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.