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Ballarat Botanical Gardens

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Wendouree Parade, Lake Wendouree VIC 3350

Features

  • Beautiful gardens
  • Conservatory
  • Horticultural Centre
  • Prime Ministers Avenue
  • Statue of Sir William Wallace
  • Fernery
  • Lily pond
  • Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage
  • Sensory garden
  • Ballarat Tramway Museum
  • Ballarat fish acclimatisation hatcheries
  • Ex-prisoner of war memorial
The Ballarat Botanical Gardens are a beautiful stretch of parkland alongside Lake Wendouree, Ballarat.

The gardens have many notable features, and are a wonderful place for a stroll or picnic lunch.

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens visitor's brochure is freely available within the Robert Clark Conservatory, and offers the following excellent summary of the gardens:

Notable features

Ballarat's Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial was designed by local sculptor Peter Blizzard as a monument to remembrance and healing. Dedicated in 2004, the memorial features a 130-metre long wall of polished black granite engraved with the names of more than 35,000 Australians held prisoner during the Boer War, the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.

The main entrance to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens on Wendouree Parade features the ornate Morey Gates. This display of intricate cast ironwork was a gift from the Hon. Edward Morey MLC in 1894. Once through the grand entrance, visitors are greeted by the century-old Marble Lions presented to the Botanical Gardens by the Hon David Ham MLC the previous year. In 1888, a large statue of Scottish hero, William Wallace was purchased with bequest funds from Mr James Russell Thompson and now presides over the entrance to the Botanical Gardens as a testament to Thompson's scottish ancestry.

The Robert Clark Conservatory boasts spectacular 13-metre high, multi-faceted glass panels, shade sails and a fully automated climate control system. Its unusual geometric shape came after many hours of experimenting with folded paper and the overall design was inspired by other world famous conservatories such as the Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England.

Officially opened by the Honourable, Richard E. McGarvie, Governor of Victoria in 1995, the Conservatory hosts seasonal floral displays and is home to Ballarat's world famous tuberous Begonia collection.

The Robert Clark Conservatory is open from 9am to 4.30pm daily (except Christmas Day). The construction of the Robert Clark Horticultural Centre was made possible by a $2 million bequest from the grandson of Mr Robert Clark, the co-founder and proprietor of Ballarat's newspaper The Courier.

The Horticultural Centre features a permanent exhibition of historic photographs of the Botanical Gardens and a brief history of the Ballarat Begonia Festival, which started in 1952. The Centre is available for seminars, exhibitions and small functions.

The Statuary Pavillion is home to a magnificent collection of marble statues. This collection of sculptures by Charles Summer - Flight from Pompeii, Ruth, Modesty, Rebekah and Susannah - was purchased with bequest funds from former miner and Ballarat citizen, James Russell Thompson.

Thomas Stoddard gifted 12 Carrara marble statues known as The Stoddard Collection which were unveiled in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens by the Governor of Victoria on Empire Day 1884. The Stoddard Collection is located at focal points throughout the Gardens.

The majestic avenue of Horsechestnut trees is home to the iconic Prime Ministers' Avenue. Visitors can stroll through Australia's political history and admire the bronze busts of successive Australian Prime Ministers beginning with Sir Edmund Barton's stewardship in 1901.

The cottage of renowned Australian Poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, was rescued from demolition in 1934 by the Ballarat Y's Men's Club and relocated from its original position near Craig's Hotel to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. The cottage is now known as The Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage and displays and sells quality arts and crafts from members of the Ballarat Craft Council. 

Planted between 1863 and 1874, the Sequoiadendron Avenue is listed on the National Trust of Significant Trees Register and provides a spectacular example of mature Giant Redwoods.

The Ballarat Tramway Museum opens on weekends, public holidays and school holidays and provides tram rides along Wendouree Parade. Visit the Museum to discover some of Ballarat's unique history when horse-drawn trams transported citizens around the lake.

The Claxton Memorial Fountain was erected in 1890 by public subscription in recognition of Frederick Moses Claxton, Councillor and Mayor of Ballarat who was instrumental in implementing plans for the Gardens and Lake Wendouree in the 1870s.

The Sensory Garden was developed in 1992 with the generous assistance of the Zonta Club of Ballarat. The garden, nestled around a fountain, contains a collection of plants appealing to all the senses. The Sensory Garden is a popular venue for weddings, photography and a great sensory experience for children who visit the gardens.

History

The 1851 discovery of gold in the Ballarat region changed the future of the city and surrounding district from an isolated squatter's settlement to, for a time, one of the richest urban areas in the world. In 1856 the Ballarat municipality was formed and two years later it was decided to convert the Ballarat Police horse paddock into a Botanical Garden and to construct a road (Wendouree Parade) on the west side of Yuille's Swamp (now Lake Wendouree).

A garden design competition was promoted widely, offering prize money of £10. The overall winners were Messrs Wright and Armstrong. George Longley was subsequently commissioned to turn their vision into reality. Having trained in horticulture at Lowther Castle in England, Longley was awarded a salary of £3 per week.

The 40-hectare site was divided into three sections - the Central Botanical Gardens, typical of pleasure gardens of that era, and two areas of open parkland now known as the North and South Gardens.

Setting up camp on the site of what now hosts the Robert Clark Horticultural Centre, Longley directed the clearing of the site and carting of soil. The 1860s saw the principal tree planting begin. Some of these specimens remain in the Gardens today and are featured on the National Trust of Significant Trees Register.

The Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens and the Geelong Botanic Gardens also assisted with specimens for Ballarat's gardens. These valuable botanical additions were complemented by Longley's substantial propagation program in the Gardens nursery.

By the 1870s the Ballarat Fish Acclimatisation Society was established and construction of the fernery had started. Work on the fernery continued in stages until its completion in 1898.

Thomas Rooney and John Lingham followed George Longley's stewardship of the Gardens in 1898, and English-trained Thomas Toop was the next successor to take charge. For the next 30 years he led the continued growth and development of the Gardens and was succeeded by his apprentice Thomas Beaumont who spent 54 years as the Ballarat Botanical Gardens curator. The Tom Beaumont Lawn was named in his honour.

From 1917 to 1959, the Gardens were home to The Ballarat Zoo. Prominent Ballarat citizen, Henry Ben Jahn, left a bequest of £10,000 to the City of Ballarat for the purpose of creating an animal menagerie. Remnants of the animal enclosures are still visible in the area of Zoo Drive.

Events

A host of events take place in and around the Gardens throughout the year. The Ballarat Begonia Festival is staged over the Labour Day long weekend in March each year. A magnificent exhibition of tuberous Begonias are on display in the Robert Clark Conservatory during this time and remain a feature of the Botanical Gardens until late April. The Botanical Gardens also provides a perfect venue for the City of Ballarat's popular 'Summer Sundays' picnic and live music evening events throughout each January.

Conservatory Displays

The Robert Clark Conservatory features seasonal displays all year round. Annual displays traditionally include: the tuberous Begonia Display in March / April, Chrysanthemum in autumn and a stunning show of Cyclamen and Cineraria during the winter months. Spring showcases Schizanthus and a vast variety of spring bulbs and the season finale in summer, is a showcase of flowering crops including Hydrangea, Fuchsia and Pelargonium.

Gardening Friends

The Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens conduct plant sales from the 'Growing Friends Nursery' behind the Robert Clarke Horticultural Centre each Tuesday from 1pm to 4pm and on the second Sunday of each month from 1pm to 4pm.  



 

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