Smell that sweet spring air.
Beyond the freeway, hidden behind that thick shrub, off that back street — that’s where a secret garden is waiting. With no shortage of blissful spring days on the horizon, there’s no better time to be a little adventurous and explore one of these lesser known gardens. Why wouldn’t you want to swap the cement jungle for a green oasis and breathe in the heavenly scent of eucalyptus trees? Sit back, slip off your shoes, feel the grass between your toes and chase a frisbee around one of these top secret spots.
Tucked away off the main strip of Balwyn, this impressive garden of lush green lawns, sweet-smelling wattle, ancient trees and native plants has everything you need to escape the daily grind. Take a stroll and you will discover an Arid Zone, Indigenous Garden, Rainforest and Cottage Gardens. With all plants labelled, it’s an educational experience for keen or wannabe botanists. For those searching for peace and quiet, there’s ample park benches for book-reading or for quiet reflection, but you’ll have to leave your doggies and skateboards at home.
Yarrbat Avenue, Balwyn
There’s a well-kept secret phenomenon just past Airport West, off the Calder Highway. Hidden beyond the electricity poles and the busy road are naturally formed prehistoric basalt columns shaped like (you guessed it) organ pipes. Formed about 400 million years ago by molten lava, the Organ Pipes are now home to wedge-tailed eagles, cockatoos, wrens and shrubs such as the beautiful spring wattle blossom. There are a few walking tracks along the creek, but mostly it’s a great place to polish up your high school geography. What are sedimentary rocks again?
Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens are marvellously huge — so huge that Guilfoyle’s Volcano can nestle within it as a secret gardens not hugely frequented by tourists. Built in 1876 for water storage, it is now part of a wetlands project, showcasing spectacular water flowers and plants. The boardwalk and viewing platforms make the garden easy to explore and also provide an amazing view of the city’s skyline.
Guilfoyle’s Volcano is in the south-east corner of the gardens and is easily accessible via C Gate (enter via Anderson Street) and D Gate (enter via Birdwood Avenue).
Transformed from a snake-infested swampland to English-styled grounds in 1896, this old-school garden is the proud centre of Canterbury. Long-standing majestic trees drape their wide branches across the rolling green slopes. These are perfect hills for some good old-fashioned rolling. For those who don’t like being itchy, there is a luxurious amount of picnic space near rose gardens and hedges, or you can take a seat in the 100-year-old rotunda. Canterbury train station is close by, but perhaps a little too close if the sound of trains slicing through metallic tracks isn’t your idea of tranquility.
Canterbury Road, Canterbury
It’s easy to hide and slip away in the Heide Museum of Modern Art’s Sculpture Park. Spread across 15 acres of garden are 30 sculptures to admire. Day-trippers may like to throw a picnic mat down or just meander across the old dairy farm and stop and smell the unusual roses in the garden beds, many of which have heritage status. For those more social types, there’s a cafe nearby as well as the art gallery.
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen
How’s the serenity? It’s pretty good in the outer eastern suburb of Mitcham, where a historic stone cottage sits on beautiful Yarran Dheran bushland park. The fragrance of lilies will greet you as you enter the gardens, and also a sense of stepping back to a simpler and quieter time. There’s also an old wine cellar, smoke house and museum to explore as you learn more about the German family who lived on the property in 1884. Take a wander down to the creek and you can watch the tadpoles, spot colourful parrots and perhaps, if you’re lucky, even see a koala.
Deep Creek Road, Mitcham
If you don’t believe in fairies, you’ll reconsider after visiting the George Tindale Memorial Garden. Flowers of all colours are thriving in the cool temperature of the Dandenong Ranges. Follow the winding track around and spot magnolias, camellias, fuchsias and more. With no green-thumbed gardeners in sight, you can’t help but think that this well-nurtured garden must be the work of some type of magic.
33 Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke. Open 10am – 5pm every day.
An unused car park be transformed into a community garden? How perfectly Melbourne. This urban garden located on Russell Court car park rooftop combines 140 veggie crates rented by the public with amazing 360-degree views of the city skyline. Even if you’re not looking to rent a little plot, you can still enjoy the green space as a nice, quiet spot to have lunch. For something a little less introverted, attend one of their events; BBQs, movie nights and table tennis comps are all on the program.
Russell Court (the continuation of Russell Street after crossing Flinders Street) behind Fed Square
Rock garden fans (holla!) will appreciate this garden where red earth and desert flowers come alive. In the outer suburbs of Cranbourne, Australian native plants are cultivated over 363 hectares and grown in a contemporary style. Not to be missed is the impressive and award-winning ‘Australian Garden’, which celebrates the beauty of native plants through sculptures and garden displays. There are 10km of walking trails in the nearby bushland to get lost in and creeks to dip your toes in.
Corner of Ballarto Road & Botanic Drive, Cranbourne
If you’d prefer to sit under the cool canopies of mountain ash trees than slog over the nearby infamous (and overpopulated) 1000 Steps, this is the spot to sit back and hear the birds chirp. Flowering cherry trees are vibrant and the air is fresh and sweet-tasting. Walk down to the little lake and cute boathouse, where a certain romantic The Notebook scene would be perfectly re-enacted. If that fails, it’s still a great spot to have your lunch.
1A Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke
First published on Concrete Playground