By Diane Norris
Within easy reach of Sydney, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden is a beloved treasure.
Gardeners worldwide have an insatiable quest to know more about plants; to gather gardening ideas and literally immerse themselves in the beauty of other gardens. The role of a botanic garden is to offer visitors a place of peace, relaxation and education on matters botanical and horticultural.
Every botanic garden contains a wide diversity of accurately identified living plants that are accompanied by scientifically based descriptive notes, so remember to take your notebook and pen. Of course, it’s not only gardeners who enjoy botanic gardens; bird watchers and photographers will be enthralled, too.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, is just 100km from the centre of Sydney and encompasses 28 hectares on the summit of a basalt-capped peak 1000m above sea level in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains. It’s the cool-climate garden of the Botanic Garden Trust and displays more than 40,000 plants from cooler regions of the world. The garden opened in November 1987 and by the year 2000 more than 1 million people had visited.
The garden is set out in distinct garden rooms and you can enjoy the formal garden areas, the tradition herb plot, the protea garden and the wild mountain “remnant garden” to name but a few. There are thousands of flowers in bloom throughout each season and many plants are given the privilege of displaying their full life cycle, from bud through to seed production.
Access is easy with level meandering paths, some of which are wheelchair accessible. There’s a modern visitor centre, a fully licensed restaurant and full picnic facilities. All pathways are sign-posted so you know where you are or where you are going at all times.
There are too many garden delights at Mount Tomah to mention them all, but the following feature gardens provide a little teaser to whet your gardening appetite:
• Herb Garden: In front of the visitors centre is the herb garden, which is cosily gloved by a hedge of Port Jackson Pine (Callitris rhomboidea), an Australian conifer. This garden contains a wonderful collection of medicinal, culinary, dye and strewing herb varieties. Strewing herbs are those with fragrant or astringent smells or herbs that are used as insecticides or disinfectants. It is a highlight of the garden and every sense will be ignited in this aromatic space.
• Formal Garden: Beyond the herb garden is one of the three formal gardens. This one boasts a Banksia rose covered colonnade inspired by Edna Walling, the renowned Australian garden designer who created many romantic and peaceful gardens with an emphasis on natural materials. You can’t help but notice the spectacular backdrop of gargantuan Brown Barrel Gums (Eucalyptus fastigata) standing guard. Most of this formal garden showcases perennial plants in a traditional design influenced by the well-known English garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll.
• Proteaceae Garden: The South African Proteaceae garden contains examples of this diverse group of plants, which includes Proteas, Leucadendrons and Leucospermums, which bloom during winter and provide this part of the garden with colour, texture and interesting shape during the colder months.
• Burnet Garden: This is a significant garden in that it features the plantings of Alfred and Effie Brunet. In 1972, they generously gave their land here to the people of New South Wales to be used as this botanic garden. The Brunet Garden meadow is planted out with charming cool-climate bulbs of nerines, lily of the valley, bluebells, daffodils and jonquils. Continue down towards the roadway and you will be greeted by mature trees, which include conifers, rhododendrons, maples, elms, chestnuts and ash, planted by the Brunets.
Plenty to do:
The Plant Explorers Walk is one of several you can do. This is an easy half-hour walk and introduces you to some of the plants that originate from eastern Asia. Two gracefully pendulous and elegant conifers will catch your eye; the West Himalayan Spruce (Picea smithiana) and the Kashmir Cypress (Cupressus cashmeriana). There are Japanese Viburnum (Viburnum japonicum) planted as well as loads of Japanese maples of many sizes. Their wonderful colours are at their glorious best throughout the autumn months.
The boardwalk provides easy access for all visitors and passes beneath rhododendrons and towering Brown Barrel trees (Eucalyptus fastigata) into the rainforest. From here you can take in the uninterrupted views towards the coast and even catch glimpses of Sydney on a clear day.
Whether you have a full day or just a couple of hours, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, is an absolute treasure for everyone; whether a committed gardener or someone who needs the peace and tranquillity this special mountain-top garden has to offer.
For more information, check out the website: www.mounttomahbotanicgarden.com.au