Every single time I visit Melbourne I make it a must to visit the Cranbourne Gardens. This is a place that is continuously on the grow and becoming evermore interesting each time I visit. The total sight is 363 hectares, of which a majority is heath, wet and woodlands. I think what is truly interesting though is its location. It is about 45 minutes south east of Melbourne on the Mornington peninsula, on the way to Phillip Island (nothing interesting about that, but wait). This area is surrounded by suburbia, a huge quarry, the Cranbourne Racetrack and the South Gippsland Hwy, whats so amazing about that I here you say. Well for me, anyway, I was blown away by the fact that you would not have the faintest idea that any of that existed in this tranquil place teaming with birds and other wildlife. This is a magnificent Australian native botanical gardens surrounded by 10km of tracks through beautiful indigenous bushland and whats bordering it only becomes obvious when you climb the Trig point lookout.
Next time I’m in the area I will take you through the rest of the park but today we will focus on the gardens themselves which takes up a small section at the north west corner of he property. When I say small, I mean small versus 363 hectares, it is still a rather large 15 hectares.
A Short History:
Pre-European times the area was inhabited by the Boonerwurung people. The Cranbourne Gardens site was once used as a sand mine as far back as the 1820’s mostly to supply the building of Melbourne and it suburbs. The military used the site from 1889 until the 1960’s along with private licences issued for sand mining, grazing and timber.
In 1970 the site was named as a division of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, with a focus on Australian plant research and conservation and eventually opened to the public in 1989.
We headed from Mum’s home in North Ringwood nice and early to avoid the crowds (I’m not sure this place is ever super packed but you get to appreciate the wildlife earlier in the day). The day was overcast (not good for photography but I’m getting used to that) and the breeze had quite a chill to it but most enjoyable none the less. We were a little somber as this was or first trip here without Dad who always loved coming here.
Mum and I headed up towards the entrance where there is a a gift shop full of Australiana, a cafe, a toilet (for you weak bladderd lot) and, of coarse, the entrance. Once apon a time there was an ‘entrance fee’ but that has since been abolished and the garden is now free, although you can still make a donation if you wish (I feel it is well worth making a donation but that’s up to you). As you walk down the steps at the main entrance you are greeted with the spectacular ‘Red Sands Garden’ which actually sits roughly, sort of in the centre of the garden. I say sort of because the garden has been extended over the years and the Red Sands Garden that represents our red centre is more front and centre now than it was in the past. Interestly enough the sand for this exhibit was sourced locally.
This point you can either go clockwise or anti-clockwise around the garden, we always go clockwise, just habit. All of the above photos were taken within 400 metres of the front entrance, every step you take puts you into a brand new environment. As we traveled away from the visitors centre along the Eucalypt walk we went through the Ironbark, Box, Peppermint and Bloodwood gardens that eventually finishes and transforms into the very interesting Gondwana garden. This garden features plants from the Gondwana period (For those that came in late: Gondwana was an ancient super-continent that broke up about 180 million years ago. The continent eventually split into landmasses we recognize today: Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula). One of the more interesting species in this collection is the Wollemia nobilis a species that was discovered by a bushwalker in a sandstone gorge roughly 150km from Sydney in 1994. There was no known living species at the time only fossil records that dated back 2 million years ago. As you can imagine a significant find. I think I might have to do a plant identification blog on this in the near future.
We walked through the seaside garden and made our up towards the slightly elevated ‘Weird and Wonderful garden’. This garden has huge slabs of flat stone that have been placed on end allowing the large face to point directly north. The idea being that the north facing side holds heat generated from the sun while on the southern side it is cool and shaded. This is a classic example of micro climates only inches apart from one another. These micro climates allow species from warmer and cooler climates than Victoria thrive side by side. This can be reproduced in your own garden at home as well, so you are not always restricted to your climate zone when choosing species of plants. The large stones also take a long time to cool down so radiate heat over the night keeping the area at a more moderate temperature.
We then walked around and up to the top of Howson Hill, while not quite Mt Everest, does offer very good views of the garden. We then had a look at the River Bend section that has a River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) trunk lying in it. This trunk was submerged beneath the water and mud more than 8500 years ago and preserved. It was discovered in a gravel quarry in Northern Victoria and donated to the garden.
One of the big hits with the locals and me of coarse is the ‘Rockpool Waterway’ mainly because its a fun place you can get your feet wet. There is also the clever architecture of it. It is made of rusting metal cliffs and square concrete blocks but still gives you a feeling of being in a natural place. The water runs for a set period then turns off for a bit then runs again creating a re-hydrating creek bed effect that you could watch all day. There is a special wading section too, but I didn’t see a life guard.
On the way out we stopped to have a look at the Orchid display and were visited by a little bird that obviously lives here (I could tell this because he didn’t seem too perturbed by us). I’d like to tell you the birds species but I’m a horticulturalist and birds aren’t my bag.
HelloWell I hope you enjoyed today’s post, we might have a look at the Wollemia nobilis next week and then on to the long anticipated ‘Overland track’ in Tasmania. See you next time.