The Gardens are teeming with life and colour! What makes this garden unique is the blending of natures garden with the exotic plants. The gardens change gradually from a field of flowering plants and exotic trees (many in rows) through more natural woodland gardens situated among the native wattles and rows of trees left over from the old nursery, to the native forest walks at the top end of the property.
The Gardens also blend the unique heritage plantings with more modern trees and shrubs, recently planted.
Heritage: A century of old rhododendrons and azaleas are a unique spectacle when in bloom. Their massed planting, and sheer height make the peak flowering season a highlight of this garden.
Until a few decades ago this was the largest collection of rhododendron varieties in the southern hemisphere. The original plants were planted in the main garden area, and were the source from which young plants for sale through the nursery were propagated. These young plants were planted in rows further upslope, to be grown on and then potted and sold. Plants that were not sold, and became too large were simply left to fend for themselves. Consequently there are 5 discrete areas of massed planting across the property, including two woodland areas. There are approximately 150 varieties on display, but totalling tens of thousands of plants.
Deciduous azaleas grow en masse under shade cloth in the main garden area. These plants have grown to 3m in height, and are a delight when in full flower, perfumed and astounding in beauty. They bloom from mid October to early November – depending on the season.
Modern Plantings: Over the past decade we have sought to modernise the collection of rhododendrons.
Big Leaf Rhododendrons: (giant leaves and flowers!) originate mainly from the forests of the Himalayas and require shelter and abundant rainfall. Many are established across Cadby’s Gully (an ideal environment for them) and can be seen from the Vireya trail, Cliff track and Big Leaf wander. There are dozens of varieties and more than a hundred plants.”
Vireyas: Originating from tropical forests (many from New Guinea) they’re smaller shrubby plants with amazing flowers. They flower all through the year, responding to rainfall. They come in an astounding variety of colours and forms, and range in flower size from 1- 10 centimetres per individual flower with several each truss. Many of them are fragrant. Our vireyas love the sheltered microclimate of Cadby’s Gully where they are protected from wind and frost, and are happy in dappled shade. They can be seen all year along the vireya and cliff trails.
Maddeni Rhododendrons: Along the trails of Cadby’s Gully, there are many species and hybrids of this family, flowering mostly in winter. Mostly white in colour, with some of the largest flowers of any rhododendron, they are an amazing sight and well worth the walk.
Daffodils and Jonquils: Massed across the slopes of the main garden, naturalised providing acres of colour in early spring. Other areas where daffodils bloom in abundance are in the wedding area, along the vireya trail, the chapel gardens and around the house and carparks. We have introduced the spectacular “ice folly” in several areas, and also many others with white or pink blooms. Blooming in spring, around the old shed, in the wedding area and under trees near the carparks. Patches of Dutch Iris along the Vireya Trail and some Bearded Iris in more protected pockets (near the chapel and house where the wildlife does not venture).
Autumn Bulbs: Nerrines can be found naturalised throughout the gardens, Belladonna Lilies, Crocus and the giant Brunsvigia can be found along the trails and near the chapel.
Camelias are both in the main heritage area, as well as newer plantings below the chapel.
Erica: January is the time to see the hillsides purple with blooming heath. There once were many varieties planted across the slopes, for cut flower production, but only a few varieties remain, and are now naturalised in the open areas. The main garden and entrance grassy area are the best displays.
Hydrangeas: Many varieties are planted along the cliff track and around the chapel providing summer blooms resistant to wildlife browsing.
The gardens are listed for the contribution to horticulture in Tasmania by successive generations of the Walker family here at Lalla.
They were pioneers in techniques of propagation and horticulture. There are some remarkable trees to be found here as a consequence – including a few surviving rare grafted specimens.
Conifers: A majestic stand of Coastal Redwoods greets you on arrival. Across the main garden area you will find rows of Cedars, Fir and Larch – remnants of the old nursery days, growing in rows way too closely planted. Although the trees themselves could never reach their individual potential, these closely planted rows make for a unique experience seventy years later. Likewise, the “cathedral” area (accessed via the lookout loop track above the house) is a feature worth visiting.
More modern varieties have been planted by us as specimen trees – in clusters and groups across the park. We have a whole walk dedicated to the dinosaur of Conifers the Wollemi Pine (many planted along Cadby’s Gully). We have also planted many others in this Auricaria family – mainly at the northern end of the property, close to the entrance gate (including Bunya Bunya, Kauri, Monkey Puzzle and pines from New Caledonia and Norfolk Island.
Many new firs, as well as larch, pine, cypress, spruce and cedar have been established across the grassy hillside to the left as you pass the first rhododendrons on the entrance road.
Finally, we have planted a long avenue of Gingko Bilboas down in the main garden – come back in 50 years to enjoy them!
Deciduous: Japanese Maples, Poplars, Aspen, Liquidambas, Ash, Beech, Elm, Birch and Oak can be found and identified across the main garden and make for spectacular autumn foliage displays (late April to June) (photo).
One of the most wonderful discoveries we made when we began to restore the gardens was the avenues of Cottonwood poplars, birch and sycamores along Cadby’s Gully below the chapel. These are a fantastic feature of the Vireya and Big Leaf trails, and are well worth the walk. Their height and close planting are a result of being leftover from the nursery planting, and their sheltered situation in the gully, largely free from all wind.
We have planted hundreds of new trees, many new varieties across the whole park including Sassafras, Liriodendron, American Maples, poplars, Oaks, and birch and many others.
Ornamental: Although a few old hawthorn and flowering cherries survived, they are in poor shape are slowly being replaced. We have planted blossom trees (ornamental cherries, pears, and crab apples) both in the old garden area and around the chapel.
Winter flowering Luculia have thrived below the chapel.
We have also established several ornamental flowering gums on the fringes of the woodland gardens.
Eucalyptus: The top third of the property is clothed with mature native eucalypt forest with understory suited to wetter forest communities. These forests are part of a much larger forest across the slopes of Brown’s Hill which provide habitat for several threatened species.
E. Viminalis (white gum) dominates the forest on the north side of Cadby’s gully, above the Chapel Track. This forest is distressed, and has declined over the past decade, along with most of the similar forests of the NE of Tasmania due to environmental and climate impacts. Many of the Viminalis have rust coloured sap stains on their trunks – a telltale symptom of the disease “Ginger Tree Syndrome”.
Eucalyptus Obliqua (stringy bark) dominates the southern sides of the upper area of Cadby’s Gully and you will notice the change in the trees as you walk the Look-out Loop trail.
A few Eucalyptus Regnans can be found close to the creek along the Cliff track, and they can be identified by their smooth trunks and long streamer-like bark shedding.
Olearia (daisy bush), Stink-wood, Dogwood and Prickly Box are common in the understory.
Acacias: Silver wattle and Blackwood are the pioneer species across the middle section of the property, and form the canopy under which the woodland gardens have been planted. These trees have grown over areas previously cleared and cultivated for the nursery operations.
The understory plants in these areas (Olearia, or native daisy bush and Tasmanian dogwood) provide habitat for many native birds and animals, but also provide spectacular flower displays in early to mid spring, complimenting the flowering of the exotics.
The wattles are spectacular in some years, in early spring. The wattles are very old now, and in decline and decay, we lose many every year. This is a natural phenomenon as they make way for the establishment of the eucalypts over time.
However we have intervened, planting hundreds of Blackwoods across the woodland areas – as succession planning for the future of the gardens. Wattles and backwoods are less flammable in a fire, and are not so tall, better suited to the woodland garden. They are also endemic, and fast growing, and are an attractive hardy evergreen tree.
Rainforest Gully: Cadby’s Gully and stream is the central feature of the woodland garden. We have planted hundreds of myrtles and backwoods, as well as other rainforest plants, mainly ferns. The Gully was filled with weeds when we bought the property, and we are thrilled at its transformation.
The native forest habitat across the gardens plays host to a wide range of native animals and birds. Most of the marsupials are nocturnal, sleep during the day and difficult to see, however wallabies (Rufus) are regularly encountered along the trails sheltering in the undergrowth. Possums are abundant and brush-tails can be spotted high in the wattles if you know where to look. Ringtail possums are abundant yet rarely seen and we have seen gliders occasionally. Echidnas are often seen as they forage for ants during the day.
Platypus can occasionally be spotted in the ponds and stream. Easterm barred bandicoots are abundant but rarely seen. Quolls are evident – their scats often found on the bridges. We have not sighted Tasmanian devils here, although we did find the lower jaw bone of one. Likewise we have not seen wombats on the flower farm, but have found a skull.
Birdlife is abundant across the gardens, and native birds can easily be seen and identified along the trails in Cadby’s Gully. Some you might encounter include robins (including the rare Pink Robin), wrens (Supberb Fairy Wren, Scrub Wren), fantails, finches (silvereye), jays, doves, kookaburras, crows and parrots. Birds of prey you might see during the day include Wedge Tailed Eagle and Grey Goshawk, with the Masked Owl and Tawny Frogmouth owl being nocturnal.
Around the ponds you may see Pacific Black Duck and Australian Wood Duck, or an occasional White Faced Heron.
Reptiles are common but not often seen. Skink and blue tongue lizards can be found on fallen logs and debris. Snakes are occasionally seen along the trails, being so close to water in the creek and dams. Copperheads are most common although tiger snakes are also seen. All Tasmanian snakes are venomous and should not be approached. Please watch where you walk and wear solid shoes, particularly along the trails.