Here in Melbourne, we’ve had an atypical spring season. For much of September and October, the weather pattern was dominated by strong, cold winds, without the mitigating presence of good rainfall. Then, late in October, we had a short burst of warm days, quickly followed by a cold, showery beginning to November. The coldest in 23 years, in fact!
Finally, the showers eased and the temperature sputtered its way towards 20C, giving us a window of opportunity for an open-air outing. (Today we are being punished for our impatience, with a maximum of 33C or 91F.)
We decided to venture into a range of hills, known as the Dandenongs, which overlook the eastern half of Melbourne. Much of this range is covered with thick Australian native bush and tall forest trees, including some groves of temperate rainforest. However, our chosen destination was a garden largely devoid of Australian plants: the National Rhododendron Garden.
The soils and climate of the Dandenongs, with good winter rainfall and summer fogs, are well suited to growing rhododendrons and such related species as camellia and azalea. So, in 1960, a group of rhododendron enthusiasts persuaded the government of the day to set aside a large parcel of land which had already been stripped of most of its eucalypts and other native plants. Soon, they had begun to create a garden planted with rhododendrons from the diverse regions of the globe to which they are native.
More than half a century later, the garden has flourished to become a popular destination for both tourists and Melbourne residents. The garden is now managed by Parks Victoria and will soon be given the status of a botanical garden. You can learn more about the garden here.
The grounds of the National Rhododendron Garden also contain numerous picnic tables , garden bench-seats, a cafe and a gift shop. Here are some more photos from the pleasant hour or so we spent wandering along the well-made paths.