Gardening / Walter wanted lots of corks

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The historic cork oak at All Saints Church Ainslie… was it a commemorative tree?
The historic cork oak at All Saints Church Ainslie… was it a commemorative tree?
IN 1917 Walter Burley Griffin brought acorns of the cork oak, Quercus suber, from Spain with the vision that the new capital would be self-sustaining and a cork oak plantation was part of the plan.

The plantation of about 4500 trees was planted by Charles Weston and is the largest commercial plantation of cork oaks in the southern hemisphere.

Cork from the oaks is used in wine bottles, floor tiles, life vests and shoes.

Its bark has been used for thousands of years and, in fact, an article on cork oaks in “Smith Journal” notes that “in 77AD Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder referred to the cork oak in his writings”.

If one removed the bark of any other tree it would die. But the outer bark of a cork oak can be completely stripped once every 10 years once the tree is at least 25 years old. Cork oaks can live for more than 500 years and Portugal is considered its home.

THERE is a huge cork oak outside All Saints’ Church, on the corner of Cowper and Bonney Streets, Ainslie.

I have tried unsuccessfully to find out when and why this huge specimen was planted. Was it a commemorative tree?

It certainly predates the church and perhaps a reader may be able to shed some light on this tree? If you have any information please let me know (cedricbryant@grapevine.com.au) as a revised conservation plan is being prepared for the church and its grounds.

WITH continuous, fairly high temperatures and little rain for many weeks, deciduous trees are rapidly changing into their magnificent autumn mantle of colour.

This gives us the opportunity of gathering leaves for composting. In some of our surrounding streets we have a huge amount of leaves.

I continually hear that one should not put eucalypt leaves on the compost heap or that oak leaves do not break down. With both of these trees I use the mower to shred the leaves and put half on to the garden as mulch and half on to the compost heap. I get strange looks when it appears I am mowing the street gutters.

A couple of reminders: don’t sweep leaves into the gutters as these simply clog the stormwater drains and it is prohibited to burn leaves or any other materials.

For every few barrow loads of leaves on the compost heap add a few handfuls of garden lime. Multicrop’s EcoBoost is also excellent at speeding up the decomposing process.

If you don’t have a compost heap, simply make a circle of chicken wire about a metre and a half across held in place with tomato stakes.

NOXIOUS weeds cause millions of dollars of damage to our farming lands and nature parks.

In Canberra, our government actively encourages gardeners to remove weeds. Possibly the worst of these is privet, pyracantha and cotoneaster.

The ACT Weed Swap Group of volunteers from the Australian Native Plant Society will be in action on the weekend of April 11-12. Located at Corkhill’s site, near the Mugga Lane tip, and Canberra Sand and Gravel landscaping yard, Parkwood Road, Macgregor, 8.30am-4.30pm. Bring those nasties along and they will swap for non-invasive native plants.

Jottings…

  • Shrubs can be given a last feed over the next few weeks before winter. Neutrog Seamungus, a combination of seaweed and chook poo, certified organic is good.
  • Think about removing plastic water timers. Don’t be caught out with a sudden frost that can burst them apart. Likewise, don’t leave sprinklers on the end of hoses.
  • Select trees for autumn colour before they lose their leaves in the garden centres.
  • Sow sweet peas now in ground well prepared with compost.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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