Perth and the South West Western Australia are in a world biodiversity hotspot known for its many unique and spectacular native plants, including its renown and colourful kangaroo paws, and Perth is also one of the world's most remote capitals. The South West provides both an abundance of national parks where you will find stunning spring wildflowers as well as a variety of vegetation and horticulture, from sandy coastal zones through to vineyards, towering eucalypts forests, grasslands, wheat farms and saline wetlands.
Gardens to see and visit in Perth and Western Australia overcome challenges such as dry hot summers and very sandy soils to produce all-year-round outdoor delights. There are several fine botanic gardens such as Kings Park, as well as private estate gardens filled with roses, shade trees and perennials. Every spring (September) Western Australia is filled with carpets of colourful wildflowers.
"There’s a vibrancy in the south west with a great mix of ages. People choose to make this home. We are an eclectic mix. Our coastline is rugged and breathtaking. Vineyards have changed the face of the south west to provide a colourful seasonality no one can ignore. Restaurants tempt with wonderful local products and passionate chefs who wouldn’t leave the area for quids. You can’t be lonely in a place like this.
Garden Travel Guide to Perth and South-West Western Australia
Getting to/from/around Perth and Western Australia
Perth is located on the south western coast of Australia, in Western Australia. It is the most isolated capital city in the world. It is 2,800 km from the nearest Australian city (Adelaide) and 3,000km from the nearest international capital (Jakata)
Perth has an International Airport with connecting flights to/from all major cities.
All Perth city gardens and parks are easily accessible by public transport and the metropolitan area is served by a limited rail system and extensive bus network. However outside the city a car is needed.
Western Australian and Perth Climate
Western Australia has a number of climate zones due to its enormous size.
Perth and the south west coast has a Mediterranean-style climate similar to southern California, with mild wet winters and hot, dry summers. Perth has an average annual rainfall of 780mm which falls mainly between May and September. It has more sunny days annually than any other Australian capital city.
The summer is long, and warm days with daily temperatures over 20°C (68°F) and low humidity can be expected from September right through to May. January and February are usually the hottest months of the year, with maximum temperatures averaging 31°C (88°F) and sometimes staying above 35°C (95°F) for days in a row. The summer minimum is normally about 18°C (64°F) but can stay as high as 25°C (77°F) . A sea breeze called ‘The Fremantle Doctor’ provides some relief from the heat near the coast in the afternoon.
The mild Perth winter is the rainy season, with cool sunny days with occasional downpours of rain and thunderstorms. Daily temperatures in winter range from an overnight minimum of 12°C (54°F) near the coast (8ºC – 46°F – in the inland suburbs) to daily highs of about 20°C (68°F).
In the South West, temperatures are on average 3-5°C (5-9°F) cooler than Perth and the south coast has a higher rainfall of around 1000mm each year.
The indigenous Nyoongar people have 6 seasons: Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba and Kambarang which reflect flowering seasons, reptile hibernation and swan moulting, so they relate to what is happening when rather than always equalling a particular ‘European’ calendar month.
Natural Vegetation around Perth and Southwest Western Australia
Perth: because much of the Swan Coastal Plain lies on ancient sand dunes, the soil is predominantly sand and the vegetation was strongly influenced by the shape of the sand dunes. Further east towards the scarp, older alluvial dunes show a varied soil type which in turn influences plant communities.
Western Australia boasts some of Australia’s most unusual and visually striking and vibrant native vegetation and the South West Botanical Province (from near Exmouth to east of Esperance) is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world. The floral emblem of Western Australia is the red and green kangaroo paw – (Anigozanthos manglesii) and visitors come from around the world to see the spectacular native wildflower displays around south west WA.
South West Western Australia has a diverse vegetation ranging from tall temperate forests dominated by towering jarrah, marri and karri eucalypts in higher rainfall areas, to mallee and shrublands, heathland and naturally saline wetlands. The south west of WA has 9,000 species of vascular plants and 70% of those are endemic.
Western Australia and Perth Garden Styles
Because Perth’s soils are predominantly deep sands, the soil is not suitable for many traditional gardening styles. Locals call the soil “gutless” and building soil structure with mineral and organic soil improvers is critical for retaining soil moisture.
Successful local gardeners favour local native species and plants from similar hot and dry Mediterranean climates, and build smaller raised garden beds with heavily improved soil for hungry plants like vegetables and fruit trees. Leafy exotic plants need to be irrigated and many suburbs water their gardens with underground bore water. A distinctive red stain often results on both gardens and built structures.
Perth is predominantly a medium to low density city on a fairly flat landscape with suburbs featuring separate houses with generous gardens, large shady trees and often swimming pools. Gardens are designed around enjoying the long sunny season and outdoor life style but unless they are irrigated they will be based on either native or similarly drought-hardy plants that will survive the hot dry summers.
In the South West, higher rainfall and areas of richer granitic clay soils allow extensive vineyards in the Margaret River area and more English and European-style gardens, such as woodland gardens, cottage gardens, Mediterranean and rose gardens.
Best places to see wildflowers in Western Australia
Few places in Australia have the exuberant carpets of spring wildflowers that you can find in west and south-western Western Australia. With over 12,000 species of wildflowers, the displays of pink, white and yellow everlasting daisies, pink and white Geraldton wax, plus blue and purple brachyscome daisies, dampiera and leschenaultia and the elusive red wreathflower, Leschenaultia macrantha.
Peak season is from early-August to the end of September, with areas furthest north around Shark Bay and Kalbarri at their peak in mid-August. More southern wildflower areas closer to Perth peak in September.
Best places for wildflowers in and around Perth
Even if you can’t get out to regional Western Australia’s dozens of national parks and reserves, there are many opportunities to see a wide variety of wildflowers in Perth city and within 20km of the city centre.
Perth – Kings Park has to be your first stop with dazzling wildflower carpets planted to enjoy at their peak throughout the Kings Park Festival from 1-30 September.
Walk part of the Bibbulmun track through Kalamunda Wildflower Park – only 20km from the city, in mid September to mid-October this area features trigger plants, orchids, blue leschenaultia, fringe lily, yellow hibbertia, feather flower and the iconic Western Australian floral emblem, red and green kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos manglesii)
Best places to see wildflowers north of Perth, on the Western Australian Coral Coast, starting from Geraldton (417km north of Perth)
• drive east through the Mills Point Lookout towards Mullewa (100km east of Geraldton). Mullewa has a signposted 2.8km wildflower walk that will help you learn to identify local plants. From there drive on to Morawa, Canna and Pindar for spectacular displays of everlastings and the hard-to-find red wreath flower, and then south to Coalseam Conservation Park near Mingenew.
• drive north to Shark Bay to see the aromatic Tamala rose and scarlet runner, then wind your way back south to Kalbarri National Park for 800 species of wildflowers, including red and green kangaroo paw, native orchids, pink pokers, Murchison rose and pink thryptomene.
• drive south to Eneabba and the coastal Mount Lesueur National Park. The park is a wildflower hotspot, with 10% of WA’s wildflowers found there, including hibbertia, thryptomene, plume grevilleas and calothamnus. If you’re heading on to Perth, detour via the wildflower fields near Carnamah and Coorow (3 hours drive north from Perth) and nearby Alexander Morrison National Park, or New Norcia. In mid-September head back to Perth via Bindoon for the wildflower festival.
Best places for wildflowers south of Perth, including Margaret River and the South West
The south-west of Western Australia is an orchid-lover’s paradise with a wide range of species found in diverse habitats from sandy dunes to tall forest understorey.
Walk part of the famous Bibbulmun Track from Sullivan Rock on the Albany Highway
Busselton is a good place for orchids with a number of nearby parks to explore, such as Captain Baudin and Ambergate Reservesand Whicher Range.
Dunsborough is another centre for orchid spotting, in Meelup Regional Park and Big Rock Reserve.
Around the Margaret River area you can walk all or part of the 135km Cape to Cape Track in September-October (between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin) seeing rare orchids like the Dunsborough donkey orchid in the dunes, coastal heath in flower with pimelea, acacia, hibbertia and fan flowers, and flowering vines and scramblers like Hardenbergia comptoniana, coral vine and white clematis.
Best spots for wildflowers in Western Australia’s Wheat Belt and South Coast
Wildflowers in Western Australia’s Wheat Belt – WA’s Wheat Belt is centred on the town of Merredin (3 hours drive east from Perth). Nearby centres for wildflowers include Corrigin, Kulin, Toodyay, Dowerin, Beacon and Bencubbin.
Wildflowers along Western Australia’s South Coast – because of the more southerly latitude, the wildflowers down south are usually at their peak later in the spring, around mid September to late October. Wildflowers in this area feature the spectacular flowering shrubs of royal hakea, pincuchion hakea, woolly banksia, grevilleas, isopogons, verticordias as well as the beautiful soft flowers of qualup bells and numerous lilies and orchids.
Start your wildflower excursions in Albany, heading north to the Stirling Range National Park and then eastwards towards Esperance. Make sure to explore the Fitzgerald River National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve with over 1,800 species of unique plants. Continue on via Ravensthorpe, especially in the last two weeks of September for the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show. From Esperance head further east along the coast to the flowering heathlands of Cape Le Grand National Park
Open gardens to see in Perth and South-West Western Australian that are regularly open with FREE ENTRY
• Kings Park and Botanic Garden, under 2 km from the CBD, is the largest city centre parkland and is accessible by free bus from the city centre. Kings Park is a favourite destination for panoramic views of the city, self guided bushwalks, picnics and weddings and it incorporates the 17 hectare WA Botanic Gardens.
• Rio Tinto Naturescape in King’s Park – a place where the kids can interact with nature and the adults can admire the striking contemporary design features
• Government House Gardens – over 3 hectares of lush gardens open 12-2pm, Tuesday-Thursday. 17 St George’s Terrace, Perth
• Within the city boundaries there are 16 major parkland areas and many smaller parks and road reserves covering a total of 140 hectares in area. Parks include:
– Queens Gardens, corner of Hay St and Plain St, East Perth. A well kept public garden with seasonal mass plantings of flowers and a large variety of trees and shrubs. One of the oldest parks in Perth. Old clay pits in the gardens were converted to fish ponds. It is a small oasis within walking distance from the CBD.
– John Oldham Park, Mounts Bay Rd Perth – waterfalls, lakes, sculpture and shady glens. Wide variety of trees set in lawn. Popular for walking and cycling.
– Stirling Gardens, Barrack St. Perth’s oldest public gardens in the centre of the city.
– Harold Boas Gardens, corner Wellington St and Havelock St, West Perth. Designed by Marion Blackwell, another oasis in the city with mature diverse plantings.
– Hyde Park, Cnr Vincent St and William St, Perth – about 3km north of the CBD. Heritage park with 2 lakes with variety of birdlife, established trees, massed annuals. Picnic areas and playground.
– Wireless Hill, Telefunken Dr, Ardross – great place to visit in spring when the wildflowers, including native orchids, are in bloom. Paths meander through the bush and plants are labelled. Good for picnics. Views across the river to the city.
Perth City council produce a Parks & Gardens walking trail guide available at www.perth.wa/gov/au
• Sculpture By the Bay, Dunsborough – beautiful coastal walk with lots of fascinating sculptures by artists from around Western Australia
Best open gardens to visit in South-West Western Australia
• Kodja Rose Maze – Kojonup, (3 hours drive south of Perth). A story of three women woven into a rose maze where the visitor discovers history while wandering through 100 varieties of Australian bred roses.
• Banksia Farm, Mt Barker
• Balingup Lavender Farm – formal lavender gardens and farm, September-April (main flowering November-December)
• Golden Valley Tree Park – a couple of kilometres south of Balingup (signposted) – arboretum of exotic and native trees. Many of the trees are labelled. Walking trails, picnic area, toilets.
To see Western Australia’s unique colourful wildflower displays follow the Wilderness and Wildflowers Trail in the Botanic Gardens in September or follow one of the many trails throughout the region. Self guided and guided tours are available including self drive tours to the south west, the Coral Coast or the outback.
Open gardens in Perth and South-West Australia that are regularly open with PAID ENTRY
• Araluen Botanic Park in the Perth Hills – 30 minute drive from Perth with 14 hectares of developed gardens. Displays cooler climate plants including Camelias, Azaleas, Rhododendrons etc. which do well in the richer soils of the Darling Scarp
• Wanneroo Botanic Gardens – 5 acre private garden built around a mini golf course. Lush exotic plantings.
• Patsy Durack Rose Gardens in Gooseberry Hill – Sundays only, October-May
• Botanic Garden at Discovery Bay, Albany – plants endemic to south-west WA, Rainbow Flower floral mural, wetlands boardwalk
• Esperance Stonehenge – not exactly a garden or historical either, but if you like the idea of understanding the scale of the UK original, this is the only full-size replica in the world. Set in a paddock full of cattle. RMB 4323, Merivale Road, Esperance. $10 entry
• There are private gardens open from time to time, particularly in spring and some in autumn. Some are listed on the Western Australian Horticultural Council Inc website. Most are privately advertised at nurseries, tourist information centers or on local radio.
Western Australia’s new ‘Open Gardens West Coast’
This new open gardens scheme begins in spring 2016 with 3 Perth gardens opening in the first season, and the a state-wide program to follow in 2017. The first open garden will be Perth gardening personality Deryn Thorpe’s private home garden at 13 First Avenue Mount Lawley, open 8 and 9 October 2016 from 10am-4.30pm, $10 entry, plus guided tours by Deryn at 11am and 2pm both days.
Other open gardens this spring are Denise’s garden at Carmel (15 October 2016) and Krannynook, Helena Valley (16 October 2016).
More information at Open Gardens West Coast
Perth and Western Australian Garden Festivals and Events
• Perth Garden Festival – long weekend at the end of April to May
• Nannup Flower and Garden Festival – 3rd week of August
• Kings Park and Botanic Garden Festival through September
• Esperance Wildflower Festival – mid September
• Better Homes and Gardens Live Expo – late October
• Festival of Country Gardens – spring openings in early November and autumn openings in May of numerous private gardens centered around the Blackwood River Valley, a 2.5-3.5 hour drive from Perth in south-western WA
• Open Edible Gardens weekend, Margaret River – mid November
• Garden Clubs and Societies Plant Fair – late February
• Araluen Tulip Festival – mid August to mid September at the Araluen Botanic Park
• Araluen’s Fremantle Chilli Festival, held at Fremantle – two days in March, featuring all things chilli
• Mullewa Wildflower Show – 4 days in mid spring
Best time to visit gardens and garden festivals in Perth and South-West western Australia
September-November (spring) or April-May (autumn/fall)
Alternatives to Gardening Activities in Perth
• Kings Park for the view of the city and swan River
• Synergy Parkland in Kings Park – a playground for small and big kids!
• The historic seaside Port of Fremantle
• Western Australian Art Gallery
• Sculpture By The Sea – March at Cottesloe Beach
• Visit the Swan Valley for wine tasting and gourmet foods
• Perth Zoo – the self described ‘best small zoo in Australia including fauna friendly gardens
• The Perth Mint
• Watch the sunset across the waters of Cottesloe Beach
• Catch a ferry to Rottnest Island and meet a quokka
Fun Facts about Perth
• Perth was once known as Boorloo. Boorloo formed part of the south west socio-linguistic block still known today as Noongar (The People).
• Perth is also known as the ‘City of Light’. When astronaut John Glenn orbited back in 1962 he could identify Perth because everyone turned on all their lights, making Perth highly visible.
• The Perth Mint is Australia’s oldest operating mint that still runs from its original premises. This mint was established in 1899 and has carved out a niche in producing gold, silver and platinum coins.
• Perth has the largest inner city park in the world – Kings Park. It’s even bigger than New York’s Central Park.
• Perth recently claimed to have the worlds highest population per capita of self made millionaires due to the mining industry.
The southwest corner of Western Australia is without doubt one of the world’s greatest spots for wildflowers, with visitors flocking from around the globe to see them. However, I’ve got to say that the picture postcard view of vast expanses of everlasting daisies or kangaroo paws can be rather an elusive one for the uninitiated. […]
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