Anyone watching this year’s Chelsea Flower Show will have been moved by the vast tribute of 300,000 handcrafted crocheted poppies connecting the show grounds into the Royal Hospital Chelsea in a dramatic display. The sea of poppies, flown all the way from Melbourne, honoured all servicemen and women who fought across all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations over the last 100 years. The garden is the result of the partnership of acclaimed landscape designer Phillip Johnson from Victoria, Australia who has worked with fabric artists Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight, the creators of the 5000 Poppies Project. The project was launched when Berry and Knight wanted to pay personal homage to their fathers who fought in WWII and thus set about crocheting 120 poppies to display at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne in 2013. A huge outpouring of community spirit and creative energy took this project to an unprecedented scale. By Remembrance Day 2013 more than 5,000 poppies had been collected, and by Anzac Day 2015 the total was well in excess of quarter of a million poppies from contributors around the globe.
The result was a spectacular visual tribute in Melbourne’s landmark Federation Square and on Princes Bridge, and led to an invitation to showcase at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The aim to honour all servicemen and women reflects the way that the project has grown to include many contributors from other countries and cultures.
Garden enthusiasts inspired by Chelsea Flower Show can follow spirit of the poppies back to Melbourne and explore both inspiring war memorials and gardens. Victoria is known as the Garden State and boasts city gardens, national gardens and secret gardens, beautiful beaches, rainforest, mountains, desert, gorges and rolling green hills – all easily accesible by a car.
The incredible Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial. It was cut from rocks by returning veterans after the first world war to honour fallen comrades. Spanning over 600km, this magnificent coastal route travels past sweeping cliffs, picturesque beaches, quaint towns, UNESCO World Heritage sites and koala-filled rainforests. It is the ultimate Australian touring route and serves as a rejuvenating, unforgettable experience to those who travel it.
Trailfinders offer a Fly Drive Great Southern Touring Route Holiday from £1,082 per person (based on 2 adults sharing). This 12 day package takes travellers on a journey of contrasts, from the sophisticated city of Melbourne to the stunning coastal scenery of the Great Ocean Road and the rugged mountains of the Grampians National Park. (www.trailfinders.com / 020 7368 1200)
The Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne is a multi-award-winning 15-hectare garden, famous for its native flora, contemporary design and previous RHS connections. In 2014, a display inspired by these gardens won Best Show Garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. ‘Essence of Australia’ was presented for the first time at the show by the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, a division of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. It boasted 15 endemic species and was centred on a Rainbow Serpent replicated in the form of a snaking deck. The Rainbow Serpent has played a pivotal role in Australian aboriginal art and culture for over 6,000 years and continues to be a major influence today. The actual garden in Australia boasts boardwalks and viewing platforms which allow visitors to stroll past the striking red sand, picturesque wildflowers, rock pools, arid gardens and the serpentine path. The surrounds also include colourful bushland, wetlands, native plants, mammals and amphibians. For more information, visit www.rbg.vic.gov.au
Attracting over 1.8 million visitors annually, the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne are a treasured part of the cultural life and are the lungs of this vibrant city. With its stunning vistas, tranquil lakes and diverse plant collections, the gardens are a place where both locals and visitors come to relax and unwind.
Last year a new Aboriginal Heritage Walk launched whereby visitors are taken around the park by local indigenous guides who provide a unique insight into the history of both the Gardens and its traditional owners. It is a rich and in-depth cultural experience which includes a traditional smoking ceremony, a guided walk through important areas of the Gardens, discussion about the traditional uses for food, tools and medicine, and finishes with a refreshing cup of lemon myrtle tea.
The William Ricketts Sanctuary is home to hauntingly beautiful sculptures of Aboriginal figures and native animals, inspired by his years living with Aboriginal communities in outback Australia. Located in a ferny glade off the tourist road, the sanctuary is home to more than 90 evocative figures which lie half-hidden in the trees, rocks and undergrowth of the native forest – a unique opportunity to get back to nature whilst not forgetting Victoria’s 38 aboriginal cultures. The Sanctuary is located in the Dandenong Ranges, an hour’s drive from Melbourne; here you’ll find scenic winding roads, abundant artist studios, artisan craft stores and secret gardens. Some of the other popular gardens include the National Rhododendron Centre, Cloudehill, Alfred Nicholas Gardens and the William Ricketts Sanctuary.
The Kokoda Memorial Walk comprised of 1000 steps and is a memorial to those who served on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, one of Australia’s famous battles in WW2.
Information plaques along the route offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the lives of those who fought and died on the trail and visitors will be able to get up close to tree ferns, manna gum and Blackwood trees.
Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens is home to the historic Captain Cook’s Cottage – a cottage which was moved brick by brick, lock stock and barrel, from England to Melbourne in 1934. The cottage was built in Yorkshire in 1755 and in 1933, the owner of the cottage decided to sell it with a condition of sale being that the building remain in “the Empire”. He accepted an Australian bid of £800 and the house was quickly moved down under where it has now become a popular tourist destination. Cuttings from ivy that adorned the house in England were even replanted in Fitzroy Gardens and an English cottage garden has been built around the house for visitors to enjoy.
Interestingly this city park also houses half of a miniature village – the other half being at Vauxhall Park in London. It was a gift from the people of Lambeth to Melbourne as a thank you for food parcels sent during the war.
Less than an hour from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula boasts a wide range of parks and gardens; visitors can explore the heritage horticulture in Heronswood Estate, and get lost and found in Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, home to Australia’s oldest and most famous hedge maze plus 25 acres of world acclaimed gardens.
The traditional hedge maze is planted with more than 1000 cypress trees and thousands of metres of pathways. The Lavender Labyrinth boasts 3000 lavender plants from 40 different varieties, providing an insight into the history of lavender. A perfect afternoon activity in-between visiting the wineries that this region is acclaimed for!