I am a bit partial to wanders through lush, green spaces and nothing fits the bill better than a visit to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens on the edge of the Hobart CBD.
The gardens are one of Australia’s oldest, established in the early years of the colony over 200 years ago. While it may not be the size and scale of more famous gardens, it has a variety and beauty that makes for a very enjoyable couple of hours or a longer day out.
Walking out of the Hobart CBD, I really didn’t have a clear idea of where I was going, despite clutching a tourist map in my fist. I thought I would just head in the general direction and surely I would see some signs along the way.
My optimism paid off and I enjoyed a steep stroll through the Queen’s Domain before taking a track down through the eucalypts to arrive close to the Garden’s main entrance. The walk through the dry, brown Queen’s Domain provided a neat contrast to the softness and delicacy of the cool climate, botanical gardens.
Through the scrolling iron gates the trees soared above me, proving what can be achieved after years and years of access to plentiful rain. I grabbed a copy of the self-guided walk map from The Hub – a small information kiosk – and stepped out of the cool shadows of the looming trees into the bright, early morning sunshine.
Once upon a time, I really enjoyed gardening, but this has been knocked out of me after years of drought and harsh climate conditions where I live. Now I specialise in enjoying the hard work of others and have given up beating myself up about my own paltry gardening efforts.
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) has many of the ‘normal’ features you find in public gardens, however this cool climate garden has a gentleness and daintiness that I haven’t seen very often. The maples, ferns and bulbs glistened under a sheen of early morning dew. After so much drought, it was wonderful to see moisture beaded on the leaves and feel it in the air.
I started at the Gatekeeper’s Cottage (1845) and worked my way down deep into the heart of the Gardens. I had a few target places I really wanted to visit (which I will share in more detail in future posts) and the goal was to see as much as possible in the short time I had available.
One of the things I like about botanical gardens is that they are the full package. Beauty. History. Education.
The Resilient Garden was a real eye-opener, revealing a diverse selection of cactus and other succulents. While these plants may not fit the traditional definition of ‘beautiful’, they are stunning in their shape, design and pure resilience. In our dry climate in Australia, it makes sense that these plants should flourish and should be the basis of our water-wise gardens rather than more fragile and demanding introduced species.
The Conservatory (1939) harked back to an earlier time of high teas, promenading, and the importance of being seen. I guess not much has changed over the years, except these days our need to be physically seen has been replaced by a digital/social media presence.
As I walked it was nice to hear the many groundsmen and volunteers chatting and laughing as they set about their work. Perhaps they have the best jobs in the World in the most glorious setting. I got the impression though that it must be a bit of a financial struggle to maintain the gardens as wherever I walked there were donation boxes. A small price to pay to enjoy such stunning surrounds.
Bordering the Gardens are high, rust-red brick walls. The Arthur Wall (1829) was constructed as a heated wall. Have you ever seen one of these? Apparently it is a good example of early English horticultural technology. How it worked was that the wall, constructed with internal channels, would have heat sent through it from coal-fired furnaces. In theory, these heated structures would protect tender plants from bitter Winters. In practice this was a little over-engineered for Australian Winters and the North-facing walls provided plenty of protection in themselves AND acted as a good barrier to keep the human riff raff out of such an exclusive place.
The Gardens also feature a Lily Pond, Japanese Garden, Floral Clock, Anniversary Arch, Tasmanian Native Plant Collection and Fernery, but all those would have to wait until my next visit. All too soon it was time to leave the Gardens and head back into the city. I felt I was rushing and didn’t do it justice – quickly snapping the views between the towering trees and through to the Derwent River beyond and admiring the contrast of a purple and pink pansy explosion in a sandstone garden bed with a background of ancient trees. So much to please the eye.
Making my way back up to the entrance it was nice to see and hear the buzz of people drifting through the gates and down into the Gardens. The crowds were made up of all shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities. These days the Gardens are a place that welcomes all, regardless of personal gardening prowess.
Those high brick walls aren’t there to keep people out anymore.
Where do you get your gardening inspiration?
What: Feel like coffee and cake? Or some retail therapy? The Succulent Restaurant and Sprout Café in the Gardens are the perfect place to revive after your stroll, or kick back and enjoy the views.
Where: The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are located adjacent to the Queen’s Domain and Government House, approximately two kilometres from the centre of Hobart.
When: The Gardens are open seven days from 800am. Closing time depends on the time of year and daylight saving times – either 500pm or 630pm.
Why: For gardening inspiration, a dose of Vitamin D with a side of beauty, and quality, free entertainment.
How: Detailed self-guided maps are available from information desk near the main entrance or the Visitors Centre. Guided tours can also be booked for an additional cost.
Who: From what I saw, the Gardens are fully accessible for people with mobility issues with excellent smooth, wide paths. The wide open spaces would be perfect for children of all ages – just perfect for blowing off steam and burning up excess energy.
Related Posts: Want to armchair visit some other Australian gardens? Have a read of my post about a fabulous guided tour around the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.
Related Blogs: Gardens not your thing? Then have a look at what else there is to do in Hobart.
Read About It: For an interesting historical novel based on the lives of Elizabeth and John Gould, pick up a copy of The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley. During the story they sail out to Tasmania from England and live in Hobart for many months collecting specimens and becoming close friends with the Governor of Tasmania. Not world-beating literature, but an interesting insight into colonial times and early flora and fauna collection. Available from Book Depository .
#hobart #travelinspo #tasmania #royaltasmanianbotanicalgardens #flora