Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens was established in 1846 by Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe beside the Yarra River and south of the city of Melbourne. Over the next 60 years this swampy site was transformed into the world-famous landscape we know today.
Ferdinand von Mueller was appointed Director of the Gardens in 1857. He built on the work of Curators John Arthur (1846-9) and John Dallachy (1849-57). Mueller’s achievements included a plantation of conifers to demonstrate their usefulness to Victoria, a fountain in the middle of the lagoon, and a formal garden to show the relationships between families of plants. In 1867 the Giant Waterlily, one of the great horticultural wonders of the time, flowered for the first time in Melbourne. Entertainment in the Gardens in Mueller’s time included band concerts and horticultural shows.
Mueller was also Victoria’s first Government Botanist from 1853 to 1896. During that time he established the National Herbarium of Victoria, Australia’s most important collection of preserved Australian native plants. He was also the first person to explore much of Victoria.
In 1873 Mueller was succeeded by William Guilfoyle. Guilfoyle has been described as 'the master of landscaping'. It is his vision that shaped the Gardens to their current form. By carefully planting trees and placing garden beds he developed the scenic panoramas and sweeping lawns that are characteristic of the Gardens. He was inspired by sub-tropical plants and used many of them in his landscapes, including flaxes and cordylines from New Zealand, palms, and other foliage plants. Among his creations are the Fern Gully, rockeries, picturesque shelters, the Temple of the Winds (a memorial to La Trobe) and the Ornamental Lake. His volcano has been restored as an important part of the Gardens’ water management program.
Guilfoyle retired in 1909. The next 80 years were a period of maintenance and consolidation. Successive directors often had to struggle with reduced budgets. In the 1980s a Government enquiry about the future of the Gardens resulted in the establishment of the Royal Botanic Gardens Board of Victoria. The Board is now responsible for the management of the Gardens for the people of Victoria. The Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne was established in 1982 and assists the Gardens in many of its projects.
Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne
In the 1960s the management of the Gardens recognised the need for a satellite garden to promote the cultivation of Australian plants. With the assistance of the Maud Gibson Trust land was purchased at Cranbourne, south-east of Melbourne. It was here that the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne was established in 1970. Additional parcels of land were acquired in later years: the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne now covers 363 hectares.
The area was originally the home of the Boon Wurrung people. After settlement by Europeans in the 1840s the land was grazed and later mined. A large part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne is a refuge for native plants and animals amid the surrounding development.
The Australian Garden is an award-winning native plant garden being developed at Cranbourne. Its purpose is to showcase Australian flora, landscapes, art and architecture. The first stage opened in 2006. Work in currently under way on the devlopement of second stage. The Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne was established in 1991.
Ellender, I. (1998). The Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne: an archaeological survey for Aboriginal sites in the Australian Garden. Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, Cranbourne (Vic.).
Howson, P. (1996). The Cranbourne Botanic Gardens and the Maud Gibson Trust. Victorian historical magazine 67, 160-6.
Lemmon, A. (ed.) (1996). Melbourne’s pride and glory: 150 years at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Victorian historical magazine 67, 1-176.
Pescott, R. T. M. (1982). The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne: a history from 1845 to 1970. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Last updated 02 Aug 2012