Mmmm spring and the Dandenongs, like a hammock and a cold beer they go well together. Colour spills from the many curated gardens; The National Rhododendron Garden and Alfred Nicholas Gardens are especially aflush with candy blossom.
In the two weeks following this post if you find half a day swinging free get along to the National Rhododendron Garden. Entry’s free which is a rare thing for a “money is king” society. Check for blue skies, grab the other half, pack a rug, some tasty beverages, a few cuts of sugared pineapple and voila. Take a load off, enjoy some ripping views across the Yarra Valley and all the smell and color of a bee paradise.
The Japanese are down with this philosophy of getting back to nature when Spring has pulled on her ballroom gown, they call it Hanami. Beginning in the 8th century the Japanese used it as a way of praying to the nature spirits (kami) in the hope of encouraging a bumper rice harvest. Now it’s just an excuse for some sake and a party. And why not, those cherry blossom groves sure create a festive, hopeful atmosphere.
Last Sunday the National Rhododendron Garden held its annual Hanami Day. The drive up there sure did give me an appreciation to the extent of Melbourne’s Japanese population. The roads were jam packed, way back. The poor Park rangers and volunteers assisting drivers with parking looked like ragged raccoons staring down the headlights of a big mac (the truck kind, not a burger). I’ll return again one year, only earlier and from the back-end of the mountain. A highly strung manual like mine hates car-park traffic.
The festival is festive with displays of Japanese culture, food tasting, back cracking and drum whacking. Aside from all that it’s just a darn good excuse to get out and enjoy a world class garden bursting back to life after a season of hibernation. If crowds scare you don’t worry, the garden’s big enough for every one to find their own little patch. Even with Melbourne’s entire Japanese populace flooding through the gates.