Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT - WITH JEN­NIFER STACKHOUSE

Tucked away at Grove in the Huon Val­ley is a sur­pris­ing gar­den. It’s a strik­ing blend of cool cli­mate ex­otics (mag­no­lias, camel­lias, rhodo­den­drons and the like) in­ter­spersed with an im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of Tas­ma­nian na­tive plants.

It’s the home of na­tive plant en­thu­si­ast Chris Lang. Lang is more than en­thu­si­as­tic about lo­cal flora — it’s his day job as well as he is Cu­ra­tor of Tas­ma­nian Flora at the Royal Tas­ma­nian Botan­i­cal Gar­den.

“I have been re­spon­si­ble for the Tas­ma­nian na­tive col­lec­tion at the Royal Tas­ma­nian Botan­i­cal Gar­dens since the col­lec­tion was es­tab­lished in 1991 and I quickly de­vel­oped a pas­sion for th­ese plants,” he ex­plains. Years of col­lect­ing in the field have taken Lang from moun­tain to coastal habi­tats.

“When we are col­lect­ing in the wild we keep an eye out for forms that have an in­ter­est­ing growth habit or other out­stand­ing fea­ture such as dou­ble flow­ers or fo­liage vari­a­tion that could make good gar­den spec­i­mens,” he says.

Among those found in­clude in­ter­est­ing forms of sil­ver banksia (Banksia marginata) and wiry bauera (Bauera ru­bioides), which are now grow­ing in the RTBG col­lec­tion.

“His­tor­i­cally, very few Tas­ma­nian na­tives were grown in the home gar­den as folk in the past opted for showier ex­otics and droughthardy main­land na­tives and re­ally the broad range of Tassie na­tives on of­fer now has only been avail­able in re­cent years thanks to nurs­eries that spe­cialise in our indige­nous flora.”

Back home in the Huon

Lang’s own gar­den has an in­ter­est­ing his­tory that’s tied up with one of Tassie’s iconic na­tive plants. It was once part of a larger prop­erty owned by Henry Longley.

“Henry came from Maid­stone in Kent, Eng­land — ap­ple coun­try like the Huon,” says Lang, whose house was built by Henry’s son Harry in the late 1800s and is called Maid­stone.

Longley be­came a Huon piner, who was known for metic­u­lous di­ary en­tries de­tail­ing the daily ac­tiv­i­ties of his fel­low work­ers. Piner is the name given to the men who went into the bush to fell Huon pines for tim­ber.

Lang ad­mits the prop­erty’s fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory en­cour­aged him to plant Huon pines and they’ve grown into ex­cel­lent gar­den plants. “Huon pine is a quin­tes­sen­tial Tas­ma­nian species and ar­guably the species most peo­ple re­quest to see at the RTBG,” he adds. “It is en­demic (mean­ing it doesn’t grow nat­u­rally any­where other than Tas­ma­nia). And, as the early pin­ers knew, it has very durable tim­ber.

“Peo­ple are sur­prised to hear that Huon pines are rel­a­tively easy to grow pro­vided they have ad­e­quate mois­ture and some pro­tec­tion from the hot af­ter­noon sun and dry­ing winds,” says Lang. “Young spec­i­mens have el­e­gant weep­ing fo­liage.” Where to see Tas­ma­nian na­tives

About 1900 vas­cu­lar taxa (species, sub­species, va­ri­eties) oc­cur nat­u­rally in Tas­ma­nia, a quar­ter of which oc­cur nowhere else in the world.

“Tas­ma­nia is home to many re­mark­able species: the lofty moun­tain ash (Eu­ca­lyp­tus reg­nans) is the world’s tallest flow­er­ing plant; Huon pine (La­garostro­bos franklinii) is a tree that can live in ex­cess of 3000 years; and Kings lo­ma­tia (Lo­ma­tia tas­man­ica), an an­cient plant clone dated in ex­cess of 43,600 years old. De­cid­u­ous beech (Nothofa­gus gun­nii) is Aus­tralia’s only cold cli­mate de­cid­u­ous tree.”

There are Tas­ma­nian na­tive-themed col­lec­tions at the RTBG, which this year is cel­e­brat­ing its bi­cen­te­nary.

Lo­cal Tas­ma­nian plants are at spe­cial­ist na­tive nurs­eries in­clud­ing Plants of Tas­ma­nia Nurs­ery at Ridge­way and Habi­tat Plants at Lif­fey.

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