Phase 3 - Garden Restoration

Historic lamps installed
Replica historic lamps installed on plinths to light the newly-restored garden.
Image: Anne Diplock
Source: Museum Victoria

Phase 3 - Garden Restoration

Completed February 2011

The western forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building was one of the main components of the ‘palace garden’ setting for the site. Using archaeological and historical research, the 1880 garden landscape and plantings were restored to their original splendour and once again, the western forecourt unifies Victoria’s most significant historic building with its garden landscape.

The circular driveway

The architect for the building, Joseph Reed, proposed a design for the western forecourt based around a circular asphalt carriage drive. The circular driveway is now back in its original configuration. In the centre of the driveway, the footprint of the eight-sided kiosk represents the foundations uncovered during the archaeological excavations.

The garden plantings

Garden designer William Sangster was a disciple of the Victorian Picturesque landscape which involved naturalistic or picturesque style landscaping as distinct from geometric and formal gardens. Unfortunately for Sangster, the circular driveway forced him to modify his favoured style. He compromised by adopting an informal layout within the formal beds, with an array of plant species scattered throughout.

Photographs and postcards of the Exhibition Building in the 1890s show that the garden beds were laid out informally, but the exact species of plants cannot be identified visually. CDA Design Group in conjunction with Lovell Chen Heritage Architects used sources such as nursery catalogues to propose the following plantings for different areas of the garden:

  • The central circle beds around the kiosk feature palm or cabbage trees with an underplanting of small shrubs and perennials such as shrub roses and bulbs.
  • The garden beds on the outside perimeter of the circle contain a mix of small shrubs and perennials.
  • In the garden bed on the south side of the circle, the Moreton Bay Fig, Bunya Pine and Norfolk Pine trees were retained. 
  • Additional shrubs, hedging and a variety of flowering plants and trees such as lemon verbena, silverberry, princess flower and an Irish strawberry tree fill out the southern beds.