Should we visit our Botanic Gardens in winter? I put the question to Bede Nottingham who, amongst other things co-ordinates the work of the qualified gardeners of the eight sections within the complex.
“Yes,” he tells me emphatically. He recommends multiple visits throughout the year to really appreciate our Botanic Gardens.
“This time of year it is easy to appreciate the structure of the gardens and trees. The twisted branches have an attraction as do the different colours of barks.
“The normally colourful Herbaceous Border is very much at ground level. The roses are also in a bare state. In winter the evergreens really stand out.
“Return in three months and the growth will be apparent,” he says. He also mentions some winter flowering.
He tells me ground staff year round primarily tweak their collections. Major, major work is rarely done. Branches damaged in snow storms over the past year have presented some of the bigger tasks. And, presently, the herb garden is being relocated to the Curator’s House. And he recommends the Caterpillar tour in winter. It’s a comfortable way to get around and the commentaries are informative. The Caterpillar guides know the plants and trees and can talk about the early years when the Botanic Gardens served as a nursery to propagate trees for Canterbury and its farmers.
“There is always something different to experience. We are also lucky with the seasons bringing relatively quick changes.”
Bede leads me to an appropriate tree to take his photograph. It is curiously named a Corkscrew Hazel and does present corkscrew shapes that will be disguised by foliage for much of the year.
Having taken the photograph, I wander off with my camera. The Caterpillar tour passes. It is chocker with students visiting from Sydney. I pass occasional wheelbarrows with piles of neat cuttings nearby. Many trees are remarkably photogenic. I enjoy looking at the pair of tall Australian gums, the deeply wrinkled bark of the cork tree, weird twists of the Japanese maples, and discover this is the best time of year to appreciate and photograph the Botanic Garden’s oldest tree; the Albert Edward Oak planted by Enoch Barker on July 9, 1863 to commemorate a Royal Wedding. I am not alone. A couple from the United States is tracking wood pigeons with their cameras. A small number of mothers are giving their kids some fresh air. Some people are just enjoying some winter exercise as I am doing. I am looking forward to being back in spring…