WORDS: Kim Kitchen, PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
Last sunny Thursday, Andrew Smith, the brilliant Gardens Coordinator at Burnley, took a bunch of Horticultured members on a behind-the-scenes tour of the field station.
Armed with a stack of old photos, we discovered all about the history of the station, including its original purpose as a field nursery, trialling all kinds of fruit trees (220 pear varieties, 200ish apples, 70+ cherry varieties and a whole bunch of other delicious things!). We learnt about two large floods that wiped out the area, and that it is the oldest continually operating teaching garden of its kind in the world, staying operational throughout the two world wars.
Did you know that the centre of the field station gates aligns with the big Sequoia tree within the Burnley Gardens? Check it out next time you head out of the station. Or that there was once an avenue of Chinese Pistachios lining the central path?
Or that the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) had its origins right here at Burnley? The array of mismatched gardens along the top fence are the remains of the first student-designed-and-built display gardens, built for a garden show held for a few years in the late 1980s.
The area now taken over by Chris William’s edible forest was installed initially as a teaching area for hort students, complete with hedges and fruit trees for pruning practice. A number of the trees, like the citrus and stone fruit, still remain.
And that leaning row of pears, that confuses all of us? These have been grown as cordons, a method of training fruiting pears and apples, and borders this area along with the espaliered apples, albeit in a somewhat neglected form.
Those little huts? Green infrastructure research! That eucalypt forest? A research project on drought-tolerant species. That house? Previously a centre for school kids to come and learn all about alternative energy.
We learnt all of this and more, and it was a great way to spend an hour or so away from the books. Many thanks to Andrew for his time, knowledge and expertise.
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
On yet another gloriously warm spring day, Horticultured ventured out to CERES, joined by Engineers Without Borders Unimelb. CERES Community Park is also known as the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (not Ceres the Roman agricultural goddess, or dwarf planet).
Their main goal is to promote environmental sustainability - something both of our clubs are highly interested in. CERES do this through a range of initiatives including community gardens, educational workshops on everything from beekeeping to kombucha making, renewable energy demonstrations, and developing and trialling new green technologies.
While there is heaps to see and do on the 9-acre site, the main activity of the day was a tour of the sustainable water initiatives with Nick the site manager. CERES harvest and manage water from their carpark, sealed roads, roofs and the broader catchment area. This water is used to water their organic farm, in the Merri Table cafe and in a dam supporting biodiversity.
Nick is directly involved in many of the projects and gave us a great understanding of not only what they are doing and why, but also the challenges.
One example is the permeable pavement which CERES have been investigating in conjunction with industry and university partners. While it looks great on paper - roads which allow water to filter through and reduce stormwater peaks and floods - the reality is expensive and hard to maintain. Without labour intensive management, permeable roads can quickly become impermeable.
Recently re-surfacing a main service road required CERES to align reality with their goals of environmental sustainability. The solution was a convention impermeable road made of partially recycled tar and printer cartridges, with features to direct most of the runoff to a dam.
CERES is a very valuable urban site for investigating new technologies. The opportunity afforded by 9 acres of land in an inner-city suburb, passionate employees and generous donors and partners is rare in a city of ever-increasing development and density.
One of the themes that surfaced in the tour was that CERES should be a model for the future and innovation, but short-term grant funding and harsh regulatory compliance meant that they continually rely on tried-and-tested solutions and technologies. If we are serious about addressing the problems presented by climate change and expanding populations perhaps we need to show a little more bravery.
Thank you Nick for being so generous with your knowledge while showing us the water-saving initiatives operating at CERES. We had a great time and learned lots from walking around the gardens with you.
WORDS: Julianna Rozek, PHOTO: Barbara Lee
Have you ever wanted to know more about the trees around the Parkville campus? We did. So we organised a tour with the people who know them best - Virginia McInlay, arborist, and Andrew Gay, grounds supervisor, in the University’s Property and Campus Services.
We started off in the Systems Gardens with a brief introduction by Andrew, and then Virgina took us on a wander. There was no way we could visit all the trees (this time) but we did hear some fascinating stories and gain an understanding of the challenges in maintaining them.
Perhaps the most amazing trees were the remnant River Red Gums around the footy field, towards the colleges. None in the group had given them much thought before, or even ventured so far. But these trees have been around for 400 years, or more. They are the only remains of what used to be on the site before white settlers and professors roamed.
Thanks to Pete for organising it, and Virginia and Andrew for sharing.
WORDS: Julianna Rozek, PHOTOS: Julianna and Lambros
On a cold and clear day Horticultured ventured up to Macedon on our first official club outing. We car-pooled from Parkville and Burnley up to the Mount Macedon Trading Post for a cheerful lunch. Just next door is Dicksonia Rare Plants, and we couldn’t help ourselves. Apart from 2000 plants you’ve probably never even heard of, there were strange tools none of us could figure out (does anyone have any suggestions??).
The final destination was Tugurium, the legendary Stephen Ryan’s garden (best known for hosting Gardening Australia, but also being a generally awesome plant dude). The garden was accessible to the public as part of Open Gardens Australia, which has sadly shut down after 27 years. However an Open Gardens Victoria is starting up soon. Long live Open Gardens!
Despite being winter, cold and somewhat dreary, the gardens still had plenty of delight. The green roof provoked lots of comments - it was a DIY attempt on a pitched roof much different from the slick ones at Burnley. Despite some slumping and plant failures, the roof still looked green and is according to Stephen a favourite with design magazines.
We spent a while wandering about the gardens, trying to identify things. There were many noses poked into plants. Stephen gave a short talk describing his gardening philosophies and the development of Tugurium. Twenty-five years ago the garden was a bare, degraded grass-and-Eucalypt block with a hard yellow clay and no topsoil. Stephen imported organic matter and used a crowbar to dig out trenches and planted whatever caught his fancy at the time.
The trip was a great way to get away from the stress of exams (did we mention this was during swotvac?). Garden trips are also much more fun when shared with friends to ponder over plant names.
We are looking at organising more garden trips in the future, so keep an eye on the events page!
Read all about it: MUC Garden and Burnley Student Association share updates on their activities.