Beauty and History of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

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We always enjoy our visits to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens which have been curated with love since 1818 ensuring a fine mix of established features. The gardens are known for many things not the least as the home of beloved ABC gardening guru Peter Cundall’s famous vegetable patch, which still thrives to this day. I always remember Peter saying that when he passed he would like to be put in the compost! Like all botanic gardens the vista changes seasonally, particularly given Hobart’s temperate climate. ED: Kevin Parker

History

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart were established in 1818 by Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell, making them the second oldest botanical gardens in Australia after Sydney’s Botanical Garden (1816). The land, now known as Hobart, was originally occupied by the Muwinina people, and archaeological excavations have uncovered extensive shell middens and stone artifacts dating back more than 5000 years.

The gardens were initially developed from a first settlers farm and then a convict maintained Colonial Gardens. Governor George Arthur pushed for the 14-hectare site to be developed along systematic lines, creating one of Australia’s first scientific institutions and formalising the Gardens’ significant role in acclimatising plants from around the world.

William Davidson, the first Superintendent appointed by Arthur in 1828, planted some 800 trees, 200 grapevines, and a variety of seeds and cuttings. With convicts as labour and a supply of horse dung from the Army, the Gardens developed rapidly.

The gardens hold historic plant collections and a large number of significant trees, many dating back to the nineteenth century. They also have an increasing number of important conservation collections of Tasmanian plants.

Over the years, the gardens have reflected the ambitions of the Victorian era, with a focus on plant collection and classification, and the acclimatisation movement under which foreign flora were established in Tasmanian soils. Today, the gardens continue to serve as a place of both education and relaxation.

Exploring the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

The Tasmanian Plant Collection

The Tasmanian Plant Collection at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart is a significant feature of the gardens.

Greater Hobart Collection: This collection is located at the northwestern side of the Gardens towards the corner of Lower Domain Road and Domain Highway. It displays over 140 species that have been collected by Gardens staff from various parts of the Greater Hobart Region. These include areas from New Norfolk to Huonville and Margate, and from Richmond to South Arm, following the line of the Derwent River. The collection includes a number of rare and threatened species.

Waterfall-Royal-Tasmania
Many stunning features draw the eye

Tasmanian East Coast Collection: This collection is located in the central main Tasmanian native garden section, north of the Fernery. It contains 214 plants that are unique to the East Coast of Tasmania1. The collection includes many rare and threatened species such as Pultenaea prostrata, which is classified as vulnerable.

Tasmanian Fernery: The current Fernery was constructed in 1964. It was designed by then Gardens Superintendent, Walter Tobias, and modified in 1974 when the cascading watercourse was created. The Fernery houses a representative Tasmanian collection of fern species.

These collections not only provide a beautiful display but also serve as a resource for identification and conservation of Tasmanian flora.

Japanese Garden

The lovely Japanese Gardens Hobart Botanic Gardens
The lovely Japanese Gardens

The Japanese Garden was designed by Kanjiro Harada, a landscape architect from Yaizu, Japan, Hobart’s sister city. It officially opened in 1987 and emphasizes traditional Japanese garden elements of wood, stone, and water. The plants in the Garden largely consist of species native to Japan and selected cultivars, with Japanese maples being a feature, particularly in autumn. The waterway with its associated tea house, waterwheel, and bridges, acts as a focal point for the central plantings. It’s beautiful in every season, with cherry blossom in spring then irises and water lilies in summer.

The Conservatory

The Conservatory was designed by Superintendent Ira Thornicroft and completed in 1939. Its walls are built of sandstone salvaged from a demolished section of the Hobart General Hospital. It is also available for hire and is popular for weddings and corporate functions.

Conservatory-Royal-Tasmanian-Botanical-Gardens
The Conservatory Royal Tasmanian-Botanical Gardens

Sub Antarctic Plant House

The Sub Antarctic Plant House displays a selection of the flora of the Sub Antarctic region, with the emphasis on the plants of Macquarie Island. The plants of the Subantarctic Plant House have been collected by Gardens staff and associated scientists on field trips to Macquarie Island. An immersive audio soundscape of the Macquarie Island environment adds to the illusion of traveling to this remote region. Visitors will hear the sounds of wildlife from the Island, including elephant seals, penguins, albatross, and skuas, as well as the ever-present wind and rain.

The house was designed to replicate the appearance and environmental conditions of Macquarie Island and also to act as an experimental house for the cultivation of the plants from this region.

The Lily Pond

The Lily Pond at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart is one of the most recognisable and beloved areas of the Gardens.

History: The Pond was formed in 1840 by damming a natural stream that drained the adjacent hill. It was originally used as a reservoir. This area has a long history at the gardens and has evolved from its initial functional use as a reservoir collecting rainfall runoff from the Domain in 1848, to being a display garden largely of water-loving perennial plants surrounded by large established conifers from early planting of the Gardens in 1870.

lily-pond-royal-tasmanian-botanical
The Lily Pond always captivating. Credit. Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens

Flora: Water lilies have grown in the pond for more than 100 years. The nymphae lilies are planted in pots on the bottom of the pond1. Visitors marvel at the monstrous leaves of Gunnera manicata, the winter sweet smelling Luculia pinceana, and the water lilies that the ducklings scoot over. This beautiful garden has a variety of plant combinations for all seasons, an amazing sight all year round.

Features: There are lots of photographic opportunities, spaces for formal and informal gatherings, with seating to take in the views, and winding paths that little and big kids can explore. A platform over the pond and the bridge provides visitors with the opportunity to get close to the water and enjoy the garden from differing vantage points all offering great photographic opportunities.

Location

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are located at:

Lower Domain Road, Queens Domain, Tasmania 7000, Australia1

You can reach them by phone at: (03) 6166 0451

Website: gardens.rtbg.tas.gov.au

Facebook: The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

Opening Hours

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Note: Both the Gardens Restaurant and Shop are closed on Christmas Day. Our opening hours reflect seasonal differences and longer hours of sunlight during the warmer months.

1 April to 30 September – 8:00am to 5:00pm
1 October to 31 March – 8:00am to 6:30pm

Shop Trading Hours

1 March to 30 November – 9:30am to 4.30pm
1 December to 29 February – 9:30am to 5:00pm

Restaurant Trading Hours

Snacks and coffee from 10:00am to 3:30pm

Lunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm seven days a week


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