The Friends of La Trobe’s Cottage are a band of dedicated volunteers and who entered for the second time into the Victorian Community History Awards in the category Historical Interpretation. This award recognises the unique formats of historical representation through the use of physical exhibitions, artistic interpretation, history walks and tours. And we won which is very exciting for all the volunteers that help at the cottage.
Over the four years the FOLTC volunteers have been active, we have erected 4 interpretation signs telling the story of Charles Joseph La Trobe and his families time at Jolimont, replanting the garden only using plants that were available him to up until 1854 when he returned to England and producing a garden brochure with the help of Citywide’s Parks and Gardens department last year. La Trobe’s estate Jolimont (just behind the Melbourne Cricket Ground) was originally 12.5 acres and had substantial gardens.
The cottage is now in Kings Domain, just behind the Shrine and we only have an average suburban block size. Using the sketch by La Trobe’s cousin Edward Bateman La Trobe (who designed Carlton Gardens), we have re-created the garden bench, the diamond and crescent shaped beds, replaced some of the lattice and planted heritage apples in front of the Kitchen block – using one of Bateman La Trobe’s sketches as our guide plus lots of other things.
We have also developed a very extensive garden page on the FOLTC website detailing the history of the garden, La Trobe’s connection with Baron von Mueller, Melbourne’s first qualified botanist and included several of the plants that La Trobe collected during his sojourns on his horse around Victoria in 1840s-50s. The specimen Derwentia perfoliata (Diggers speedwell) is now housed at the Melbourne Herbarium and Platylobium obtusangulum (Common Flat pea) is at Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland.
The awards were held this year at the State Library of Victoria in the Courtyard. They are sponsored by Royal Historical Society and the Public Records Office of Victoria. It was a great year for horticulture (often not thought about in historical terms as gardens are so ephemeral) as the President of the RHS is Associate Professor Don Garden who is Principal Fellow of Resource Management and Geography at Burnley. He presented the award to me and also one presented to Dr. Anne Vale who is also a Burnley graduate for her book ‘Exceptional Australian Garden Makers‘ in the Most Outstanding Community History Project submitted in any category. Anne and I were both shaking with exciting and pleasure. It is lovely to be recognised for all the hard work and effort that goes into recreating and maintaining a garden.
For anyone visiting Melbourne and who would like to view the cottage and garden it is open on Sundays from 2.00pm – 4.00pm. There are guided tours of house by the volunteers. Special garden tours can also be organised. It is a National Trust property and there is a charge but it won’t break the bank and the money goes towards maintaining the cottage.