Living in Melbourne means having a reasonably diverse range of scenery on your doorstep – from miles of beautiful beaches to foggy temperate forests, snowy mountains, vineyards and dry bushland. Closest to where I live, on the eastern side of the city, are the Dandenong Mountains (well, let’s be honest, hills) that have large areas of national and state forests and hundreds of kilometres of walking tracks. There are also many gardens and arboretums and one of the best is the National Rhododendron Gardens.
The gardens are over 1.5 km in length and doing a full circuit can add up to 5km (approximately 3 miles) and it’s all quite hilly.
Right now the rhododendrons are in full flower, the magnolias are a bit past it and the azaleas are almost out.
The gardens open from 10 till 5 and parking at this time of year can be a nightmare so I got there at 9:55 to find the gates already open. When you’re out to take photos it’s really nice to beat the crowds.
By the time I left there were hundreds of people there, quite a lot of them tourists form east Asia and many a giant tour bus in the parking lot.
I was slightly annoyed to have completely missed the cherry blossoms again – I never seem to remember to go, despite having two blossom trees at home to remind me. I consoled myself with a piece of chocolate brownie form the new cafe (research!) and watched a bunch of elderly people complain that the shuttle bus that takes you around the gardens cost money to ride – which seemed a bit churlish considering the gardens were free entry. No pleasing some people, I suppose!
So if you’re nearby, go have a look! It’s well worth it and there’s acres of lawn and many a kookaburra just waiting for picnickers to leave their crusts:-).
The Burchart Gardens are the main reason why we came on this trip, as Mum had seen them on tv and wanted to see them in real life. I did five minutes of research and had read that the best time to come was in spring to see the bulbs blooming. We’re here in late summer so I didn’t expect it to be super impressive.
We had a special deal with our tour group to have breakfast at the gardens before having about an hour and a half to walk around. Breakfast was in a nice greenhouse-style room, but from what I could see through the windows and on the way in, I was itching to get out and walk around.
The gardens are stunning. I’ve never seen anything as perfectly manicured or colourful. The gardens have several separate spaces. A rose garden, Japanese garden, smaller sections of parterre and dahlias etc then the quarry garden, which was the first space that the original owners planned out and the view you’ll see if you google the gardens.
Every area was astounding in its perfection, but the dahlias were what really grabbed me and I think I’m going to have to attempt them at home because wherever I see them I find them irresistible. I think you can see why!
We were encouraged to annoy the gardeners by asking them questions, and so we learned that 75 gardeners take care of the property and they are open 363 days of the year. They also do fireworks on saturdays, so time your visit for then!
Next: cruising up the inside passage! Also, I giggle when anyone refers to ‘the inside passage’.
We go back to Jökulsárlón to see the nearby black sand beach, and then continue our travels across Iceland’s stunning landscape.
Also, here are the promised 80’s-hair-metal-band Iceland horses; none, unfortunately, which are fighting. 🙂
Music: Rafstraumur by Sigur Rós
Iceland is a country on a big scale, for such a small island. The largest glacier in Europe is here, the mountains seem huge, the valleys and plains you drive across seem endless and the view goes on forever because there are no trees or houses in the way (Mum, you’d love it). But you have to look down and close to see some of the magic too, because the plants are tiny but so very beautiful. Well, lots of them are tiny but this one is my favourite, and it’s about 30cms high and in some places there’s so much of it that it turns whole mountainsides purple.
Some are dark purple, some are light and a few are white. If you’re thinking of coming to Iceland and you like flowers, make it the middle of Summer. They’re everywhere!
Some are almost microscopic, others are a lot like the flowers at home. It’s hard to believe you get fields of flowers next to lakes full of icebergs… but that’s Iceland!