Friday, May 27, 2011

Escape to Burnley Gardens

Just a few kilometres from Melbourne's CBD, and across from the Yarra river ( unfortunately, too, close to the roaring Monash Freeway ), lie Burnley Gardens. Opened in 1863 by the Horticultural Society of Victoria, they now house Burnley Horticultural College, a part of the University of Melbourne.
Having lived nearby for many years, I returned today, and again found myself the almost sole visitor to this little-known sanctuary. It transports me to a feeling of 'home'.
You see this serpentine pool of water with its papyrus as you enter, occasioned by wood duck:

Above me I saw yellow-tailed black cockatoos ( Calyptortynchus funereus ) and heard a kookaburra laughing. Some of my favourite trees are here, among them this bunya bunya ( Araucaria bidwillii ) and this Wollemi pine ( Wollemi nobilis - only discovered in 1994 ):

Some of the vistas are magnificent, in a quiet way:

There are any number of the weird and wonderful:

This ( above ) is the feltbush ( Kalanchoe beharensis ). Below is a grass and a shrub I can't identify, Aloe bainesii and mottlecah ( Eucalyptus macrocarpa ):

This South African coral tree ( Erythrina caffra ) has amazingly warty bark:

This fountain is in the Herb Garden:

The native Australian garden, apart from being neglected in places, is perhaps my favourite part:

Coast banksia ( Banksia integrifolia ) and the Acorn banksia ( Banksia prionotes ):

The gymea lily ( its gigantic red flower spikes not yet bursting out - Doryanthes excelsa ):

And, lastly, perhaps, what I see as perhaps the most beautiful tree on site, this sugar gum ( Eucalyptus cladocalyx ):


  1. Love the felt bush, and the rough stone (concrete?) base of the fountain. Actually, I could use the whole fountain.

  2. You want the fountain, James, let's say I sneak over in the dead of night and dig it out for you? I could do that, what with my new dog as accomplice. We'd come through to Rosemont via chartered aircraft, and simply install it, no worries they say.

  3. This brings back memories. I did the Master Gardener course at the Burnley College in the early 2000s, and loved both the place and the course, especially the landscape design and soil parts... The fountain must be new, I can't recall seeing it, but love the friendly, rounded form opening up.

  4. Liisa, I lived in Power Street, Hawthorn, for 10 years, and had wanted to enrol at Burnley all that time, but had a bookselling career I believed was a career.
    Gardening, now, has subsumed the bookselling...

  5. Lucky you that you had the place to yourself! It looks gorgeous! All the photos are lovely, but I find myself very pulled towards the trees that have the orange cone in the photo.
    That sugar gum is stunning also, that twisted look and bark are outstanding! Do they seem to glow at night? How cool would that be!

  6. Hello Faisal:
    Very obviously, as you have shown, these gardens are home to a great many specimens which are of botanical interest and, in some cases, rarity. But they also capture the sense, as you suggest, of being in a private sanctuary and there is nothing, from what it is possible to see from your photographs, institutional about them. How wonderful to be able to visit frequently.

    And thank you, Faisal, for your comment left on our recent post and to which we have made reply.

  7. P.S. In answer to your reply to our comment on your last post, we may indeed at some point post about the garden. We miss it, but not the work which it entailed!

  8. Jane and Lance, you are always gracious. I hope you do post about your garden, if doing so doesn't interrupt your quite unique diary...yes, gardens are an impossible load of work...sometimes I would simply like to spend my days staring out of a window, engaged, but uninvolved...

  9. Lady Raven,
    the orange cone, the banksia, is indeed splendid. If you'd like to see more, check out the work of Celia Rosser, a very fine artist and draughtswoman who has recorded the entire genus.

  10. We are so lucky in Melbourne, are we not, with such a profusion of gardens and parks in the metropolitan area!
    Lovely photographs, Faisal.

  11. Thanks again, Nicholas! Yes, the early planners, with their civic sense, have left us with a wonderful lagacy. Another place that amazes me is Yarra Bend/Studley Park - original bushland,and masses of it, a stone's throw from the city.

  12. Oh, I must go to this garden when next I'm in Melbourne. I'm a hopeless gardener but I love them (and have just spent 3 weeks in Japan with gardens being one of our main goals when traveling there. I was astonished to see, in a little historical seaside village, a small private garden with a callistemon poking over the fence. I reckon the Japanese with their love of shape and form could do wonderful stuff with some of our natives though perhaps they are not quite as malleable as other flora?)

  13. Gum Whisperer - Burnley's a little hidden from the public, though it's perfectly open. It's not a sensational show garden, being more subtle. There's planty of space to wander around in, though, and chances are you'll get it to yourself. I certainly feel we have alot more we could do with natives - perhaps we haven't done alot because they haven't conformed to people's notions of 'garden plants', or, as you suggest, they're not as malleable, or maybe because it's all a matter of time/acquaintance. The Japanese have always been intrigued by this landscape...perhaps its eccentricity appeals?

  14. Oh wow that takes me back! I spent 3 years studying here and loved every single minute. I really do miss it (now relocated back to Sydney). So many memories came flooding back looking at these images. I'm so glad to see the ponds have been restored and see the grass green again. I remember pricking my finger on the A. bidwillii on a plant I.D lecture and the little Wollemi is growing up. Such a special place and Tansy's cooking makes my mouth water still. Many fond memories. PS. Thanks for the book recommendation "Cows", looks like an enjoyable read. Cheers, THCG

  15. Bocconia frutescens is the plant with the grass...