Tasmanian Odyssey would like to thank Bill Chestnut, secretary of the Blooming Tasmania Association and owner of Inverawe Native Gardens for his invaluable knowledge and contribution to the information on this site. Bill and his wife Margaret are pictured here with Robin Lane Fox of the Financial Times visiting in 2013.
It has been said that Tasmania is as far away from Britain as you can get without heading "home" again. Tasmania's gardens probably epitomise this more than anything else in this island where raw, rugged, uncharted wilderness shares the land with some of the most beautiful gardens you will have have the privilege to encounter.
In the Nineteenth Century, Van Demoniens tried to create a society based on the one they had known at home - and yet so very different from it in some crucial aspects.
A selection of Tasmania's gardens clearly illustrate that. Indeed, visit a few of the gardens and you will begin to understand the story of a society.
Tasmanian gardens have been created by ordinary people with energy and vision, by groups of volunteers coming together, and occasionally, as Government gardens.
Just 15 minutes from Hobart, Inverawe Gardens, (www.inverawe.com.au) created by Bill and Margaret Chestnut, is based on the English Landscape movement that seeks to go with nature, and sits softly on the landscape. This is an outward-looking garden. Few gardens around the world have the view down the North West Bay that is Inverawe's most characteristic feature, and which links Inverawe to the wider nation.
Birders and a love of gardeners go hand in glove, and Inverawe has seen no fewer than 99 species of birds here. According to Bill, anyone who doesn't get at least 20 species in a couple of hours has either picked a very bad day or isn't really trying! Visitors from the UK will delight in recognising some plants they grow at home but in a naturalistic setting - alongside some plants they could have never imagined.
In stark contrast to Inverawe is Kaydale Lodge (http://www.kaydalelodge.com.au/). Nestled in and amongst the stunning and remote summits, forested hills and 'lost' valleys deep in Tasmania's north west, with an elevation of 500 metres and a rainfall of 80 inches, Kaydale is on the road to Leven Canyon - a stunning wildlife rich area to which even Tasmanians rarely venture. The alpine rockery, complete with waterfall, is one of the best garden experiences in Australia, and easily world class. UK visitors grow tree ferns in their home gardens in pots so they can wheel them indoors during winter. Here a dozen or more grizzled veterans inhabit the old tennis court garden, and shrug off annual snowfalls. Kaydale imposes itself on the landscape. This is an absolutely stunning garden designed, constructed and maintained by a visionary family.
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart (RTBG) (http://www.rtbg.tas.gov.au/) is a nineteenth century botanical garden. To walk around here is to understand that Tasmania was founded as a British colony. RTBG will reminds you of Kew, the great grandmother of all such botanical gardens, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow, Glasnevin in Dublin and no doubt many others. The botanists who fanned out over the countryside are part of our common cultural tradition.
The Government gardens at the Port Arthur historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula, a ninety minute drive from Hobart, (http://www.portarthur.org.au/) point to another tradition - the garden that was open only to people of the 'right class' - 'PLU'! Similar enclosed or restricted gardens existed in other places - Sydney Botanic and St Stephens Green, Dublin. There must have been many others. On Sunday afternoons ladies of the right class would promenade, dressed in their Sunday best. Here, in the middle of a prison, surrounded by some of the worst felons in the Empire, it is important to keep up appearances. They were people just like us who found themselves in an extraordinary circumstance.
The Tasmanian Arboretum is in a wide valley at Eugenana, in the hills behind Devonport in northern Tasmania. A lake focuses the landscape and there are a good many long walks - you can walk as little or as far as you wish. The Arboretum is run by a not-for-profit volunteer organisation. You will be drawn to this arboretum - how can a committee of volunteers, working in their spare time, achieve such a wonderful outcome?
Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden is set in a rounded valley in the hills behind Burnie, also on Tasmania's north coast. Emu Valley is a world class Rhododendron garden, also built and maintained by a not for profit group of enthusiasts. The boldness and scope of the vision together with the élan with which it is being delivered will blow your socks off.
The journey wouldn't be complete without a visit to a great house, Clarendon, perhaps. (http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/tas/clarendon ) Imagine that you are living in the UK over 200 years ago, some time around 1800; now imagine that you're a small child in the old country, peering through iron bars that surround the park of a great house, knowing you can never aspire to such things. Then you find yourself in Van Diemen's Land, transported as a felon perhaps, for stealing a loaf of bread, or with the army, and suddenly it's all possible. The great house can be yours. Clarendon and houses like it were created from that imagined memory. Stand on the front lawn, legs slightly apart, hands on hips, and imagine you are that person.
Don't take our word for it. Read what the Financial Times' expert says:
The Financial Times's garden guru Robin Lane Fox fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting Tasmania's gardens in 2013 and wrote extensively about his experience in the paper. Read more here: