Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden (formerly the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden) in Sydney’s Blue Mountains is well worth a visit.
On my recent visit to Sydney, I was taken to the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens. Curiously, I had not heard of these gardens before but had heard of Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens. I soon realised that the gardens had been re-named in 2011, which all made sense.
Sydney has some wonderful landscapes; a product of its undulating topography and a natural advantage that this city has over my native Melbourne which is relatively flat. The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens are situated on a thoroughfare called “Bells Line of Road” which had a long history as an Aboriginal travel route prior to European settlement. This is a windy road that passes through some truly beautiful countryside.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden is managed by the New South Wales Government’s Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust and is situated on a sloped site overlooking mountain ranges. The vista can be best appreciated from the verandah on the back of the visitor’s centre. From here, one can see many kilometres over a valley and across more than half of the gardens.
We had decided to visit on a day where the temperatures exceeded 40°C. Such weather is most unsuitable for visiting such a site but given that we’d travelled from Melbourne, it was then or not-at-all. We commenced our visit with lunch in the picnic area which, thankfully, was sheltered. Given the weather, we had the area to ourselves.
After lunch, we decided to wander the gardens. Like all good botanic gardens, these are arranged in ‘rooms’ that contain different themed plantings and flora types. We started at the ‘Residence Garden’ which featured an incredibly sloped lawn. There was a good collection of Betula (birch) species here, which was well worth a look although the adjacent herb garden was also attractive.
From there we descended down into the lower parts of the property. ‘The Terrace” was a linear garden that featured a formal hedge on one side and a long pond with a waterfall on the other. It was a really nice spot to sit and relax away from the heat. I can imagine that this would be a popular spot for wedding photos.
For me, the themed rock gardens were most impressive. Despite the slope of the land, many areas were accessible with gentle paths but it was admittedly more enjoyable to proceed down the steeper winding paths with their turns and steps. To fit in with the theme, crazy paving was employed to add some interest underfoot.
On account of the weather, we didn’t head into the lowest parts of the garden as the climb back up in the hot weather seemed almost unbearable. We decided to save that for a follow-up visit. Instead, we followed the rockery gardens around past the rainforest gardens, which appear to be composed of remnant bushland.
From that point, we proceed up, up and up to the ‘Formal Garden’. To access this part of the gardens, one must pass by a large sundial.
The upper part of the garden is the most formal in nature and has some nicely laid out beds filled predominantly with herbaceous perennial species such as Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium ‘Red Velvet’) and Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa). For me, one of the most impressive species was the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) which grows to several metres in height and produces vivid purple thistle flowers.
The formal gardens at Blue Mountain Botanic Gardens are pleasant, but I believe that comparable examples could be seen elsewhere, such as Cloudehill. This garden’s strength is definitely its rockery gardens which are unparalleled.
After walking the gardens for an hour and a half in the stifling heat, we headed for the cafeteria which is known as the Tomah Gardens Restaurant. It was here that we sampled the lemonade and had a serve of raspberry ice-cream. The lemonade was satisfactory (I have had better) but the raspberry ice-cream was magnificent and well worth the money paid for it. A vivid red colour, it was cold, sweet and refreshing on a hot day.
Sitting on the balcony, we could study the garden from the large decking area whilst sitting under the shade of a wisteria vine.
Attached to the restaurant is a small gallery that exhibits and sells small handicrafts. When we visited, there was a modest display of woven items. A bookshop is also attached with a reasonable collection of books and a small range of souvenirs.
To be honest, I feel quite disappointed that the weather was so unfavourable for my first-visit to these gardens, as I’d have liked to explore this site further and discover more about what this place had to offer. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my visit and recommend it.
When next I return to Sydney, the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens will be high on my “must see” list.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens are located on Bells Line of Road at Mount Tomah and are open from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Entry is free.