At the time of its foundation, the Gardens’ site was an uninspiring mixture of rocky outcrops and swampy marshland, but it was not long before the foundations were being laid for one of the great gardens of the world.
In 1857, the Gardens’ first full-time Director, Ferdinand von Mueller was appointed. Mueller was to become one of the most acclaimed botanists of the 19th century. Mueller established the Gardens’ scientific centre, The National Herbarium of Victoria, and amassed an extraordinary range of plants from every corner of the world.
In 1873 Mueller was succeeded by William Guilfoyle, who set about creating the Gardens’ world-famous ‘picturesque’ landscape style. Guilfoyle sculpted sweeping lawns, meandering paths and glittering lakes, creating a series of vistas offering a surprise around every corner. Guilfoyle was aided in his work by Melbourne’s mild climate, which allows an exotic mix of tropical and temperate plants to be grown.
Today, the Gardens are home to more than 51,000 individual plants, representing over 12,000 different species. They are a natural sanctuary for native wild life including black swans, bell birds, cockatoos and kookaburras.
The Gardens are owned by the people of Victoria and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens Board.