News and Views
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE 2004
As I am writing this, albeit at Lavers Hill, it is pouring with rain outside. However, I learn from other members, in Victoria at least, that some rain is also going their way. Good news, and I hope that your planting can begin again.
There has been very little comment regarding the future of the Society, to John, Roger or to me. So we really have to conclude that we ARE doing what members want, i.e. providing a conifer network list and a once-a-year interesting and readable newsletter. I would however, like to see a meeting take place sometime next year. The last few times we have tried, apart from the three members who run the Society, there have only been one or two people who have shown any interest. Does this mean people are not interested at all, or do you have any ideas about when and where you would be prepared to show up to a meeting? It gets a bit frustrating to have people asking for meetings and then, when you plan one, they are nowhere to be seen!
I am at present getting a number of inquiries through from various individuals/establishments, asking for supply of seed of pine species, e.g. pinyons with edible potential. It seems that it is now virtually impossible to bring Pinus species into the country. The problem is that with immature specimens in a mixed garden planting, there is, in my view, too great a risk of hybridisation to bother collecting or growing on the seed. I guess that, looking back, we were lucky 15-20 years ago. Some members are now looking at cuttings or grafts for the rarer species.
I now personally find the costs and difficulties mean I no longer import any new material. But I am always willing to swap for something new!!
News and Views
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE 2003
Over half the year gone! Firstly, I am sorry we were unable to organise a get-together for a while. Unfortunately, your 'adhoc' officers, John Hawker, Roger Spencer and I could not find an opportune time. However, this is now remedied. Put Saturday, November 8th in your diary. We will have a get-together at Geelong Botanic Gardens. Meeting at 10.30 am at the new entrance facing Garden Street. The gardens has a very interesting old collection of 19th century conifers, as well as a new development recently opened. Hope to see you all there, as there will be a lot of business to conduct. Please let me know if you are coming, or if you need more details on (03) 5237 3263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie and I were in Britain earlier this year, visiting family. There were a couple of items of conifer interest, as well as the usual garden visits. A couple of years ago, while driving along the North Wales coast, between Caernarvon and Bangor, I nearly broke my neck twisting around to look at a very strange-looking Araucaria. There are many species of A. araucana as garden and road-side trees in this area- but this one appeared to be a bit different. However, the traffic prevented me from doing a u-turn and stopping. I was all set this year to go and have another look. Well, it certainly was 'a bit different'! Believe it or not, my bizarre Araucaria was actually a mobile phone tower, which had been purposely and cunningly camouflaged to look like a real local specimen of Araucaria. The 'branches' were painted brown, and the 'leaves' were attached green plastic triangles. Perhaps the photo of it will grab your attention!
On a more sombre note - conifers led to a murder. Two old gentlemen had a long-standing neighbour's dispute, and the result was that one killed the other, with an axe. What has this to do with conifers? Well, what they were actually arguing about was a 'hedge' which one of them had planted between their houses - of Leyland Cypresses. I have these here at Lavers Hill, and they grow fast and very, very big. It is incredible that they are being sold as suitable for a dividing hedge in small suburban blocks. Those of you who are familiar with the UK will know just how small some of these blocks are. How anyone could hope to fit a 60'+ high hedge in, let alone the width they grow to... words fail me! My cousin had just planted about 10 of these, about 3 feet apart along his back fence, and had absolutely no idea how big they would grow. He had been told they would be a nice quick-growing bushy hedge, which I suppose is the truth. Lovely hedge, pity about the garden... and the neighbour's garden... and the sun...
We hope that you find this newsletter interesting and informative. Roger is finding it increasingly difficult to get material, so if you found it boring and full of nothing you wanted to know, you know what to do about it for next year. Get those pens and paper out (or preferably computers and discs, but anything will do) and write an article, or send some news. The newsletter is only as good as its contributors, so how about it?
I hope that those of you who need it are getting rain. Lavers Hill, as usual, is wet. In fact we are slightly above our average 2 metres of rain, both this and last year.
Tel/fax 03 5237 3263
News and Views
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE 2001
A happy entry into the new millennium to all members! Now at last, we can say that we really did plant specimens ‘last century’.
We had hoped to have planned for a day ‘get-together’, as we did last winter, but this did not eventuate for a variety of reasons. In another society I am in, members take it in turns to organize these days, not just leaving it up to the committee. Is there a member who would like to do this in their area? It has to be fairly central geographically. I recall that this was raised last year by a member who offered to do this for us at the Dandenong Arboretum. Are you still interested? If so, please give me a ring.
Earlier this year, Julie and I visited Europe on a family trip. At John Hawker’s suggestion, we visited the Chevreloup Arboretum, which is ‘just over the wall’ from the Palace of Versailles, an easy train trip from Paris. We had a wonderful day there, being shown around by the just-retired director, Georges Callen and his wife Danielle. The arboretum is large, and well worth a visit to see the old Atlas Cedars and Abies, just to mention a couple of interest.
After that, we went over to Scotland for a visit to my family. The conifer highlights included seeing the magnificent avenue of Sequoiadendron at Benmore an inspiration for planting with the future in mind This garden on the West coast is also growing an extensive collection of Chilean species as a conservation project. Further North, we visited Scone Palace near Perth, where David Douglas was an apprentice. I was thrilled to find at least one old, venerable Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) identified as being of original Douglas seed collection. The arboretum here is attempting to grow a wide selection of Douglas introductions as a feature. However, it was rather quaint to see all the love, care and protection going into looking after very small, somewhat mangy specimens of Pinus radiata, which were scarcely, - if at all, hardy there! Small frost-bitten specimens swathed in elaborate shade cloth and huge tree guards! Almost as precious in appearance as the Wollemi Pine now starting to appear in our botanic gardens.
I remind members again of the opportunity to attend the Araucariaceae conference in Auckland next March, 2002. I caught up with Graeme Platt, the organizer, a few weeks ago, and he was delighted to see it coming together. Included are an address by David de Laubenfels, and optional field visits to Northern New Zealand Kauri forests, and New Caledonia. Details are included in the conference prospectus available from Graeme.
Mentioning Araucarias, I draw members attention to the book review in this newsletter. If you are looking for a bargain book to buy yourself, then this is the one you are looking for.
Best wishes to everyone.
Otway Ridge Arboretum
Lavers Hill Victoria, 3238
It hardly seems like a year since I had the task of sitting down to write the Presidents report. Welcome to the new millennium! Its probably a bit belated to say it, but it can apply to either last January or the next one!
I am not aware if any of our members attended the 4th Conifer Conference in the UK last year. I have seen a report on this in the International Dendrology Society Year Book and it appeared to have gone well. Now the UK is a long way away but Auckland, New Zealand isnt, and for those interested, there will be an International Symposium dedicated to the Araucariaceae, in March 2002. The initial flyer is published in this newsletter.
We had our own Society get-together at Melbourne Botanic Gardens, which was the best we have had, with a very full and interesting day put together by John and Roger. We are very grateful to the Royal Botanic Gardens for providing the venue free to the Society. A separate write-up covers most of what we got up to. One point of important discussion was raised i.e. should the Society be an incorporated body? At the moment, we are functioning as a study group with Honorary President, Editor and Treasurer/Secretary. However, we do have a bank account and put out a newsletter. With this set-up, it appears, as I have been advised by a solicitor, that ALL members could be held liable for the society finances etc. My solicitor friend tells me he can prepare our Model Rules and Incorporation documents for around $400. We would then have legal protection. There is also a small annual fee. In my opinion, after his advice, we should become incorporated. I would be interested to hear members views, but I would intend to pursue this formally before our next meeting planned for 2001. This sounds a big step but as I understand, for example, if someone broke a leg on a Society day out, we could at present all be held liable.
The membership fee to join the Society in February 1987 was $10 for Australian members and $12 for overseas members. Membership was increased in July 1990 to $12 and $14 respectively. Now, 11 years later, we must increase our membership fees to cover increasing costs. Some of the increase is due to the GST taxation system and increasing newsletter costs, and a probable need to become incorporated. I'm sure you all agree that our newsletter is an excellent publication, now with photographs, and is something to be very proud of.
Anyway, Roger wants this report in a hurry, so to close, I wish all members an enjoyable year with their conifers. Please do write articles for Roger! I hope to see you at next years meeting.
Alistair Watt, Otway Ridge Arboretum
Lavers Hill, Victoria, 3238
|Pinus canariensis||Pinus nigra||Pinus radiata||Pinus sylvestris|
I hope everyone has had a happy and successful year. Roger has once again put together a most interesting newsletter for members to enjoy. I have had the opportunity during the last year to meet quite a few members who have commented on the lack of communication we have. John Hawker, Roger Spencer and I had a meeting in Melbourne to discuss The Conifer Society and decided it was time for some action. It has been decided to organise a major get-together in Melbourne, with guest speakers etc. details will follow. Please make every effort to attend if you can.
Now, more Society business. We have a significant amount of money in our bank account, and need to find a use for it. (I wish I had that problem personally!) We did produce two newsletters a year for a while, but unfortunately didnt receive enough copy to justify this. These funds could be made available for special projects, e.g. we bought a share in a collecting expedition to Mexico by Michael Frankis. Significant additions to Mexican species now in cultivation have resulted. If you have a project in mind, do write to me. However, please bear in mind that the results would have to benefit Society members as a whole, or the community e.g. Botanic Gardens conifer projects. We arent thinking of donations to private gardens.
In October 1998 I had the pleasure of visiting the UK, principally to see the family, but I did take the opportunity to visit some gardens. At Kew, with Aljos Farjon, it was most interesting to get a feel for the history behind the place, but also to see the great new taxonomic work that Aljos is doing. His position is Curator of Conifers and thats what he studies from Tasmania to Tibet, in fact. He has recently published or co-authored new works on Central American Pines and is at present working on a major review of Junipers. Together with Chris Page, he has also found time to undertake a major report for the IUCN, regarding the conservation status of ALL the worlds endangered conifer species around 150 pages covering 300 plus species. This report will be published and available to members in the near future. Personally, I am very pleased to have contributed the section on one conifer hot spot New Caledonia.
At Edinburgh Gardens I saw a different aspect, less taxonomic, but very conservation-directed. Martin Gardener runs the Conifer Conservation Project as his main duty. Very strong on problem identification and solving, then applying education etc. A main area for study has been Chile. Martin was also going to be considering New Caledonia as a next project which I thought to be a bizarre undertaking from 10,000 miles away. However, no Australian institution has been able to undertake the task! (Wind-in-the-Willows-in-the-Park is more appropriate for us, it seems.)
Now I must end with an indulgence and tell you all a story
Once upon a time, grew a large ancient tree, recognised as scientifically important, and sacred to our Aborigines, as well as being very beautiful. A botanical researcher from overseas studying this species wants to date the tree so with a borrowed chain saw he cuts it down! As he was well aware, his written colleting permit specifically forbade destructive sampling, but he cut it down anyway. When the authorities found out, he had an excuse the local representative of a major mining company had said it would be OK (to cut it down) something they now deny anyway.
Sounds impossible, doesnt it? But it really is true, with a couple of changes. It didnt happen in Australia, but in New Caledonia. The researcher was from overseas but was in fact from Australia. It happened this year and was a magnificent Araucaria muelleri and it was in an area which was to be made a reserve to cover a particular stand of this species. It is now several months after it happened, and I still cant believe anyone could be so thoughtless, or his institution so lacking in responsibility.
The results have been swift. His research team are banned from any further work in New Caledonia. Fair enough. But, of course, the spin-offs affect all present and future permits, with the introduction of new draconian permit conditions. I was visiting just after this happened and it was very sad to experience the results. For the first time, after seven collecting trips since 1987, it was suggested privately to me that now would not be a good time, politically, to ask for a collecting permit. As it happens, this time was just a holiday, but it could have been a completely wasted trip. An article appeared in the Nouméa newspaper, with the headline A sacred Araucaria felled at Goro by Australian researchers.
As a final twist of irony, the tree, or rather its stump, will get a commemorative plaque. One of the conservation groups intends to erect a memorial honouring and naming the individual and his institution who cut it down. I hope I never see it.
All the best.
Alistair Watt, Otway Ridge Arboretum, Lavers Hill, Victoria 3238.
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