THERE is a hidden treasure with plants forming the basis of a sculpture garden in Canberra. It is the Fiona Hall Fern Garden at the Australian National Gallery and quite possibly more tourists than locals […]
WITH our warmer climate, exotic trees grow faster in Australia than in Britain or Europe, although they have to tolerate huge weather extremes.
European settlement has only been in Australia for a couple of hundred years and, apart from having difficulty managing the native trees (primarily eucalypts), the early settlers brought many exotic trees to plant to remind them of home.
One example is the rare Picconia excelsa, from the Canary Islands, of which there are only about five known specimens in Australia, one of which is at Hamilton Hume’s “Cooma Cottage” in Yass. This could be an interesting tree for the arboretum?
LAST year, I wrote about olive trees growing in Provence, France, which were known to be 3000 years old.
Interestingly, a new book published in Britain – “The Long, Long Life of Trees” by Fiona Stafford (Yale University Press) – discusses the longevity of trees.
For example, there are more ancient Taxus baccata, or yew trees, in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. Extracts of this tree are still used in cancer research.
Once, the only way of accessing the age of a tree was to count the growth rings, which indicate rainfall over the years. Today there are many other ways, including carbon dating.
The oldest Yew tree in Britain, in a churchyard in the village of Llangernyw, Conwy, North Wales, is at least 5000 years old. For an amazing story of ancient trees visit treeregister.orgTHE recent terrific storm illustrated the effects of nature’s thinning of trees in Canberra, but this paled to insignificance when compared to the storm in Britain in 1987, which toppled over 15-metre trees with a trunk diameter of more than half a metre.
Dutch Elm disease also hit, with a similar number of trees lost in Britain. Incidentally, this disease didn’t originate in Holland, but was diagnosed by a Dutch tree scientist. Now a similar disease is threatening to wipe out ash trees in Britain.
Fortunately, Australia’s quarantine rules help prevent the spread of these diseases here. Imagine if such a disease hit our eucalypts!
Massive tree-planting schemes are being undertaken across Britain to address the losses, while here we still smash down trees with ball and chain tractors in Queensland and land clearing in NSW.
To think we have a go at the Indonesians for their clear felling of trees!
In urban areas, street and park trees are being neglected with ever increasing concern being expressed by our community councils. Will we ever learn?
WHILE I have tried, the task of identifying trees and shrubs for readers has become too much. For exotic trees and shrubs, most garden centres will be able to assist and for native trees the Botanic Gardens is best.
- With the cooler days, start to trim evergreen shrubs, but only after flowering. Remember, remove only up to but not more than one third at any one time.
- It’s to time to think about fallen leaves; if you are to compost, now is the time think about getting a bin.
- If strawberries are more than 3-4 years old it’s time to replace them, preferably in a different place. Always buy government-certified, virus-free strawberries rather than getting runners from friends.