My neighbour told me that I should visit the National Arboretum Canberra the next time there was an open day and he was right! This past Sunday was the monthly public open day for what I’m sure will become one of Canberra’s major attractions when it is officially opened in 2013 as part of our Canberra Centenary celebrations.
If you are still not clear about what I’m referring to then you just need to picture that large tract of land along the Tuggeranong Parkway, near Scrivener Dam, which has for some years now been the scene of regular erection of coloured tree guards, guarding hundreds of young trees. This is the view from the top of Dairy Farmer’s Hill, back down along the Parkway towards Tuggeranong.
In 2004, after the whole area was burnt out in the 2003 bushfires, a design contest for the arboretum was called. The competition was won by Taylor Cullity Lethlean Landscape Architects, in conjunction with Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects. Their design was called 100 Forests,100 Gardens. The planting started in 2005 and features predominantly endangered species from around the world.
One hundred forests may seem rather a lot but the site is huge, 250 hectares. It includes the existing plantation of 5,000 Himalayan Cedars (Cedrus deodara), originally planted between 1917-23 with further plantings in 1928
and the Cork Oak plantation (Quercus suber), planted in 1917.
New plantings are continuing and quite a number of trees are starting to be more than just a green fuzz on the landscape. Sadly some of the new plantings have proven more than tempting to a number of mindless idiots who’ve stolen Dragon Trees (Draceana draco) from the arboretum. PS those Dragon Trees have amazing protection now!
Another attraction of the arboretum are the sculptures that are featured on the ridgelines. The most prominent can be seen by sharp-eyed passengers (drivers please don’t attempt this) while driving on the Parkway towards Black Mountain. This is the Wide Brown Land sculpture by Marcus Tatton, Chris Viney and Futago (2010), inspired by the words and handwriting of the poet Dorothea MacKellar.
Rather oddly the sculpture is surrounded by Californian Fan Palms and Chinese Tulip trees which seem to me unusual choices for plantings around this most famous evocation of our national landscape.
The other current major sculpture, Nest 111, by Richard Moffatt (2007) sits happily on Dairy Farmer’s Hill.
There is also lots happening in the building side of things. The new visitors centre with its dramatic sweeping roof is rapidly going up.
The architects view gives an impression of the finished building.
The surface facing of stonework reinforces the quality of the work that is evident even at this stage of the building process.
I was interested to read in the displays that one of the facilities to be built at the arboretum will be an ampitheatre for musical and theatrical performances. I’m certainly looking forward to sitting in the ampitheatre on a pleasant evening listening to good music under the stars. With views across the city like this I’m sure that the proposed ampitheatre will be a major draw-card for Canberrans as well as tourists.
Last Sunday also saw the opening of the Canberra Discovery Garden, designed to “inspire, educate and show you how to create a beautiful, sustainable and water-efficient garden”, which I’ll write about separately.
I’m really pleased that I’ve been to the arboretum now. While I’d seen pieces about it on Stateline and Gardening Australia, it is only by visiting the site that I really start ‘to get’ the place. There have also been quite a few knockers who have complained about the investment the ACT Government has put into this development – I don’t agree with them. I think there will be immense benefits to our community from such a visionary approach to what was previously only a series of pine plantations. So check it out for yourself!
While the arboretum is under construction it will only be open to the public on the second Sunday of every month. At present the scheduled open day dates are:
- Sunday 11 March 2012
- Sunday 1 April 2012
- Sunday 13 May 2012
- Sunday 10 June 2012