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 Home>Visitors and Tourism>The Benalla Botanical Gardens>History of the Botanical Gardens  
History of the Botanical Gardens  Printer Friendly

In 1838, as the north east of Victoria was surveyed for European settlement, Benalla was described as The Crossing Place on the Broken River.  The Crossing Place remains the heart of the town, encompassing the Botanical Gardens, Art Gallery, Lake Benalla and surrounding riverine landscape. 

Benalla sits on the Broken River which was so named because in periods of dry it became a series of water holes.  To the local aboriginal people, the river was called the ‘Marangan’ – or big water hole.  It provided food and shelter for thousands of years.  In 1972 the river was dammed to form the Benalla Lake. 

From as early as 1859, two years before Benalla was proclaimed a town, land was set aside for public recreation where the gardens now stand.  The Gardens were commissioned by the then Shire Council during the 1880s.  The noted Melbourne landscape designer, Mr Alfred Sangwell completed this task in 1887.  Besides the unusual combination of a large oval and ornamental garden, Sangwell installed gracefully curved walking paths to sweep through plantings of trees and shrubs in keeping with the typical of 19th century ‘Gardenesque’ trend for public gardens.

Historically Botanical Gardens were the place where plants were grown for scientific study and public display.  Traditionally plants of the same family were grouped together for these displays and this is no more obvious than the rose collections within the Benalla Gardens.  There are also still remnants of this historical era to be found in the Benalla Gardens:  An Asteraceae Bed is located opposite the Art Gallery, and nearby this is a Theaceae bed featuring beautiful Camellias. 
 

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