In 1838, the area was first settled by Scottish squatters as a pastoral run, and following a land survey in 1849 was described as an area of 'springs and swampy ground' which was excluded from subsequent land sales. Following the discovery of gold in 1851, the springs were dammed to provide a water supply for the increased population.
In 1859 the first Buninyong Municipal Council reserved an area of 10 acres for the Botanical Gardens.
The original plan of 1861 showed walks and bridges, fencing and gates and a proposal for bathing facilities. In 1872 Conrad Fegbeitel, a German immigrant, was appointed Curator for the Gardens and Superintendent of the Baths.
The famous Ferdinand Von Mueller from the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, as well as the curator of Ballarat and Geelong Gardens, the State Nursery at Creswick and local nurserymen all donated specimens of trees and plants to be planted at the new Botanical Gardens.
Once visitors could travel to Buninyong by train, it became a very popular picnic destination. The railway era was the heyday of the Buninyong Botanic Gardens, but the service ended in 1937 and the track was dismantled in 1947.
Long-serving curators who contributed to the development and upkeep of the Gardens until the Second World War were: 1872-1889 Conrad Fegbeitel 1889-1898 Robert Allan McPherson 1898-1920 Samuel Livingstone Frazer 1920-1941 John and Mary Ogilvy
The above notes were compiled from an article 'History of the "Gong" or Upper Dam' by Beth Ritchie, in 'The Gong Environmental Program' by Christine Rowe, Victorian Environmental Education Council, in August 1993.
In 1974, the Buninyong Gardens Restoration Committee was formed to improve the area which had become neglected and overgrown. Work continued in the 1980s and by 1985 the major project for the 150th Anniversary of Victoria was completed.
From 1993-1995, intensive weed removal was undertaken by the Buninyong Shire Council under the leadership of public-spirited local identity, Derrick Leather.
With local government amalgamation in 1994, the responsibility for the Buninyong Botanic Gardens was entrusted to the Ballarat City Council which has commissioned a Conservation Study and Landscape Masterplan. With the receipt of Federal Community Program Funds and the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority Waterway Incentives Program Funds, works were carried out in 2001 to improve the water quality of The Gong, Buninyong Botanic Gardens water features and storm water discharged into the Leigh River Catchment.
The project was a community partnership between the Federal Government, the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, the City of Ballarat and the Lions Club of Buninyong - Mt Helen.