Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda
The studio sculpture at Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda. Photo credit: Phillip Johnson
The stunning, sustainable Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda is now open for nature lovers to enjoy in the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens on Wurundjeri Country! While the garden is now complete and ready for visitors, we are still asking for donations to maintain the garden so that its native flora and fauna can thrive long into the future. Please consider making a donation to the maintenance of this garden – Phillip Johnson and his dedicated team are thankful for any and all contributions that will help maintain this magnificent nature space!
The team at Phillip Johnson Landscapes have created this most stunning native Australian garden, and have committed to maintaining the garden long into the future. To maintain the garden’s incredibly high quality will take a lot of work, and for this we still ask for your support. Please consider making a donation to support the ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the garden, every donation helps us maintain the garden’s variety and abundance of Australian native plants.
The garden has converted a section of the former Olinda Golf Course into 7,000 square metres of biodiverse habitat with an abundance of native plants, many of them rare and endangered. An abundance of native animals and insects have also moved in and are making themselves at home – from throaty frogs in the billabong to lyrebirds scratching in the bushes, to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Australian nature is all of its texture, shape, colour, sound and smell is alive and well in the Chelsea Australian Garden.
The billabong at Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda. Photo credit: Momentum Studios
The garden features a cascading waterfall and billabong, winding paths into remarkable vistas and a ‘Waratah sculpture’, which stands at 9 metres high. It showcases sustainable design, including solar power and water-wise features, and includes the clever use of recycled materials. Over 15,000 plants from more than 400 native Australian species have been planted across several different microclimates, which are sure to provide visitors (both virtual and IRL) with hours of exploration.
Aerial view of Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda. Photo credit: Momentum Studios
Providing people with places like these to connect to Country is how we inspire our communities to care for Australia’s unique and fragile landscapes.
Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King:
“The Australian Government is proud to have invested $2.2 million to make this beautiful and sustainable Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda a reality.
“Not only will it offer a breathtaking nature-filled destination for locals and visitors alike to enjoy, the new garden will be a game-changer for local tourism.
“Our Government has an unwavering commitment to continuing to invest in Australia’s regions to create jobs, build opportunity and unlock economic growth and productivity.”
Quotes attributable to Victorian Minister for Environment Ingrid Stitt:
“The stunning Dandenong Ranges are a treasured tourist destination for visitors year-round. We expect that the new Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda will further boost local, interstate and international visitation to the area.
“We are so thrilled to be providing more opportunities for people to get into nature, and discover the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in these beautiful green spaces.
The $6.4 million project has been funded by a $3.83 million investment from the Victorian Government, $2.245 million from the Federal Government and $340,000 in philanthropic funds and donations raised by the People and Parks Foundation. An enormous thank you to everyone who contributed!
Our Live Nature Wise programs promote the concept of ‘Nature Dosing’ which we define as regular, intention, multi-sensorial connection with nature – including caring for nature – for two hours a week. The Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda will provide great inspiration to encourage people from near and afar to Live Nature Wise.
We want this garden to reach and inspire people all over the world. With the support of Michael Harding and his team at Momentum Studios, we have captured footage of this incredible build, set well against the odds, and are now working to deliver a documentary about the role native gardens can play in connecting people to Australia’s unique nature, the habitat creation and sustainability features they offer, and particularly personally to Phil, the health and wellbeing benefits they offer us all.
You can watch a stunning video created by Michael and his team here.
So much work went into creating this stunning, living legacy. You can catch up below with all of the challenges and incredible achievements that were part of this massive project!
Construction officially commenced on the remarkable Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda in April 2022. Since then, it’s been non-stop action for many months during a tough, wet winter to build the garden. Despite numerous challenges (mostly to do with weather), we’re very pleased to share the progress to date – which against all odds has been swift and stunning.
On Sunday 30 October, The Hon. Minister D’Ambrosio and The Hon. Minister Merlino were able to visit the garden to help plant the final Wollemi Pine. Even the rain stayed away for the occasion which was a welcome change! The garden will be open to the public later this summer, please check back here for updates.
Here’s a little sneak peek of the latest construction shots, as well as a few from the Ministers’ visit showing off the almost-complete garden!
Phillip Johnson and The Hon. Minister D’Ambrosio and The Hon. Minister Merlino helping plant the last Wollemi in the garden.
We’re so proud to have played a significant role in raising the funds needed to build this incredible garden. We’d like to thank the many people and organisations who have contributed to make the construction of this stunning garden possible.
Thank you to the Australian Government and the Victorian State Government who funded the project and to the Trawalla Foundation, Bus Association Victoria, Belgrave Rotary, the Australian Plant Society Maroondah, and our many private donors for your support!
The award-winning garden will feature a dazzling array of Australian native plants, including rare and endangered species. The garden will be free to access and showcase the beauty, diversity, and sustainability of Australian native plants.
Some key facts about the Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda. The Garden will:
- cover an area just over 1.5 acres with a dramatic 14 metre level change
- include 6 different microclimate zones
- be home for 10,000 native plants from all around Australia
- feature 60-70 rare and endangered species, including 22 of the incredibly ancient Wollemi Pines, some close to 3 metres in height from the Royal Botanic Gardens in NSW
- include an extensive collection of plant specimens from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Keep an eye on our social media channels, or visit this page for regular updates.
With the urgent need to connect more people with nature, we are pleased to partner with Phillip Johnson Landscapes – designer of the first and only Australian garden to win the prestigious Best in Show at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show – to replicate his award-winning, sustainable design in the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens.
This incredible design is not only a stunning display of Australian native plants, including rare and endangered natives from Gondwana, it is an exemplar of sustainability with water-wise design and habitat creation. Phillip’s garden brings together horticultural science, breathtaking aesthetics, and a deep desire to connect people to the unique qualities of Australian nature.
As Phillip explained to Queen Elizabeth when she visited the garden at Chelsea, “We designed this landscape to connect humanity back to the beauty of nature.”
Phillip Johnson discussing his design with Queen Elizabeth and the Chelsea Flower Show, 2013.
A standout feature of the design is the Waratah Studio, with features designed specifically for Queen Elizabeth’s eye height.
As the centrepiece of the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden, the Chelsea Best in Show Garden, will showcase to visitors from far and wide what’s possible with native gardening, science and sustainable practices, even in our increasingly urban environments.
Phillip explains, “When Europeans came to Australia they replicated European gardens, which is reflected in many of our Botanic Gardens to this day. But with our changing climate, these traditional gardens are increasingly difficult to sustain.
We want to develop and promote beautiful Australian natives that will survive and thrive in a sustainable way, in varied and challenging conditions. Our Chelsea Best in Show Garden shows what’s possible in a breathtaking way.
We want everyone to experience the amazing, unique variety of Australian natives, to be connected to Australian nature, no matter where they live.”
Chelsea “Best in Show” garden, 2013
Just as in Chelsea, Phillip and his team are beginning with an expanse of lawn. In this case, an old, disused golf course in the Dandenong Ranges, part of the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Gardens. What they will build there will be truly astonishing. Below are some images to help you see what is on site currently, and what could be after Phillip gets to work!
The Chelsea Best in Show Garden will be designed and constructed by Phillip Johnson Landscaping, who will work closely with Parks Victoria to maintain the garden for the first ten years of its life. The total cost of the project is anticipated to be $4 million.
To kickstart the project, the Victorian government has released $1 million as part of its Growing Victoria’s Botanic Gardens grants program.
“Winning this best in show gold medal was an extraordinary achievement on the world stage. This will give everyone the opportunity to see the work of these highly talented and skilled individuals.” James Merlino, Member for Monbulk.
A project of this size involves many partners and supporters. As a start, Phillip and his team have signed up Parks Victoria and the People and Parks Foundation. We very much look forward to assisting delivery of this fantastic project.
“I was lucky enough to be connected to nature from a really young age and it inspired me to embark on this journey to try and connect more people, more families, back to nature. I think this garden clearly demonstrates the benefits of having more biodiversity in our urban environment – for human health and happiness, and for a healthy, sustainable future.” Phillip Johnson
Phillip, owner and founder of Phillip Johnson Landscapes and and Alison Hill, Managing Director of the People and Parks Foundation making the partnership official.
Environmental sustainability learnings, responsible water management and horticultural education is a key part of the project.
The Chelsea “Best in Show” Garden in the Dandenong Botanical Gardens will feature a massive variety of Australian plants.
“As trustee of an Environment Trust and a Registered Environment Organisation, furthering environmental education and connecting people to nature is at the heart of what we do at People and Parks Foundation.
This history-making project will also be a living, evolving environmental education project. I encourage people to donate to ensure we can make this happen as soon as possible.” Alison Hill, Managing Director, People and Parks Foundation.