The Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens is one of the draw cards for Daylesford. Founded in 1862 they are one of a set of Victoria’s 19th century iconic Botanical Gardens. The recent welcome boost to revitalise the Basin and the Pioneer Memorial Tower is a step in the Master Plan to revitalise the Gardens.
The Plan was adopted by the Shire in 2017 to provide guidance for the ongoing development of the Gardens. It takes the original Garden framework and develops a contemporary vision.
A key element is the Plan is to create a Garden of Day and Night on top of the reservoir. This would include viewing lawn and formal parterre garden with space for astronomical telescopes.
The Fernery Cascade and the 1880s carriage drive would see new paths, a connection channel with the Day Basin. A viewing platform above the Cascade would provide a visual connection from the summit.
The arboretum on the northern slopes of the Gardens is one of its unique features. The Plan proposes that an interactive Garden of Adventures – a nature based play space – be added, including viewing platforms of the surrounding countryside for older children.
A Garden of Views is proposed for the south east corner. This would see a series of sculptural grassed mounds creating viewing points and a place for community bonfires in the tradition of the 19th century.
On the Southern Slopes of the Garden a Victorian Garden would be added. The existing garden beds and trees would be augmented with increased planting around the Curator’s Cottage and Conservatory. A new conservatory attached to the Curator’s Cottage is envisaged with a concealed, expanded nursery area behind the Cottage.
The main entrance to the Gardens has been redeveloped with the help of the Friends of the Gardens. The Plan proposes a strong connection between the Garden and the community through a Victorian Entrance, the Wildwood Entrance, the Palm Entrance and a fifth Railway Entrance with plantings continuing from the Garden down the hill to the town.
A new, main Climb to the Skies pathway is proposed from the main entrance across the hill and down the northern slopes to the Wildwood Entrance.
Parking is now a problem in the Gardens. A new approach is proposed. Parking will be doubled by putting in more small scale bays on the Southern Slopes. The existing parking at the tower will be replaced by a circular loop with only parking for buses and special needs.
Upgrades for toilets, shelters and visitor facilities are proposed. In addition to the enhancements for visitors, the Plan proposes a clear commitment to the Gardens’ botanical and heritage values. It will be important to maintain and enhance plant collections with labelling and research. Irrigation and water systems will need to be upgraded. Development will also need to take into account the Gardens’ cultural and heritage significance as required by the Conservation Management Plan, which is already in place.
The Gardens are an icon for Daylesford that warrant care and investment. The Plan is an ambitious longterm vision for the Gardens. But it will require significant funding and careful management if the vision is to be realised.