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.
There were just two of us brave enough to face the 16 degree weather at the garden today, so we pottered around and did a few little jobs. First of all, we pruned the apple trees, not hard (save that for winter), but just to take out a bit of their height. We should have done this in summer but time gets away from us sometimes! We also pruned the native raspberries back to their rough topiary forms - they grow so vigorously that it seems like we are always pruning them!
We re-planted the lettuces that have fallen victim to slug attacks and spread a lot of coffee grounds around them to hopefully keep the slugs and snails at bay this time (thanks Carte for the coffee grounds!). As we worked, we snacked on more midgen berries and alpine strawberries from the garden (sorry, no photos - they were too delicious to wait).
Read all about it: MUC Garden and Burnley Student Association share updates on their activities.