Sunday, March 29, 2015

Australia's National Arboretum, part 1

Today we had a family outing to the National Arboretum of Australia, as we had been meaning to do for quite some time already. The arboretum only opened in 2013, as it had been built after the devastating 2003 bush fires on what used to be pine plantations.

Most parts of the arboretum are therefore very recent plantings and will only look interesting twenty years from now. Among the few forest elements that are older is the cork oak plantation seen above. It was planted shortly after Canberra's founding to give the city its own supply of cork. Another is a large stand of Himalayan cedars that is now home to a nice barbecuing site and outlook, and unfortunately some pine plantations have also survived the fires.

When I think of the arboretums I have seen in other parts of the world, I see park-like plantings of many different species of trees, often with an ecological or geographic theme: this is the forest of the Appalachian mountains of North America, over here is a typical mountain forest in southern China, and so on. It is therefore somewhat puzzling that the National Arboretum apparently decided that it would simply divide its area into 104 large cells and then plant only one (rarely two) species in each cell.

Seen in the picture above is the cell for the Californian Fan Palm, and as one can see it contains only Californian Fan Palms, and they are planted in straight lines, and the lines are very far apart. I have no idea why anybody would think that this would be of any particular interest to even a very charitable visitor even twenty years from now when the palms are taller. There will be lines and lines of the same type of tree of the same height, without any underlying story to it. How charming. Did the designers never visit other arboreta? Or is this all perhaps merely meant to safeguard genetic resources as opposed to educate the public?

Well, at least the background of the picture also shows that the arboretum provides magnificent views over Canberra...

...which are sadly marred by so-called artwork that looks like scrap metal. I will never understand why it is considered appropriate to clutter botanical gardens and parks that people visit for the plants and flowers with sculptures. Each to their own I guess.

But I don't want to come across as too negative. The so-called village centre depicted above is currently perhaps the greatest attraction. It features a restaurant / café, a shop, a large science exhibit, ...

...the truly awesome pod playground, which our daughter ultimately had to be dragged away from (I mean, just look at it!), and Australia's National Bonsai and Penjing Collection. These last two alone are worth the visit, and because this has already got quite long I will keep the Bonsai collection for another post, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

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