Monday, 5 August 2013

An oak for the 1863 Royal wedding, a new plan for the 2013 Royal baby - Kyneton Botanic Gardens


A few weeks back I attended a dinner to help raise funds for a new Community Park in Kyneton. You may not be familiar with the term 'community park', but in this context it refers to the Kyneton Botanic Gardens and surrounding parklands (think Royal Botanic Gardens and the surrounding Domain in both Sydney and Melbourne) with a twist.

That twist is a smattering of children's play areas and a strong link to the history of the town with agriculturalesque plantings in straight lines and even old farm equipment to play on (I used to love sitting on the old World War II guns in Apex Park in Castlemaine so this seems a little more in tune with a peaceful and prosperous Australia, but still fun!).

Plus some arty caravan installations as a homage or perhaps cheeky dig at the caravan park that is part of this park but always a bone of contention for regional botanic gardens.


Andrew Laidlaw, our landscape architect at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, is the designer and he praised the community for their enthusiasm, vision and drive in making this happen. Or at least getting to here, with a plan and some seeding money - some from Macedon Ranges Shire Council, $10,000 from events such as the dinner I attended, and some from the Friends of the Kyneton Botanic Gardens who fronted up with a cheque for $1,000 on the night.

Andrew describes the site as one of the best he has seen. He noted the riverside setting, the parkland plantings of mature trees and the backbone of a charming regional botanic garden. With a spit and polish, some strategically placed hardware for kids to climb on and slide down (no run of the mill play equipment here) and plantings that are tough but evocative, this has the potential to be a great little garden and park.


About 80 km from Melbourne, Kyneton developed as a town in the mid-ninteenth century 'largely as an overnight stop for travellers from the goldfields...'. (This and the following information is taken mostly from the nifty little website created by Roger Cousins.)

Like 45 other regional towns, Kyneton clearly had to have a botanic garden. Originally planned for a small 2.5 hectare site beside the Mechanics Institute (down the road a little form the Town Hall where our dinner was held) its final resting place was further down the road, on an 18 ha site rectangle beside the Campaspe River. Work started in 1859.

Stuart Murray designed the original layout but it's unclear if any of this was implemented. Many of the trees came from Melbourne Botanic Gardens' Director Ferdinand Mueller but, contrary to rumour, he contributed none of the design (which may be a good thing given what happened in Melbourne Gardens around that time).

As is typical in Victoria's regional botanic gardens, one of the first plantings was to honour the wedding of Edward Prince of Wales and Alexandra in May 1863. An oak as usual, Algerian Oak (Quercus canariensis) with its large oaky leaves, still there today. You can find lots of other Quercus species in the botanic garden and neighbouring parkland, including this lovely Coastal Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) - 'live' because it still has leaves in winter - with less typical oak leaves.


There are also some wonderful specimens of Cork Oak (Quercus suber), apparently one of Mueller's (and my) favourites.


Another of the fascinating and perhaps typical trees of the nineteenth century is a lovely Ginkgo, distinctive even without leaves in this next picture.


There are, nowadays, also plenty of succulents (as in the picture of the entrance pathway towards top of the post). This latest makeover was clearly a response to the drought years just past and generally look pretty good. The new plantings will also have to cope with little water and probably a little neglect (a park like this never have the staff levels we have at Melbourne), and I'm sure Andrew will add to the planting palate.

Images: from my recent trip to Kyneton, very early in the morning on a rather foggy day, plus a picture of the Chilean Wine Palm and the Cork Oaks from a previous visit in mid-summer, 2010. To support or find out more about the Kyneton Community Park, see this website.

2 comments:

Gardener in the Distance said...

Tim, I was at Kyneton Botanic Gardens a few weeks' ago (for my own blog) and wondered if the proposed Community Park was going to happen.
A wonderful, under-utilized site, crying out for enhancement. Although I enjoy visiting public gardens when no-one else much is around, it's a pity Kyneton should be off the map.
I'm glad then for your encouraging news.

Tim Entwisle said...

Certainly lots of local support so even though plenty of fund-raising to do I get the sense they won't let it not happen! I think I know what you mean about slightly forgotten parks and their appeal but yes better to get them activated, in a good way. Tim