Caterpillar Garden tour guides will tell their riders that the founding of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is anchored to the planting of the Albert Edward Oak, by Government gardener Enoch Barker, on July 9 1863.
The planting commemorated the wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
One hundred and fifty years later, on July 9 2013 a small crowd gathered on the Armstrong lawn behind the William Moorhouse statue for another tree planting, this time by a local lad, Nfagie Yansaneh of Wharenui School. Nfagie had been involved with a winning entry at this year’s Ellerslie Flower Show. After throwing a shovel load of soil into the prepared plot, others including Mayor Bob Parker and Botanic Gardens curator John Clemens, took up shiny shovels to lend a hand. The Mayor was also a guest speaker telling us of a great Christchurch legacy with the Gardens attracting one million visitors annually. I recall a good number of them going there on our Christchurch Tramway. Hopefully that will be the case again when the trams return by summer.
The mayor also talked about the great variety of trees from around the world making it an enviable collection and arguably the best in New Zealand.
For pioneer tree planters it meant future city citizens would not need to travel widely to see many exotic specimens.
Science was accompanying botany in 1901 when British explorer Robert Falcon Scott had a magnetic observatory built to calibrate instruments prior to setting off for Antarctica. The facility was used for many years. One building remains.
The afternoon was dark grey and chilly. But the rain mercifully held off. Events continued in the nearby Dome facility in NorthHagleyPark. Some amazing images were seen on video screens, entries from a photographic completion held in celebration of the anniversary.
Over 700 entries from amateur and professionals demonstrated the creative opportunities our Botanic Gardens offer to diligent camera wielders.
As a photographer I was envious of some images. One magnificently captured a falling autumn leaf. Another showed a smiling face, undoubtedly a hapless parent, peering from the huge heap of leaves he was buried in. Others skilfully captured close-ups of plant anatomy.
Photo judging was by Mayoress Jo Nicholas Parker, herself an accomplished photographer, and Christchurch Press illustrations editor, Richard Cosgrove.
Our caterpillar vehicles driven by garden guides Suzie and Ian were put to good use transporting guests to the Dome venue.
As spring approaches over coming weeks, it will be a good time to get along to the Botanic Gardens. Take an informative Caterpillar tour and also check out the new visitor facility being constructed as an anniversary project.