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Garden Areas

A spectacular blend of cultivated garden and wilderness tracts within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah is an ‘island within an island’ that plays a key role in conservation and research of plants from a range of diverse ecosystems in Australia and around the world.

The Garden features many rare species, spectacular cool climate trees, seasonal colour, historically significant plantings and tranquil spaces for picnics or forest bathing.
 
Located on Darug country and situated in a UNESCO World Heritage Area, the Garden is divided into four distinct precincts, interlaced with pathways designed for wandering, exploring and engaging with the natural environment. Within each of these precincts are several themed gardens, lawns and features including pavilions, cascades, benches viewing areas and facilities.

Find out more about the different areas of the Garden below, find a specific plant using Garden Explorer or view the visitors map here.

Ornamental Horticulture

Boasting sweeping views north across the Garden to Tomah Spur and Mount Yengo in the Lower Hunter, the World Heritage Viewing Deck in the Visitor Centre should be your first port of call to get the lay of the land and soak up the vistas. From here, you’ll appreciate the Garden’s iconic Spiral, a ramp constructed of locally mined basalt which leads you into the concentric design of the Rock Garden. You will also get a sense of how the cultivated garden integrates with the heritage-listed wilderness beyond.

The green-roof garden on the viewing deck displays local flora found on the sandstone ridges throughout the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area surrounding the garden.

The name Tomah comes from the Darug word for ‘tree fern’, a natural feature of this cool climate mountainside location. We acknowledge and pay respect to the Darug people and their Elders past, present and emerging who have taken care of this land for over 20,000 years.

Located near the Visitor Centre and the Garden entry, the Formal Garden is spread over three terraces inspired by the great gardens of Europe, with ever-changing seasonal displays that tell the story of formal gardening and the art of horticulture, and its translation into an Australian context.

The lower terrace is dedicated to ornamental display plantings, a seasonal riot of colour featuring herbaceous borders, flowering climbers and a kaleidoscope of blooming bulbs. The middle terrace showcases the art of the Garden’s talented turf team, with manicured lawns creating an ideal open space for events and weddings; while the upper terrace, framed by a wooden pergola, pays homage to legendary 19th century landscape gardeners Gertrude Jekyll and Australia’s own Edna Walling. This is also where you’ll find the Garden’s incredible Dahlia collection, which peaks in a dazzling display of rare and unusual cultivars in mid-late Summer.

With its impactful colour, sensory splendour and pleasing symmetry, the Formal Garden is designed to educate and inspire home gardeners, as well as being a tranquil and enriching space for quiet contemplation where you can observe the resident blue fairy wren population.

The Formal Garden is a popular choice for enchanting wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Ablaze with seasonal colour, from delicate cherry blossoms in Spring to the red and golden hues of falling maple leaves in Autumn, the Residence Garden exemplifies the majestic cool climate gardens that the Blue Mountains are famed for. With its established shady trees and wide-open spaces, this is an ideal space to lay down a picnic rug and soak in the glory; while the Wedding Tree Terrace – with its panoramic views from beneath a soaring Nepalese Alder - is the Garden’s signature venue for the most special of occasions.

The Residence Garden is particularly renowned for its maple collection, with some beautiful Japanese Maple cultivars lining the pathways. This section of the garden is especially impressive during Autumn when the turning leaves create a patchwork of gold, russet and shades of merlot; while in Winter, the exposed architecture of the trees creates a mesmerising framework for the soft afternoon light.

Other features of the Residence Garden include an incredible collection of rare and unusual Camellias that add vibrancy to winter’s more sombre hues; while beneath spreading oak trees, crocuses form a sea of purple as days begin to lengthen. For the ultimate Instagram moment, however, don’t miss the ephemeral flowering of the magnificent cherry trees, with the falling blossoms creating a magical carpet of petals on the Residence Lawn.

The picturesque Brunet Meadow is named after the previous owners of the 28-hectare main garden at Mount Tomah, Alfred and Effie Brunet. The Brunets ‘sold’ the property to the Crown for the princely sum of $1 in 1970 to be managed as a cool climate annexe of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. The Brunet family had owned the land since 1934, using it as a cut flower and bulb farm and planting many of the mature, temperate trees and hedges that characterise this northeast section of the Garden including the walnuts which are so popular with the gang-gang cockatoos and local ravens.

The most prominent feature of the Brunet Garden is the sloping meadow that, from around mid-August, is a golden sea of daffodils and jonquils emerging through the green grass. This collection represents around 130 rare and unusual cultivars. A favourite place for photographs and selfies, the daffodil lawn is accessible via mown pathways, allowing opportunities for that perfect shot without damaging the delicate flowers.

With large trees, including original Brunet plantings of sequoias, walnuts, oaks, chestnuts, cedars, camellias and rhododendrons providing shade, as well as an undercover shelter with barbecues and four picnic tables, the Brunet Garden is a favourite place for families to relax and play. Fragrant patches of daphne and lilacs are a sensory delight; while a wisteria-draped pergola is a vision of purple when it blooms in late Spring.

Rock Gardens

Initially admired from the deck of the Visitor Centre, the Rock Garden – the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere – clings to a natural hillside, zigzagged by steps and pathways along stone-walled terraces. Strewn with boulders, it features representations of rocky and alpine plant communities from around the world, grouped geographically with South and North American, African, Australian, Eurasian and New Zealand sections.

Most prominent is a vast collection of Proteaceae, a family found exclusively throughout the Southern Hemisphere that includes Australian waratahs, grevilleas and banksias as well as a significant collection of South African proteas, at their most spectacular in late winter with their feathery hues of pink, white and gold. With the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden having   a similar climate to South Africa’s Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden – the only other botanic garden found within a UNESCO World Heritage site - the aim is to strengthen ties with them and to build up the collection of proteas to be the best in Australia.

Waratahs are one of our most spectacular native plants, a blaze of colour during their late spring flowering season. The signature red Telopea speciosissima – the floral emblem of NSW - can be admired amongst wild-collected specimens of the four other species of Telopeas, along with various waratah cultivars in the Rock Garden. 

At the base of the Rock Garden you’ll find one of the Garden’s most impressive and surprising showstoppers – South American puyas, most notably Puya alpestris ssp. zeollneri, with their alien-like turquoise flowers atop two-metre tall spikes. Hailing from the Patagonian region of Chile, these ‘Sapphire Towers’, can take from seven to 10 years to bloom and attract a plethora of birdlife such as honeyeaters and spinebills when at their dazzling peak in early summer.

To enhance this otherworldly display, several different species of Puya have recently been planted in this section of the rock garden, including a giant Puya with a six-metre stalk, and one boasting a florescent yellow flower. These may take more than seven years to bloom – so watch this space!

Bisecting the Rock Garden as it tumbles over stone walls and under bridges through a system of ponds before plummeting into a pool surrounded by a pebbly beach, the Cascades has been called the ‘heartbeat of the Garden’. Built in 1986 to create a diverse range of environments suitable for plants that wouldn’t otherwise thrive on the north-facing slopes of Mount Tomah, the cascade begins its life-giving journey below the Visitor Centre, flowing into a trough that houses a waterlily collection before snaking around boulders and down a stone watercourse lined with tree ferns. Along the way, the stream feeds various water-dependent gardens, including the Bog and a wetland area.
 
The cascade pools display aquatic plants, while the humid environment along the watercourse is perfect for giant ferns and moisture-loving herbs.
 
The soothing sound emitted by falling water is an immediate balm for visitors to the Rock Garden, and the Beach area at the case of the Cascades features several benches to rest and soak in the tranquillity.
 
The Beach is also a popular location for weddings, with the uplifting sound of falling water as romantic as the panoramic views across the Blue Mountains National Park.

An offshoot of the Cascades creates cool, moist conditions found in alpine hanging swamps, providing habitat for delicate bog dwellers including ferns, mosses, sedges, grasses and tiny diurid orchids.
 
Children in particular will also be fascinated by the Bog Garden’s most curious inhabitants – carnivorous plants, including the Venus Fly Trap and Pitcher Plants. Kneeling pads ensure you can get close to these insect-devouring plants, so take your time to explore and discover.

Woodlands

While we often take for granted the blooming beauties that grace our gardens – well-known genus such as camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and hydrangeas - the story of their ‘discovery’ in remote pockets of Eastern Asia and the explorers who brought them to prominence in the West is lesser-known.

The Plant Explorer Walk tells the stories of 14 of these intrepid plant hunters and their adventures. There’s no denying the bravery, passion and knowledge of these botanists who often risked their lives and endured hardship in the pursuit of these rare and beautiful plant trophies. We continue to work towards acknowledging the assistance, guidance and knowledge given to many of the western plant collectors by Indigenous people, First Nations Peoples and colonised cultures.

Winding along a cool, shady pathway planted with more than 400 of the species in question, the Plant Explorer Walk is itself a journey of discovery, an interpretive trail that encourages visitors to pause, read and learn about plant diversity, human endurance and the origins of both common and rare garden plants.

Gondwana was a super-continent that broke up between approximately 180 and 45 million years ago, forming the landmasses of Africa, South America, India, Antarctica and Australia, the latter two being the last to separate. Gondwanan links between these Southern Hemisphere continents can be found in similar geographic features, fossils and plant and animal species that share common ancestors.

Located on the south-east edge of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, the Gondwana Walk is literally a journey through time, taking you under towering eucalypts and past lush rainforest plants that trace their origins to this prehistoric time when dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

Amongst the species on display is a true Australian icon – the Wollemi Pine, one of the world’s rarest and oldest tree species. Presumed extinct, a lone stand of these ‘dinosaur trees’ was discovered in 1994 in a rugged canyon in the Wollemi National Park. While the exact location of these wild pines remains a closely guarded secret, the species has been successfully propagated, with the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden playing a crucial role in saving this ‘living fossil’ from extinction.

A towering conifer from the plant family Araucariaceae, the Wollemi Pine features pendulous, dark green foliage and bubbly bark, and can grow to a height of around 40 metres in the wild with multiple trunks. One of the first places in the world where propagated seedlings were planted, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden now boasts an extensive collection of these ancient trees planted in both cultivated and natural areas of the Garden, with some of the tallest and most impressive examples found along the Gondwana Walk.

Located below the Rock Garden and to the west of the Brunet Garden is a sloping lawn featuring plantings of the Araucariaceae family. The towering species on display include Norfolk Island Pines, Bunya Pines, Hoop Pines and some rare pines from New Caledonia, as well as the superstar of the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, the Wollemi Pine. Of the four genera in this family, the ‘dinosaur tree’ Wollemia is the newest addition. Following its rediscovery in the wild in 1994 after being presumed extinct, botanists from the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust verified it as a new genus closely related to araucaria and agathis.  

The large Wollemi Pine in the centre of the lawn was one of the first propagated and planted at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden. Its exposed location in full sunlight has resulted in earlier coning than those found along the Gondwana Walk.

With more than 100 trees on display including magnificent Coast Redwoods, Giant Sequoias, and rare species of international significance this garden replicates a genuine North American conifer forest, a cool and shady retreat where every sense is stimulated. 

Look up to admire the towering trunks, spotting birds and wildlife in the upper branches; while the understory is also a rich habitat, particularly after rains when fungi is scattered under the trees including, on the rare occasion, the glow-in-the-dark fungus Omphalotus nidiformis.

 A system of secondary pathways through the forest leads you off the main path, allowing visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves into a forest-like environment.

 With many of the North American conifer species under threat from bio-security threats such as pine beetles, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden – as a horticultural island within an island - is well placed to serve as a bio-refuge for threatened species, ensuring their long-term  conservation.

The dense foliage of oak, ash and birch trees in the Eurasian Woodland, especially during Autumn when the canopy forms a crown of gold and shades of russet, makes this a particularly appealing place to linger.

Nestled amongst the trees is the De Ferranti Shelter, donated by a generous family with long ties to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and the Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens.

Rhododendrons are an unofficial botanical symbol of the Blue Mountains, with the cool, misty climate and high altitude ideal for growing the dramatic East Asian evergreen. Vibrant clusters of red, pink and magenta add a pop of colour in private and public gardens throughout Spring, while in the Upper Mountains town of Blackheath, the genus is celebrated with its own festival!
 
With a plethora of rare and beautiful varieties on display, the Rhododendron collection at the Blue Mountain Botanic Garden does not disappoint, and is a major attraction at Mount Tomah during their peak in Spring.

Natural Areas

In the 1920s, a group of businessmen, with the support of the late Sir James Fairfax, purchased 283 hectares of threatened Blue Mountains temperate rainforest in Mount Tomah, protecting it from timber millers by converting it into a “conservation park”. Known as The Jungle, it was a major tourist attraction of its time, and included tearooms and walking tracks to beautiful features such as the Temple of Nature, a mystical glow worm-filled grotto lined with tree ferns.
 
While it was hoped The Jungle would become the area’s first National Park, that dream was dashed by the onset of the Great Depression; and in 1934, the land was transferred back to the Charley family, the previous owners of the site.
 
In 2008, however, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, with the assistance of John and Elizabeth Fairfax, purchased 33 hectares of the original Jungle, making it officially part of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden and once again opening it to an admiring public.
 
Located west of the cultivated garden and bordering Bells Line of Road, the Jungle is now accessed via the Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Walk, a peaceful trail named after Lady (Nancy) Fairfax OBE in recognition of her philanthropical support for a range of community organisations.
 
Setting off from near the entrance of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, the pathway winds for around 500 metres through Blue Mountains Basalt Cap Forest, past magnificent stands of sassafras, coachwood and brown barrel entwined with strangler vines and through glades of ethereal tree ferns.
 
To fully immerse yourself into the forest and open the senses to the healing qualities of nature, join one of our guided Nature Therapy Walks to learn the Japanese art of shinrin-yuko, or forest bathing.

While this area is not open to the public, it is an important conservation area where horticulturalists and scientists can research important ecosystems. There are five main vegetation communities home to many rare plants and animals.

This includes 186 hectares of sandstone woodland and gullies, very tiny hanging swamps, with significant species of heath, sclerophyll and Blue Mountains rainforest plants.

Plan your trip to the Blue Mountains

Check out activities and things to do at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah, book a walking tour or plan a weekend getaway.