Thursday, October 1, 2009

Peacehaven Botanic Park.

I went wandering in this park again this week, and had the pleasure of running into Robert Campbell (Toowoomba Regional Council, Parks and Gardens Highfields), who is responsible for the planting and maintenance of this remarkable botanic garden.

Aphananthe philippensis

A dense plant which might prove to be good for hedging.

I found out that the park is younger than I thought, with these local native trees being only two years olds I am very impressed!
Robert tells me they have not been watered since they were planted. He credits the fast growth to the large hole which he digs for each one. (I gathered, from the general hand-waving, that these holes were about a metre across, and something approaching the same depth.) He scatters some slow release native fertiliser in with the soil as it is replaced, puts on a deep layer of course forest mulch, and the results speak for themselves!

Acronychia laevis

An ornamental plant with unusual blue and pink fruits

A garden full of plants of local provenance is something that hasn’t been done here before. We Toowoomba people are so used to having access only to “native” plants which have been brought in from elsewhere. Plants from local sources are now available, but haven’t made much impact, yet, on the local gardening scene. Robert did point out to me that much of the credit for Peacehaven’s ability to display this special range of plants is due to Steve Plant, (Natural Resource Management Field Officer TRC Northern Region) who has done some groundbreaking work in establishing the community nursery at Crows Nest. There, Steve grows local plants from local seed, and this is what Robert is growing at Peacehaven.

Clerodendrum tomentosum
A plant that stands out twice a year. In spring it has these perfumed flowers, then in summer it has very ornamental fruits.

It is really quite exciting to have something, in our own district, which is following the grand old tradition of botanic gardens - doing useful work in trialling plants. Our great Australian botanic gardens were established, like their overseas counterparts, to trial exotic plants. Their successes have become the staples of traditional Australian gardening.

These neat, permanent plant labels were sponsored by individuals and community groups, in a project organised by the Friends of Peacehaven, a group which meets there on Thursday mornings.

Meanwhile, Australian plants were being trialled overseas with enthusiasm, beginning when Captain Cook’s voyage arrived home with its collection of specimens. Much of our initial knowledge about how to grow our own natives was discovered overseas. Successful eucalyptus oil, and cut flower industries using Australian species, were established in faraway countries as a result of research done there. Australian plants were used in gardens in Britain and Europe long before they became popular here.

Elaeocarpus kirtonii
A tree from the Bunya Mountains

As a nation we have recently come the full circle, with our modern botanic gardens trialling Australian plants for use in Australian gardens.
And now, in our own district, we have a place where we can see our own local native plants in a public garden setting, all neatly labelled so we know just what we’re looking at.
They do impress! These are clearly good garden plants.
How to find Peacehaven: If coming from Toowoomba, turn left at the first Highfields traffic light, into Cawdor Road. Take the third turn on the right, into Kuhl’s Road. (Stan Kuhl was the man whose general bequest of the land, to Crows Nest Shire Council, made the park possible.) Peacehaven Botanic Park is on the left, just a little way along.

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