Patrice O’Shea

Old photos of the entrance to the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens feature a decorative picket fence and gates and exuberant Victorian planting – lots of foliage and very impressive Cordylines. By the time Andrew Laidlaw completed his Master Plan in 2017,  he commented that it looked more like a tradesman’s entrance than the first glimpse of a significant and beautiful horticultural site. Well, though lots of tradies do use the entrance to grab coffees from the Café, the Shire and the Friends of the wombat Hill Botanic Gardens agreed it should be a first project undertaken to implement the Master Plan and to share the costs of the work.

Hepburn Shire completed the hard landscaping with final plans completed by Richard Howells. They completed a new survey of the area, the tidying up of feral growth, restoration of Hawthorn hedges and the installation of new drainage and irrigation. The road was slightly widened and the old bluestone edging uncovered and restored.

The Friends undertook the more decorative work with drawings, dimensions and negotiation with Heritage Victoria successfully achieved by Steve Davis. Steve’s work was the first of a number of generous donations that have characterised the revival of the rather nondescript gateway area. He modelled the fence on the original and other similar fences in 19th century Daylesford, the artisanal wooden gates, specified by Heritage Vic came from South Australia and the colours were also mandated as part of the regulations applying to a registered heritage site.

The graceful, mature Nyssa Silvaticas that are about to burst into flame red were tracked down by Ray Robinson and were bought and planted by the Friends, having been carefully placed by Ray. The plan was to create a charming woodland area with flowering shrub understorey and woodland treasures under that. Another superb and generous delivery of Hellebores came from Peter Leigh of Post Office Farm – the impressive collection of Hellebores in the gardens are largely gifts from Peter. Marie Pierce, an alpine enthusiast and member of the Friends donated the Galanthus (snowdrops), quite rare in Australia, which will light up the entrance in late Winter. The Friends are hoping to add more special bulbs, courtesy of donations by generous enthusiasts like Kevin Slattery who has given the Gardens a sack of daffodils and tulips every year since time immemorial.

John Roach, the Senior Horticulturalist in the Gardens, has purchased a number of perennials, grasses and shrubs which are currently filling gaps in the sweeping “beds” that have replaced the grass. He has recently been assisted by others in the Shire’s Parks team, planting these and mulching the existing planting. As time passes, we hope this area will take on the lush and naturally beautiful charm that we associate with Wombat Hill.

Maybe even the unfashionable Cordylines will make a reappearance in due course!

Patrice O’Shea, is the Secretary of  Friends of Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens.

Thanks to Frank Page for these photos of the new entrance to Wombat Hill and for this early photo of the old entrance. Click on the photos to enlarge.