Everywhere you look in Melbourne majestic trees sway gently in the breeze , swards of flowers smile in the sunshine , and in hidden corners fountains flow freely with frolicking birds .
One of Melbourne's proudest showpieces is the Royal Botanic Gardens. The land, along the southern banks of the Yarra River, was allocated in 1857.
Today the gardens constitute one of this country's finest tourism attractions.
In many ways the Botanic Gardens really owe their present-day glory to Government botanist Dr Ferdinand Mueller (later Baron Von Mueller). In 1857 his aim was to have a 'system' garden, of value to his botany students, so he set about planting thousands of pines and specimen trees in the serried rows, in favour with his Prussian forebears.
A later curator William Guilfoyle was responsible for the magnificent vistas the gardens present today, more than 40 hectares of lawns and lakes, towering trees, and colonies of ducks and birds.
A Scottish landscape gardener, James Sinclair, was appointed in 1854 to develop the Fitzroy Gardens . He was a remarkable man who had designed and planted Czar Nicholas' Royal Gardens in the Crimea.
In 1928 a conservatory was erected and today it attracts people from all over the world to see its magnificent hydrangeas, begonias, tropical and indoor plants, cinerarias and cyclamens.
1934 saw the erection of a second major landmark, Cook's Cottage. Cook claimed the east coast of Australia in the name of the British government. A Melbourne businessman bought the cottage Cook's parents had lived in northern England, had it dismantled, and brought it to the gardens brick-by-brick.
Directly opposite the Fitzroy Gardens are the Treasury Gardens, laid out in 1867 by Clement Hodgkinson, then assistant commissioner of lands and Survey. Since 1953 it has been the home of an annual art exhibition, and its most recent modification came in 1963 when the lake area was re-modelled to accommodate a rose garden and the President Kennedy Memorial.
In the north-west corner of the central business district are the historic Flagstaff Gardens. This area was first known as burial hill, Melbourne's first cemetery. Burials ceased in 1838.
It was on Flagstaff Hill on 11 November 1850 the news was received from the British Parliament that Victoria had been granted its independence from New South Wales. By 1880 the decision was taken to turn Flagstaff Hill into gardens and a lake and children's playground were installed. Almost 100 years later the Stanley Gibbons Rose Garden was planted, a gift to the people of Melbourne by "Stanley Gibbons International Philatelists".
Perhaps the parks and gardens most noticeable to visitors are those bounded by the Yarra River and St Kilda Road, directly opposite the Art Centre and National Gallery. Known as King's Domain, it includes Government House, the Queen Victoria and Alexandra Gardens as well as the Shrine of Remembrance.
Nearby you'll find the Sydney Myer Music Bowl - the scene of many outdoor concerts (including Carols By Candlelight) - and the beautiful floral clock in Alexandra Gardens.