and then fire and then more drought .......
Nightingale, Curator, Living Collections
drought that has affected much of southern Austalia continues
to have a visible effect on the Gardens into the last half of
February 2003. As Canberra's water storages have dropped, we
have put in place many measures to conserve water and to satisfy
a voluntary agreement made with ACTEW under
its Water Restrictions Scheme. Because of this we have had to
accept that the plant displays are not as vigorous and healthy
as they could have been. Some plants have died, while others
continue to look very thirsty. Some soil mixes have become hydrophobic
or water repellent under the continuing dry condtions, making
it very difficult to get moisture into the soil through normal
irrigation practices. Despite some success with using wetting
agents to overcome this problem, it seems that no amount of
applied irrigation is quite as good for our plants as regular
our water usage, the water recirculation pumps in the older
and leakier water features have been turned off and irrigation
of the lawn areas has been reduced, so that the grass is not
as lush and green as in normal years. While most of the irrigation
of the Gardens occurs in the evening under pre-programmed automatic
control there were a number of areas that were only on manual
irrigation control, where a horticulturist was needed to be
present to turn a tap on. Where possible, these areas have been
put under automatic control so that they can be watered in the
evening, when irrigation is most efficient. For the areas that
still require watering during the day, sprinklers or micro-sprays
have been used in the mornings only, to avoid wasting water
through the high evaporation rates that occur in the afternoons.
As a result, horticultural staff have spent much time over the
past few months hand watering the plants that needed it, trying
to get the precious moisture into the soil profile where the
plants can use it. Horticultural managers and staff have continued
to identify irrigation efficiencies wherever they could be found.
was also a major factor in giving life to the fires that destroyed
many homes in Canberra and came fairly close to threatening
the ANBG from the southwest on Saturday 18 January. The Gardens
were evacuated on the afternoon of that day and were closed
to the public for a number of days after because of safety concerns.
The summer concert program came to a halt for two successive
weekends because of the extreme fire danger at the time. Over
this period all of Canberra was clothed in dense smoke from
the nearby fires making it very unpleasant for everyone. Although
the smoke cleared in early February, the drought has continued.
these difficulties, the Gardens has survived pretty well so
far. As I write this on Friday 21 February, good soaking rain
has been falling since early morning. What a relief this is
to us all! Perhaps the worst is over, but only time will
tell. Water restrictions are likely to continue for a while
yet, and may even become more stringent as the water supplies
could become polluted from soot and other undesirable materials
created by the bushfires being washed into the reservoirs by
the rain. At least with the days getting shorter and cooler
there will be less evapotranspirational pressure on our plants.
We will continue to investigate irrigation efficiencies and
to make the most of what we have learned from dealing with the
drought. I am sure that, with a return to fairly normal weather
patterns, the Gardens will flourish, and bloom, again soon.
Martin, Communications Officer
cultural institutions like the National Library, Questacon and
the National Gallery. I have a background in events management
and public relations and hope to bring various skills and experiences
to this fantastic position at the Gardens.
My name is Cheryl Martin and I have rececently taken up
the position of Communications Officer in the Visitor
Services section of the Gardens. Some of you I have already
met and worked with during my first couple of months here
at the Gardens and I hope to meet many more of you soon.
moving across to the Gardens, I worked for the Department
of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
and worked closely with
I have had the opportunity to see the Gardens at its busiest
during the conert season and school holiday period, when visitors
took advantage of the many activities co-ordinated by the Gardens
staff, the Friends of the Gardens and the Volunteer Guides.
Herbarium and Library Tour
Walker, Volunteer Guide
the Friends' AGM on 13 February, a group of interested Friends
were given a fascinating tour of the Cryptogam Herbarium and
the ANBG Library. The herbarium tour was led by Dr Christine
Cargill, the Curator of Crytogams, while Catherine Jordan, the
ANBG librarian, led the tour of the library.
started her tour by explaining that the term 'crytogam' meant
'hidden marriage' and referred to the hidden way in which cryptogams
reproduce. While they are a large and varied group of organisms,
all are united by their reproduction by spores. They do not
have flowers or seeds. Cryptogams include ferns and fern allies,
bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts), algae, fungi
and lichens. The herbarium itself is a collection of preserved
plant and fungal specimens and their associated data, and is
primarily concerned with scientific research and in the documentation
of the vast diversity of plant and fungal life.
the herbarium, samples of herbarium specimens were displayed
for Friends, ranging from the larger ferns on herbarium sheets
to the smaller mosses and lichens in special paper packets and
cardboard boxes. The group was also shown how the specimens
are stored in the herbarium by way of cabinets with drawers
for the bryophytes or in boxes on shelves in a compactus, as
for the lichens, fungi and ferns.
library, Catherine was able to explain to the Friends the resources
available on cryptogams, including recently published books
as well as those from the rare books collection. For those interested
in the flowery prose used by many writers a century ago, two
of these are particularly fascinating. In 1893 George Murray
started his review of the first, Romance of Low Life amongst
Plants by M.C. Cooke (published by the Society for Promoting
Christian Knowledge!) by saying :
must still be in these piping times a number of innocent
people who delight to hear of the wonders of Nature, for
whom the search after truth has no attraction if it be not
marvellous in its revelation ... if such a book had to be
written it is plain that he is the man to write it. He ...
knows just the kind of thing that tickles.
headings like Moor Balls, Boiled Algae, Gory Dew, Sexuality
in Agarics and Blood Rain, he certainly does! However,
Cooke evidently was not too impressed by Nardoo (of Burke and
Wills fame). He wrote :
'Nardoo' must be classed as famine plants which have been
resorted to in dire extremety and which for a time have
sustained human life. As such they are to be remembered,
although no one would think of resorting to them, as articles
of food, unless impelled thereto by necessity.
of the second of these rare books Whys and Ways of the Bush
by Christopher Mudd, makes it abundantly clear for whom the
book is written :
book is not for Botanists. They are few in number. Government
Departments issue books for them. This one is for the People.
It is a humble attempt to get men and women into touch with
the delights of our Australian Bush. This touch is enobling
and adds a new world to a man's life.
obviously fascinated by lichens. He wrote :
are mysterious and wonderful plants ... Some species of
lichens are as fine as cobwebs; others more like coarse
lace work cut out of fine leather. Their work is to turn
hard rock into organic soil, by a process of microscopic
root penetration and chemical action. They hold the soil
for moss and fern to utilise. The matted mass of lichen
growth can defy wind and rain sweeping away the manufactured
soil. To see and revel in these paradises of Cryptogams
- neither mushroom nor moss - is to discard the idea of
"lower to higher".
language may lack the scientific objectivity that would be expected
today, it is certainly effective in conveying the author's enthusiasm
for his subject.
Report 2002 - 2003
have started 2003 rather perilously, though the Gardens has
not been directly affected. However, closures have occurred
on some days and there has been restricted access on total fire
ban days. The Gardens suffered damage in September when high
winds and falling branches caused a potential danger to staff
activities have fulfilled our objectives in supporting the Gardens,
but Council needed to make some changes to the Friends' Constitution
and this need became more immediate when we received a generous
offer by Friends to finance a special project in the Gardens.
We have no power to receive tax-deductible gifts and so we have
been working through the process to set up a Public Fund as
required by Environment Australia and the Australian Taxation
Office to obtain this status.
sources of revenue for the Friends continued to be derived from
membership fees and from summer concerts, Grazing in the Gardens,
plant sales and an art exhibition. Again the concerts have drawn
large audiences, though concerts on two weekends had to be cancelled
because of the bushfire situation. In spite of various competing
musical events at other venues around Canberra we attracted
good crowds. Friends and staff have given their time and enthusiasm
generously in running the concerts and collecting donations
at each performance.
the Summer Concerts
: Andrew Walker
in the Gardens was another successful evening with over 320
participants. Again the food and music was well received and
the new rockery lawn development was a pleasant space for the
pre-dinner gathering. Council wishes to thank Bev Fisher and
the volunteers and staff who assisted for the smooth running
of the evening.
Competition for High Schools and Secondary Colleges was held
again in 2002. There were 200 entries and $2900 in prizes was
awarded at the well-attended presentation. We thank Barry Brown
and Denise Ferris who had the difficult task of judging the
entries. Details of the competition, as well as photos, are
on the Friends' website.
projects we fund come from a twice-yearly call to staff and
members of the Friends to put forward suggestions which must
then be approved by the Director. Funding in the last year was
given for the design work for the extension of the Rock Garden
and redevelopment of the adjoining lawn area. Planting was carried
out last spring and an official launch of the garden took place
on 27 October.
were : the purchase of tree ferns for the Rainforest Gully;
photographs chosen from the ANBG collection, to be enlarged
and framed for public exhibition; additional palms for the Rainforest
Gully; renovation of section 131, the garden in front of the
Ellis Rowan building.
so many other societies we have been faced with the dilemma
of how to deal with the public liability insurance cost increases.
We are fortunate that Parks Australia insurance covers Friends'
Activities on site, excluding medical expenses. Volunteers are
deemed to be staff for insurance purposes and so are covered
for medical expense. However, the extent of cover is limited
after age 65. Off-site activities have required separate cover
for a stated number of walks and tours beyond the Gardens' boundaries.
A new Guides
training course was held through the year with 26 successful
applicants. The Guides training program won the ACT Adult Learners
Week Award in August. During the year Guides gave 849 walks
with 3500 visitors shown around the Gardens. From February to
March an extra daily walk at 10am has been offered as well as
twilight walks on Wednesday evenings.
issues of the Newsletter have been produced, each one with a
superb cover picture and interesting and varied content. Between
issues the Occasional Newsletter keeps us in touch with other
planned activities. We now have to arrange our own mailing of
the newsletter because of changes to the ANBG system. This has
added a substantial cost to the Friends.
Activities sub-committee arranged an interesting and varied
program this year with talks, bush walks, bird walks, a weekend
enjoying the spring treasures of the Bundanoon area and special
evenings for new members. We hope members are finding these
events stimulating. The Friends acknowedge the Gardens' assistance
in publicising events and activities and in providing signage
for Friends' events.
Friends had a successful year with propagation activities and
subsequent sales. Two plant sales were held during the year
and members of the group assisted Gardens' staff with propagation
workshops for schools and the public during Science Week.
had a pleasing increase in memberships - 1254 at 1 February,
compared with 1062 in 2002. Council at its last meeting passed
a resolution that membership fees will need to be increased
in our next financial year, due to increased costs.
were approached by the royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, on behalf
of Botanic Gardens Conservation Interntional, to ask if we would
sponsor a delegate from a neighbouring country to attend the
5th International Congress on Education in Botanic Gardens.
We agreed to sponsor Mrs Endo Guof, Education Officer of Department
of Forests at Lae, PNG.
agreed to host the conference of the Association of Friends
of Botanic Gardens in April 2004. Originally a Victorian association,
it has now been expanded nationally and we are the first Friends
group outside Victoria to host the conference since it became
a national association.
Council reviewed the Strategic Plan to see that we reached our
goals for 2002 and to set those for 2003. This year we expect
to achieve a more integrated promotion of the Friends' activities
with the appointment of Cheryl Martin as Communications Officer.
The roles of Council members are to be reviewed, as is the method
of funding projects. We will also launch the Public Fund as
soon as it is finally approved.
our year we acknowledge the great amount of support we receive
from the Director, Robin Nielsen, and all the staff, both in
the information they share and by active involvement in Friends'
As I complete
my term as President I would like to say how much I have appreciated
working with the Council, the Members and the staff in the achievements
made over these years. The Friends have become a very visible
part of the Gardens, especially the Guides, who project the
special nature of its collection. I am sure our relationship
will long sustain the importance of this Australian garden.
New Friends Council
Wicksteed and Loris Howes have recently retired from the Friends
Council, each having served two full terms as President and
Vice President respectively. We thank them both for the significant
contributions they have made to the development of the Friends
over the past few years.
Walker (Newsletter editor and volunteer guide), and David Mellowship
(Membership Secretary), were elected to the positions of President
and Vice President respectively at the Friends AGM held on
13 February. John Burdett, Barbara Podger and Warwick Wright,
all of whom have been 'active' Friends and volunteer guides
for some years, were elected as new Council members. Fortunately
for the work of the Council, there will be much needed continuity
in the key positions of Secretary (Margaret Mansfield) and Treasurer
(Beverley Fisher). Shirley McKeown (Web site) and Alan Munns
also remain on the Council and Margaret Lynch (Activities Co-ordinator)
has agreed to continue her involvement until her departure from
Canberra later this year..
New Membership Fees
were advised at the recent AGM of increases in membership fees,
to be implemented from August 2003. Friends' membership fees
have not changed since the inception of the Friends in 1990
and, while the benefits to Friends have increased since then,
the costs involved in running the organisation have increased
significantly, to a point where they have reduced our capacity
to support the Gardens. The new fees still compare favourably
with those levied by equivalent organisations associated with
other national institutions in Canberra.
seven Friends joined the lunchtime walk on February 20 to look
at the enhancement of the rainforest gully plantings, a project
supported by the Friends. Horticulturalist Toby Golson and Collectons
Officer Stuart Donaldson pointed out the large number of wonderful
epiphytes (ferns and orchids) that have been placed throughout
the gully as well as the mature specimens within the Queensland
plantings which have enhanced the thematics of the gully. These
included a large group of Cyathea cooperi, a number of
Stenocarplus sinuatus, Livistona australis and Archontophoenix
cunninghamiana. A further 50 A. cunninghamiana are
on order and are to be added to the plantings north of the middle
March, 2003 by Shirley McKeown - email :