The Williamstown Botanic Gardens just north of Melbourne are steeped in history that is reflected in their beauty today.
The Williamstown Botanic Gardens were one of Victoria’s first public gardens.
Perched on the coast with stunning sea views the Edwardian style gardens are full of rare trees, a newly refurbished ornamental pond and an old-fashioned avenue bordered by palm trees.
The gardens first opened in 1860 and were a great place for locals to relax with a picnic or go for a walk by the sea.
Traditionally, public botanic gardens in newer areas such as Williamstown were established by English settlers “as a way of assessing how well familiar plants would grow, as a place for reliving the English landscape and as a place for social outings and walks.”
Nowadays the gardens are split into the following two sections.
There is the Northern section, which consists of formal garden beds, lawns and the ornamental pond. The Southern section is made up of the Parker Reserve Pinetum (which is a collection of shady pine trees).
The Williamstown Botanic Gardens are also very special because they are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register “as significant for their historical, aesthetic,scientific (horticultural) and social significance to the state of Victoria.”
We spoke to Shelley Wood, the Curator of the Williamstown Botanic Gardens about her lifetime involvement with the gardens.
“My Grandmother lived across the road from the gardens and my Mother recalled as a little girl, playing with her best friend who lived in the gardens house. They would ride their tricycles to the gates at dusk as the curator locked them with ‘the big black key.’ He would then ferry Mum across the road prior to returning to lock the final gate.
“I also grew up playing in these gardens and was lucky enough to be the first female employed as an apprentice gardener.
“After qualifying and working through a restoration of the gardens in the late 1980s, I went on to be the head gardener at Rippon Lea Gardens and I worked on rejuvenation projects in many of Melbourne’s private and public gardens.
“In 2006 I returned to The Williamstown Botanic Gardens to coordinate the rejuvenation of the gardens.
“As part of the rejuvenation of the gardens, the 1907 cast iron gates at the front of the gardens, which were originally cast in Scotland were restored.
“The marble statue of A T Clarke and the palm walk understory planting was redesigned and buffalo lawns are slowly being reintroduced into the gardens.
“The Ornamental Lake had not held water for more than a decade and now following a major restoration hosts a delightful display of water lilies through the summer.
“The focus for the future is about planting rejuvenation, sustainability, education and interpretation and most importantly ensuring the gardens continue to retain their significance and remain a special place in peoples hearts and minds for the next 150 years.”