Pinetum noun, plural pineta [pahy-nee-tuh] An arboretum of pines and coniferous trees. (dictionary.com)
The widely accepted story of Geelong’s Eastern Park is that Daniel Bunce (Curator 1857-1872) laid out the Botanic Gardens in what we now call Eastern Park, with “labyrinthine paths” and beds as seen in the 1864 photograph and map on display in the Gardens’ meeting room.
He was also well known to have planted “blue gums” (probably Eucalyptus gobulus), as a fast growing shelter bed. By the time of Bunce’s death in 1872, when John Raddenberry took over the management of the Gardens, the blue gums were starting to look tatty and were removed, the complex beds of the wider Park simplified and eventually abandoned and the focus of the Gardens narrowed down to the Nursery garden, which remained the “Botanical Gardens” until the expansions in the early 1960s.
Most of the trees in Eastern Park today do not date back to the very early days of the Gardens. We are currently in a period of replanting, and this is the second and perhaps, for some areas of the Park, third or even fourth time this has happened in the history of the Botanic Gardens (but that is another story).
But who first planted the grounds as a pinetum (an arboretum focusing on conifers)?
This honour is generally given to John Raddenberry as part of the remodeling of the large and unmanageable Botanical Garden into a Park with associated Nursery (botanical) garden.
Recent evidence has come to light to suggest that it was in fact Daniel Bunce who was responsible for the pinetum style of planting, and that it has continued under successive curators with more or less vigor to the present day.
On May 28, 1863, the Geelong Advertiser reported:
… The Curator of the Botanical Gardens has just received a case containing Conifera and other trees indigenous to Queensland, from Mr Walter Hill, the Manager of the botanical Gardens at Brisbane. The donation is most opportune, and will materially assist in the large Pinetum now being formed in the grounds. It is the third present of the same kind which Mr Bunce has received from the Brisbane Gardens during the last three years. Mr McNaughton kindly took charge of the case from Brisbane to Geelong.
So it seems that establishing a pinetum was in fact part of Bunce’s early plans for the Gardens.
Even before this, Bunce had already started planting in pines:
Around the hill on which Mr. Bunce’s house stands some three hundred pines, numbering nearly a hundred varieties, have been planted, which, when grown up, will add a charming feature to the grounds. It is also intended to plant a large number of the conifer family along the principal carriage drives within the gardens…
… In the forcing-house and conservatory there is a number of young plants of the various pine tribes indigenous to the colonies-some from Mount Zero, others from the Victoria River, Lake Torrens, Lake Hindmarsh, Cooper’s Creek, &c., and they are seen to be growing vigorously. (Geelong Advertiser 3/7/1862)
Not just any pines either but a range of “interesting specimens”. The area around the curators cottage still has some more unusual conifers.
By November 7, 1862, The Advertiser reported that some of these new trees were in the ground and growing well:
The pines planted in the early portion of the season are thriving remarkably well, and promise to be a great ornamentation to the grounds.
Raddenberry continued with the theme of planting conifers in the Park.
In 1880, The Australasian reported:
Amongst the grass at pretty regular intervals young pines – chiefly P. insignia – have been planted, as if the object were to convert the area into forest.
Unfortunately, none of the trees in the Eastern Park pinetum can be attributed to either Bunce nor Raddenberry. The oldest trees planted for which a date can be attributed were the “Royal oaks” and a Sequoiadendron gigantium, all planted near the Garden street entrance, and all long gone.
It is generally known that many pines from the park were harvested for timber between the wars, and new pines were planted. Many of the pines planted at that time are now being replaced by new plantings to continue the tradition of the Parkland of Eastern Park being maintained as a “pinetum”
A version of this article was circulated to the Friends of Geelong Botanic Gardens Guides on 12/2/2015