Located in the heart of 348 hectares of remnant bushland at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, the 15-hectare Australian Garden is the result of an ambitious dream in the 1950s to create a large-scale botanic garden that reflects the essence of Australia.
As opposed to the 19th century ‘picturesque’ style of garden exemplified by the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, the Australian Garden would feature an innovative design that challenged traditional ideas of what constitutes a botanic garden. It would be a showpiece garden that uses native flora in ways that excite and engage visitors.
This vision has been superbly realised by Taylor Cullity Lethlean – the multi-award-winning landscape architecture firm that, with renowned plant designer Paul Thompson, has captured the essence of our continent’s characteristic features, from the Red Centre to the coastal fringes.
A central theme of the Australian Garden is the story of water and its passage through the Australian landscape. Figuratively, the design of the Australian Garden follows the journey of water from the dry inland deserts to the densely populated coast. During the course of this journey the Australian Garden takes us on a journey via a Rockpool Waterway, eucalypt forests, and ultimately to display gardens where visitors can discover how to most effectively use water in their own home gardens.
Featuring 170,000 plants representing over 850 plant varieties (including rare and ancient varieties), the Australian Garden presents Australia’s unique flora in spectacular landscapes that explore their influence on Indigenous and European cultures.
As well as being a magnificent horticultural display, the Australian Garden educates visitors about the environment and its management and demonstrates sustainable practices for home gardeners.
The garden has already received 18 international, national and regional awards for landscape design, tourism and sustainability, including ‘Best new tourism development in Australia’ in the 2006 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.
The second stage of the Australian Garden completes the vision and brings the size of the garden to an impressive 15 hectares. The completed Australian Garden is scheduled to open to the public with a two-day celebration on 20 and 21 October 2012.
The Australian Garden has received generous assistance from the Victorian Government, The Ian Potter and Colonial Foundations and many philanthropic, individual and community supporters.
Major features of the Australian Garden
The first stage of the Australian Garden included:
The Red Sand Garden’s crescent-shaped sand dunes, reminiscent of the central arid lands of Australia.
The swirling Rockpool Waterway, with its 100-metre stream ebbing and flowing like an inland river.
Major landscape sculptures - the massive 90-metre Escarpment Wall by Greg Clark (possibly Australia’s largest sculpture), and the Ephemeral Lake’s crusted ceramic plates created by Mark Stoner and Edwina Kearney.
Five large Exhibition Gardens to inspire gardeners in how they can use Australian plants at home.
The second stage of the Australian Garden includes:
A total of 11 new precincts including a purpose-built community space for events such as festivals, outdoor cinema and markets; additional Exhibition Gardens for demonstrations and workshops; and a section devoted to some of the most iconic forms of Australian flora.
New facilities such as a visitor kiosk at the northern end of the garden, boardwalks and viewing platforms on Howson and Gibson Hills, and an amphitheatre for education programs and performances.