The Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens is a funny spot, not in the least because most people know it by a different name: the National Rhododendron Gardens. This previous title seems to have stuck fast in this case, and the 15,000 rhododendrons probably have something to do with it. Still, the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens happens to be one of my top stops in the Dandenongs for a casual stroll, particularly at a certain time of year…
It’s no secret that autumn is by far my favourite season. Despite not growing up in a seasonal area (in fact, the town I grew up in has just two seasons – wet and dry), I’ve grown to love seasonal change, relishing each adjustment in the cycle throughout the year. Still it’s autumn, when the air starts to cool and the leaves crisp and blush, that remains my favourite.
After an autumn visit to the R.J. Arboretum to soak up all the glory of autumn, and with the entire day still ahead of us and a delicious breakfast at nearby Olinda still warm in our bellies, we decided to check out the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens again. We had stopped in briefly in the summer on another of our strolls, but we were eager to see how the gardens performed in the season of colour.
They certainly did not disappoint.
While the summer had seen the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens lush with life and green, the autumn brought a riot of colours, swirling leaves and sparkling rays of sunshine splashing down on the slightly frosted footpaths. We wandered surrounded by the bright warm tones of leaves packing their bags for the forthcoming winter, and basking in the autumn sunlight. It was a busy day at the gardens, with many other visitors enjoying various short strolls around the looping footpath that winds its way through the many tree and flower species. Despite that, we walked for much of the way alone, taking the time to delve deeper into the manicured wilderness of the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens, up the hills and down to the lows where others tended not to tread.
The colours are certainly what I love about autumn. The air is cold but the colours are all warm, yellows and reds and oranges falling all around you and settling on the ground like a crinkly carpet that relishes the footprints above it. There’s a beautiful pleasure in an autumn hike, I find it doesn’t just create inspiration for me as a photographer, but as a wanderer as well. Inside the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden, each turn of the footpath yields another beautiful image just waiting to be captured. The trees wave lazily in the autumn breeze, shedding their leaves as quickly as I can catch them, and they pile up all around me like a cloak. The ponds reflect all those autumn colours, and a closer inspection of plants reveals the magic of dormancy, buds curled up and waiting until spring comes again.
Winter is probably my least favourite season. The cold seems to get into my bones and the bare trees and grey days make it hard to consider heading out for a hike. I’m sure we’ll still be out there, soaking up those frosty mornings, but all the while I’ll be thinking about the parade of colours that greeted us in the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens on this autumn visit. That, I think, should get me through.