Mount Tomah Botanic Garden is the Botanic Gardens Trust’s cool mountain garden. You can find it off Bells Line of Road (the ‘other’ road across the Blue Mountains, from Windsor to Lithgow).
At 1000 metres above sea level we can grow lots of native and exotic plants not suited to coastal Sydney’s humid climate. There are 44,000 plants in the garden, representing more than 5,000 different species.
This Garden is on Darug land and the word Tomah is thought to be a local name for tree ferns. I’m keen to rename the garden the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden – ‘at Mount Tomah’ so we keep the local place name and link to the Darug – but reflecting the connection between this botanic garden and the local flora and local garden culture in the mountains (Mount Wilson is just around the corner).
The area was opened up for cattle grazing in the 1830s and three sawmills operated nearby milling Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum), Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras) and Brown Barrel (Eucalyptus fastigata). These species are still common in the rainforests on the mountain, and the Brown Barrel is the tall eucalypt you can see throughout the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden.
From 1934 the property was owned by the French-born horticulturist Alfred Brunet and his Australian wife Effie, and they operated it as cut-flower farm. The Brunets donated the property to the Botanic Gardens in 1972 and with support from the State and Commonwealth Bicentennial funds, the Garden opened to the public in November 1987.
In 1993 an additional 186 hectares of sandstone woodland and gullies across the other side of Bells Line of Road were added to the estate to be maintained as a conservation area. We use 'The Spur' for guided eco-tours and hope to plant a replica Wollemi Pine grove in the near future.
Just last year the Governor and Deputy Premier opened the Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Walk, part of a 33-hectare final addition to the Botanic Garden on the east side, known as The Jungle. The walk is a wheel-chair and pram friendly way to enjoy pristine Blue Mountains rainforest. The land was purchased thanks to the generous support of John and Elizabeth Fairfax, and the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust.
For a more traditional botanic gardens visit you can enjoy plants from the countries that once formed Gondwana (e.g. New Zealand, Africa, South America), local Blue Mountains plants, and specialist collections of southern hemisphere conifers, proteas and lots of other fascinating plants. A growing strength of the garden is the ecology and conservation of woodlands.
*This Passion for Plants posting will also appear on the ABC Sydney website (possibly under 'gardening'), and is the gist of my 702AM radio interview with Simon Marnie on Saturday morning, between 9-10 am.