von Mueller's collection to make the grand landscaped garden that we see today, with bold sweeps of lawn and beds, and a large central lake. It was a creation that has stood the test of time.  Unfortunately I only had a couple of hours to spend in the garden, which meant a fairly brisk circuit of the edges, missing out most of the middle completely, but it was enough to show me what a glorious place it is.

Baron Ferdinand von Mueller (1825-1896)

One of the great Australian native trees, Grevillea robusta, in full flower.

William Guilfoyle is now commemorated in the gardens by the recently restored feature 'Guilfoyle's Volcano', a water storage tank concealed in a conical 'hill'. It has been brilliantly planted with colourful and sculptural succulents.

Alcantairea with Festuca on the slopes of Guilfoyle's Volcano.

A beautifully airy grass - I couldn't find the label - underplanted beneath a columnar cactus.

A whimsical feature near the childrens' garden, of animalesque shapes made of Muehlenbeckia - obviously very popular indeed.


  1. Dear John.
    An amazing Garden.
    I had to smile when I saw the Muehlenbeckia, as mine are just small ones in tiny pots. Wow, to imagine they can grow that size, is absolutely fantastic. Beautiful colours of the native trees.
    Best regards, Iris.

  2. Everything seems to grow bigger there

  3. Wonderful photos! The Grevillea robusta is particularly impressive. If only we could grow that over here in the UK!

  4. the grass is an Australian Native Austrostipa elegantissima beware Muehlenbeckia topiary (speaking as someone who has spent many hours clipping the topiary in question--it is rampant!).


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