Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria launches meditative Wellbeing Gardens to encourage inner peace

In response to the increasing pressures and stress of urban life, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has launched three new meditative Wellbeing Gardens, to encourage people to take time to relax and recharge in the peace of nature. Fern Gully has been an iconic part of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and in 2016 a much needed restoration project was launched in Fern Gully, which aimed to improve the health of the plants, restore the water flow and improve access so more people can really enjoy and utilise the space.

Although each Wellbeing Garden is unique, all three were designed for small groups and individuals to visit and consider their sense of place. As visitors move through Fern Gully along the boardwalk, these spaces give guests the opportunity to stop, pause and reflect. The Wellbeing Gardens can be accessed via a series of secondary paths that loop back to the main boardwalk. Brought to life by the generous assistance of three donors, these spaces were tailor-made to reflect the personal stories of each supporter. Andrew Laidlaw, Landscape Architect, partnered with the donors in his design, helping to translate their stories – some of which were stories of loss and memory – into the landscape. 



The Bird's Nest is a playful hideaway where guests can observe the world around them from a suspended swing seat. Inspired by the donor’s love of birds, the area is fashioned around a large Ficus tree, representing the tree of life, within a bird’s nest-like shape and populated by Bird’s Nest Ferns and native orchids. The Bird Nest artwork (which uses timber sourced from around the Gardens) and swing, which was inspired by a chrysalis, were designed by David Wong in close working partnership with the donor and Andrew Laidlaw.



Building on an existing heritage listed rock feature within Fern Gully, the Grotto is a peaceful place to sit quietly, isolated from the rest of the Gardens. Designed in memory of the donor’s late husband and using stones from their property in Dunkfield, the space is cool, calm and quiet. The garden is sheltered by an intricate wrought iron artwork and contains a water feature serviced by the garden’s irrigated water system. Embedded in the rock formation are lichens and historic pieces of crockery and china discovered by the gardeners and around the Gardens, left behind from the ghosts of picnics past. 



The Moss Garden offers an intimate clearing to gather and share in nature. It is reminiscent of a Japanese wellness garden, with three carefully sculpted stone seats surround a ‘mother stone’, symbolising the donor’s loved ones who have passed away. The bubbling water feature embedded in the central stone offers a quiet soundtrack for this flourishing hideaway.  The stone seats and the 'Mother' stone were sensitively sculpted by Ashika Ostapkowicz, symbolising the donor's loved ones who have passed away. 


“The Gardens have long been a place of respite and relaxation, and we are delighted to add to this experience with the launch of our Wellbeing Gardens. Designed to intrigue and entrance, these small garden spaces offer a whole new way to enjoy the calm, lush setting of our Fern Gully. Yet another way to immerse yourself in nature at the heart of the city.”

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Director and Chief Executive, Professor Tim Entwisle.

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