The Herb and Formal Gardens Walk - Approx15 minutes
Walk up the steps in front of the Visitors Centre towards the Sundial. Take a minute to read the inscriptions on the three basalt pillars on the right and to work out the time shown by shadow on the equatorial sundial. As you walk up the steps to the herb garden, you will notice the enclosing hedge. This is composed of Callitris rhomboidea or Port Jackson Pine, an Australian conifer which normally grows as a small tree. The herb garden contains a collection of medicinal, culinary, dye and strewing plants, with many allowed to follow their natural life cycles through to seed production. On the other side of the path, the delightfully zingy lemon fragrance of the Lemon-scented Verbena is worth a sniff. This is an untidy looking small shrub, growing next to the twisted hazelnut tree.
The next set of steps leads you to the third of the formal terraced gardens. The perennial plantings here have been influenced by the traditional concepts of garden design typical of Gertrude Jekyll, the well-known English garden designer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The magnificent backdrop of Eucalyptus Fastigata, the Brown Barrel Gum shouts ' Australia', and is perfect as the natural complement to the Edna Walling influenced colonnade. Edna Walling, early 20thC conservationist, designed and created many romantic and peaceful gardens with an emphasis on natural materials. When you are ready to leave the perennial garden, follow the path at the very top under the colonnade to the first left hand turning. Walk through the rhododendrons to the roadway, then walk across to the Explorer's Walk.
Boardwalk & Viewing Platform Walk - Approx 5 minutes
Designed and constructed by the staff of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah. The boardwalk, made mainly of Tallowwood, an Australian hardwood, provides easy access for all visitors. It passes beneath Rhododendrons and towering Brown Barrel trees (Eucalyptus fastigata) into the rainforest. Here, views towards the coast of Sydney may be seen.
Plant Explorers Walk - Approx 30 minutes
Many of our best known garden plants originate from eastern Asia and were originally collected on expeditions by European plant hunters who explored some of the most remote and rugged regions.
This area of the garden is well signposted, so take time to read about our selection of famous plant explorers' travels, focus plants and adventures along your way. Two gracefully pendulous and elegant conifers will catch your eye on the first section of this pathway. The first is the West Himalayan Spruce, Picea smithiana near the large interpretive sign at the entrance. A short distance along the path will bring you to the Kashmir Cypress, Cupressus cashmeriana. Viburnum japonicum is planted on the right of the first bend going down the Plant Explorers walk. Bright red berries will catch your eye and signal its presence. Keep a look out for the Golden Larch as you wind your way through the Explorers Walk. This lovely tree is a deciduous conifer, the foliage turning golden yellow before falling. Japanese maples of many sizes, a variety of lacy leaves and wonderful colours are at their glorious best throughout the Autumn months and the explorers walk features beautiful woodland plantings of these trees in an ideal growing environment. Continue along to the large 'Where to from here?' sign and turn left to take the upper path to the remnant temperate rainforest walk.
Rain Forest Walk - Approx 10 minutes
Lush, cool and green! Discover the natural vegetation of the mountain as you follow a mulched trail though the ferns and other plants of the rainforest.
George Caley, botanist for Sir Joseph Banks, was the first white man to reach Mount Tomah in 1804. He named the area Fern Tree Hill because of the proliferation of two types of tree ferns growing in the area, Cyathea australis, the Rough Tree Fern, and Dicksonia antarctica, the Smooth Tree Fern. This name was later changed to Tomah, the Dharug Aboriginal word for tree fern. The dominant trees were Coachwoods (Ceratopetalum apetalum), Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras) and Blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon). Many of the larger trees were felled in the earlier times and sent to timber mills in the local area. Look over the large basalt outcrop on the right of the path opposite the bench to see if you can spot the Sydneyskyline to the East. The basalt is typical of formations capping Mount Tomah.
Lava flows said to have occurred 10-14 million years ago, rapidly cooled and cracked to form hexagonal columns 80 to 100 metres deep. Continue along the path to your right until you reach the tarred roadway leading down the hill past the Brunet Meadow on the right.
The Proteaceae Garden - Approx 15 minutes
Start in the conservatory and go out through the door to the deck and walk down the ramp. Turn right at the end and walk along to the first steps on your left. These steps lead to a landing giving a panoramic view of the Wollemi National Park, ancestral home of the Wollemi Pine. The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah has areas of geographic plantings grouped together according to their country of origin. The South African Proteaceae garden in front of you contains examples of this diverse group of plants which includes Proteas, Leucadendrons and Leucospermums. Linger here to enjoy the proliferation of flowering that happens every winter when many other plants are entirely at rest.Many comments are made about the brightly flowering little yellow daisy flowers in the South African Proteaceae garden. I'm told they are Helichrysum agryophyllum, commonly known as Golden Guinea Everlasting. It is making a wonderful winter display along with the Protea, Red Hot Poker and Pink Erica. All of these plants will grow happily in an acid, well drained, sandy soil in full sun. The gardeners tell me that all are pruned quite hard after flowering to help them keep their shape and promote lush new growth. They shouldn't be planted in a frosty spot, although after a couple of years, they can cope with the occasional light frost. It gets pretty cold here in Mount Tomah, even snowing a couple of times a year, so these plants are able to withstand quite a temperature range.
Look over the top of the Proteas, and can catch a glimpse of the wonderful colours of the North American Deciduous Woodland trees, and the buttery yellow of ginkgos.
The Brunet Garden - Approx 15 minutes
Walk down the tarred roadway to the left, past the lovely sculptured cockatoo created from black granite by artist Sylvio Apponyi. The native black cockatoo is a frequent visitor to the Garden, flying high in search of nuts in season. The sculpture sits at the entrance to a pathway into the Brunet Meadow, with a hint of the once heavily planted beautiful cool climate bulbs of nerines, lily of the valley, bluebells and narcissus varieties peeping through the grass. Continue down the roadway through the New Zealand plantings and turn right towards the mature trees, which include conifers, rhododendrons, maples, elms, chestnuts and ash planted by Alfred and Effie Brunet.This sheltered area of the garden contains the most mature of the Brunet plantings. The Brunets established a garden here on the rich basalt soils to grow cool climate flowers for the Sydney market from the mid 1930's. In 1972, they generously gave the land to the people of NSW to be used as a Botanic Garden. Their story is told in the Brunet Pavilion, built near the site of their original home and reached by walking into the wisteria vine-covered colonnade on your left.
Heath and Heather Garden - Approx 20 minutes
The view as you leave the wisteria walk looking left and right, is of a collection of conifer species, many of them quite rare in Australia. The trees on the left are partially obscured by a hedge of Cherry Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, a remnant of the kilometres of hedge that criss-crossed the land to protect young plantings in the Brunet days. This hedging has mostly been removed now that the garden is mature enough to have developed its own sheltering microclimates. Cherry Laurel is considered a 'weedy' plant, the berries contain seeds that are distributed widely by birds and germinate readily in mountain environments. Because of this, the remaining hedges are kept well trimmed, never allowed to flower.
Continue along the lower roadway, with North American woodland on the right and Southern Hemisphere woodland on the left towards the Northern Pavilion, perched proudly atop a rise in the vista ahead. The landscaping around this pavilion displays the texture and soft, subtle tones of heath and heather plants from around the world. The setting is ideal, with the ground hugging plants clinging to their rocky boundaries to create such an illusion of space and isolation in this windswept environment.
Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Walk - Approx 15 minutes
This special area of temperate rainforest, once part of a larger area set aside by early conservationists, was purchased by the Botanic Gardens Trust in 2008 with the generous support of John and Libby Fairfax.
The path leads from the Brunet Meadow through the one way gate across Old Bell's Line of Road into the Coachwood and Sassafras rainforest. Discover the magical tree rings - Once apon a time in the middle of these rings grew a large tree which was destroyed by either fire or logging. This path leads back to the main gate entry.