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Plant Collections

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch California Garden

California and Victoria share a similar landscape and climate. Like Victoria the climate and geography of California varies enormously. Across the state there are hot dry deserts, temperate coastal areas, shrubby heathlands and cold windswept mountains tops. Due to these similarities many Californian plants can be grown in Victorian gardens.

Californian flora is rich and diverse both in the total number of species and in the number that are endemic that is, that grow only in California. Adaptable and water wise the Californian collection has a lot to offer and admire.

Best Viewed

  • July, August, September, October, November


Ceanothus species, Californian Lilac

Shrub, blue or white flowers, dark green foliage.

Agave parryi

Large cacti, dark red spikes, grey foliage. Produces a large upright flower spike at the end of its life. Great for structure and contrast in a garden.

Penstemon centranthifolius

Compact low herbaceous perennial, vibrant red flowers, long flowering season, good for birds. Excellent cottage garden species.

Salvia apiana White sage

Fragrant shrub, grey foliage, white tall flowers spikes, prune after flowering, great dried for incense

Plant Census

Find out what plants grow at Melbourne Gardens.

Key Plants

Arctostaphylos pungens Manzanita

Shrub, burgundy trunk, pink flowers, attracts birds, edible berries. Mostly grown for vibrant colours and shapes of the trunk.

Dudleya species Dudleya

Rosette clump, pink flowers, fleshy succulent, great for rockeries. Endangered in most natural habitats. Plant on a slight angle to prevent crown rot.

Ceanothus species California lilac

Shrub, blue-white flowers, dark green foliage, attracts butterflies. Most common Californian native species in cultivation.

Encelia californica

Shrub, grey foliage, yellow daisy flower

Agave parryi

Large cacti, dark spikes, grey foliage

Quercus dumosa

Shrub, rounded form, small foliage, evergreen unusual small oak. Drought tolerant.  

Cercocarpus betuliodes

Tree, curly grey/silver seed pods, strong timber great for tool or furniture making. Can be used as a hedge.

Fouquieria diguetii

Upright, tall, thorny semi-succulent canes, leaves produced from base of spines, red flowers in summer. Great structure and shape for cacti garden.

Curator Notes

  1. California has the highest number of rare and endangered plants in all the USA.
  2. The majority of Californian plants handle hot dry summers.
  3. Much of Californian flora can handle poor quality or nutrient deprived soils.
  4. Many of the species from this region have great ethnobotany uses for the native people of California; these can range from edible berries and food sources, to furniture, tools and medical applications.


  • 1991 - Royal Botanic Gardens agreed to develop the area formerly known as the William Guilfoyle Rock Lawn.
  • 1991 - A staff exchange between Huntington Botanic Gardens in California and Melbourne Gardens staff took place to enable the collection of plant species and build knowledge of Californian flora. This was funded by the Maud Gibson Trust.
  • 1992 - The area was developed with funds from Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.
  • 1993 - The California Garden displays Californian plants suitable for Melbourne's climate and was opened to the public.