“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden”, wrote Frances Hodgeson Burnett in The Secret Garden.
Nowhere is this truer than in Tasmania – some of these gardens are grand public gardens, open to visitors year-round. Others are privately run gardens, hidden away off the beaten track, whose owners are more than happy to welcome in visitors who find themselves travelling the road less travelled.
Perhaps the greatest treasures can be found among the gardens of the B&Bs, charming heritage homesteads and rural farmhouses that form the backbone of any Tasmanian Odyssey. Here, among native shrubs and trees heaving with fruit and blossom and carefully tended veg patches, you will find a Native Hen and her family of chicks; a Duck-billed Platypus feeding in crystal clear streams, lawns kept trim by marsupials (“gardening by wallaby”), and Kookaburras keeping a jovial eye on the comings and goings of daily guests.
Behind each and every garden lies a story waiting to be discovered.
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. Visit just a few of the hundreds of gardens dotted around the island and you will begin to understand the story of a society.
Start at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart, a nineteenth-century botanical garden. Walk around here and you will understand that Tasmania was founded as a British colony.
At another garden near Launceston you might imagine that you are living in the UK over 200 years ago, sometime 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 (the island's name changed to Tasmania in 1856), transported as a felon perhaps, for stealing a loaf of bread, and suddenly it's all possible. The great house can be yours.
The Government gardens at the Port Arthur Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula, a ninety-minute drive from Hobart, point to another tradition - the garden that was open only to people of the 'right class' - 'PLU'! 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.
Just 15-minutes from Hobart, privately owned Inverawe Gardens is based on the English Landscape movement that seeks to go with nature and sits softly on the landscape, an outward-looking garden. Few gardens around the world have the view down the North West Bay that is Inverawe's most characteristic feature. Birders and love of gardeners go hand in glove, and Inverawe has seen no fewer than 99 species of birds here.
Just a little further south still on Bruny Island, the Jurassic Garden at Inala, a birding and wildlife reserve, is a remarkable botanic garden based on Gondwanaland. Five-acres of gently undulating land gives visitors an insight into the ancient connections of species found in the geographically-distant countries that once formed the Super Continent, with over six hundred species comprising around 50 plant families. All 12 endemic bird species can also be found here.
In stark contrast to the southern gardens, Kydale Lodge 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. This is an absolutely stunning garden designed, constructed and maintained by a visionary family.
The Tasmanian Arboretum in northern Tasmania is run by a not-for-profit volunteer organisation and the joy for many will be the resident platypus and Green Rosellas that can almost always be spotted by those with patience and a keen eye.
Photo Credits: Tourism Tasmania & Kathryn Leahy