Dandenong Ranges Gardens
Spectacular colour at the National Rhododendron Gardens.
Seasoned gardeners will revel in the diverse range of exotic and rare plants at the seven gardens of the Dandenong Ranges. But don’t think for a minute that these gardens are only for garden lovers - the whole family will enjoy a walk or a picnic in any of them. There are four kilometres of sealed tracks at the National Rhododendron Garden - the most visited of the seven gardens – making it popular with walkers and local mothers’ groups.
The most popular time to visit is spring, when the trees don their annual floral finery. But don’t worry if you can’t manage a visit then - the gardens are spectacular all year round.
Every time you come back there’s something different. They really are gardens for all seasons. There are the spring blooms, which last from September until November, depending on the weather. In summer there’s the hydrangeas, illiums and smoke trees, and in autumn there’s a spectacular display of colourful leaves.
Other gardens include the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden, which is an ornamental, terraced garden with a waterfall, lake and boatshed. There’s the George Tindale Memorial Garden, which was established in the 1950s and is known as the gardener’s garden because it was designed with all four seasons in mind, and the 11-hectare terraced Pirianda Gardens, which contains botanically significant plants that are rare in Australia.
Sculptures at William Ricketts Sanctuary (left), Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens (right).
The William Ricketts Sanctuary is an outdoor art gallery and cultural landscape featuring more than 90 sculptures that were the life work of artist and environmentalist William Ricketts, who lived on site from the 1930's until he passed away in 1993.
For those who want to stretch their legs and enjoy mature exotic trees and far-reaching views, the Mount Dandenong and R.J. Hamer arboretums, at 16 and 120 hectares respectively, are just the ticket. The R.J. Hamer Arboretum is known for its 150 species of trees, many of which are planted in collections that, up close, are identified by signs, and from afar, appear as a giant patchwork of colour over the hills.
The gardens are located 50km from Melbourne in Olinda and Sherbrooke and are open daily except for Christmas Day and days of total fire ban and severe wind risk. Check the respective website park pages for opening hours.