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Pick of Gardens in Canberra and New South Wales

Join much-awarded horticulturist and gardening media identity Judy Horton OAM, on a tour of gardens in her neck of the woods.

I would like to invite you to join me on a wonderful journey throughout my ‘backyard’, Canberra along with New South Wales, in the spring time. There are many trip highlights but here are some of the places I am looking forward to sharing with you.


Mount Tomah

At the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, which is located within a UNESCO World Heritage area, we will find a most beautiful collection of local and imported cool climate plants alongside alpine rainforest. We’ve planned our visit during waratah flowering time and will get to see the Wollemi pines growing not too far from their secret natural habitat, an incredible species that is thought to date back to the Jurassic period. Our 8 Day Canberra’s Floriade, New South Wales Tulips and Private Gardens trip will let you discover the beautiful gardens.

Retford Park

As you make your way up the driveway, the first thing you’ll notice is the grandiose Victorian Italianate homestead peeking through an arbour of trees. The home was built by Samuel Hordern and his wife in 1887 and later purchased by James Fairfax who took great care of the property and its gardens for over 50 years. In 2016, Fairfax gifted Retford Park to the National Trust of Australia to be maintained for the pleasure of future generations. Here, amongst a collection of beautiful hedged gardens, you’ll be privy to an amazing display of grey topiary 'balls' and an outdoor sofa completely covered by maidenhair creeper.

Image of Retford House
Image of Canberra war memorial
Canberra Highlights

Among the many wonderful stops in Canberra, the National Arboretum, with a fantastic collection of bonsai and penjing, is one of my favourites. You will also have the opportunity to visit the courtyards of Parliament House, the sculpture garden at the National Gallery or the Nora Heysen painting collection at the War Memorial. Elsewhere, the Tulip Top Gardens cannot be missed during springtime. This four-hectare private garden puts on an unforgettable display between September and October when tulips and other spring flowers create an amazing pathway of colour between blossom trees.

Private Gardens of the Monaro

This collection of private estates and homesteads in the Monaro High Country is home to some of Australia’s most exquisite private gardens, many of which have been in the same family for over six generations. Each garden is different from the next, but all offer a look into Australian pastoral history and life since they are located on historic farm land where sheep and cattle still graze today. Visit a private garden on our 5 Day  New South Wales Floriade, Tulips & Private Gardens trip and see the expansive lake at Shirley that I am very fond of, which has its own beach and beach hut. 

Image of Canberra Floriade
Mayfield Garden Spring, New South Wales, Australia
Mayfield Garden

The newest and largest privately owned cold-climate garden in Australia is simply fascinating. There are two main gardens here: the Mayfield Garden and the Hawkins’ family garden, which, at 50 hectares, is absolutely magnificent in its size and layout. Its English box hedge maze is an outstanding example of geometric design and one of the largest in Australia. Other highlights of the Hawkins’ family garden include a cut-flower garden bursting with dahlias, zinnias, poppies and lupins; the wonderful formal garden with its old-world, hybrid tea and David Austin roses as well as a rhododendron dell; the informal creek garden beds and lake boardwalk, and the main house garden which includes a fruit orchard, a nuttery and a glasshouse with potted citrus. It is truly a delight to explore.

I look forward to leading you through the gardens and landscapes of this beautiful part of Australia on a Botanica tour.

Judy Horton

Botanical Guide