About the Gardens
Malvern Gardens in High Street were Malvern's first public gardens. The official opening by Duncan Gillies M.P. took place on December 12, 1890. The ceremony was performed with a gold key, set with a heart shaped opal, to open the massive wooden gates which had been locked with silver and gold chains.
The area had been a water reservation since 1856. The natural spring, used by the Wurundjeri people prior to European settlement, supplied the developing suburb with water before the Yan Yean scheme was implemented in 1869. In 1885, when the government intended auctioning the land, a public protest caused it to be secured for public use. The public reserve, which included eight acres of land, was associated with the community life of Malvern especially with the local holiday amusements of the villagers in the form of sports meetings, moonlight concerts and cricket matches.
In 1888 Malvern Shire Council approached Thomas Pockett, a gardener of some note, to “prepare a plan of a sandy barren waste with a view of converting it into a municipal garden”.
Pockett had been working at ‘Kenley’ in Kooyong Road where he won the first prize of three guineas offered by the Horticultural Society of Victoria for “the best arranged and best kept gentleman’s garden within four miles of the Melbourne G.P.O.” On relinquishing his position at ‘Kenley’ Pockett was appointed curator of Malvern Gardens, a position he held for thirty years.
From 1888, over a period of twenty years, Pockett laid out Malvern Gardens with serpentine paths and no straight lines or formal angular beds. A row of English Oaks was planted each side of the drive which extended through the centre of the gardens. Palms, elms and flower beds were also planted.
As Pockett achieved world acclaim in the breeding and growing of Chrysanthemums, displays of his prize-winning blooms became a feature of the gardens.