Cranbourne Gardens (Victoria)

Cranbourne Gardens Grass Trees
Cranbourne Gardens Red Centre Garden
Red Centre Garden


Cranbourne Gardens Kangaroo PawEvery 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.

Our Day:

Cranbourne Gardens Track leading from carpark to entrance.
Track leading from carpark to entrance, Mums off and running.

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.

Cranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens

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.
Cranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens Grass TreesCranbourne Gardens Paper Daisy

Cranbourne Gardens Flood Height Marker
I think we should be safe to cross.
Cranbourne Gardens caution snake sign
This is Australia mate, of coarse there’s snakes.

Cranbourne Gardens

Cranbourne Gardens Gondwana GardenThis 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.Cranbourne Gardens Gondwana Garden

Cranbourne Gardens
Cranbourne Gardens Gondwana Garden Wollemia nobilis
Wollemia nobilis

Cranbourne Gardens Gondwana Garden

We traveled out of the Gondwana garden and down into the lakes district which features many different lifestyle gardens for people who have food gardens large backyards or tiny city living gardens in pots.
Cranbourne Gardens
Cranbourne Gardens
Cranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens
Cranbourne Gardens
Cranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens
From here we moved through the greening Cities garden which gives you a wonderful example of how trees change the feel of a bland, hard, hot concrete environment and turn it into an oasis. Coming from the Gold Coast where the environment can be extremely hot and uncomfortable sometimes, I am often amazed that more city street trees aren’t planted like this. There is a classic example on Surf Parade in Broadbeach (near where I live). One side of the road has been planted out with beautiful shady rainforest trees while the otherside is your typical dry dead grass nature-strip. Two environments only metres apart. One side is cool and a pleasure to walk down even on the hottest of days while the other side is just hot and horrible at best. Greening our cities is a no-brainer that all councils should adopt.
Cranbourne Gardens Seaside Garden Pigface
Seaside Garden

Cranbourne GardensCranbourne Gardens Cranbourne Gardens Weird and Wonderful Gardens

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.

Cranbourne Gardens Weird and Wonderful GardensCranbourne Gardens Weird and Wonderful Gardens





Cranbourne Gardens Looking at 'Weird and Wonderful garden from 'Gibson Hill'
Looking at ‘Weird and Wonderful garden from ‘Howson Hill’

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.Cranbourne Gardens 'Gibson Hill'

Cranbourne Gardens Old tree

Cranbourne Gardens Old treeCranbourne Gardens






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.

Cranbourne Gardens RiverCranbourne Gardens RiverCranbourne Gardens RiverCranbourne Gardens River

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.

Cranbourne Gardens
Whats that in there?
Cranbourne Gardens
Whats that in there?

Cranbourne Gardens

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.


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About Simon 93 Articles

Simon Schubert is a qualified Horticulturist who enjoys gardening and bush-walking. He has a keen interest in science, the natural world and particularly our environment. He would like to share his experiences and knowledge while learning better practices that will hopefully benefit the future for us all. Please join him on some fun adventures while learning about the life of plants and other interesting facts about our world.

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