A Horticulturist's perspective

A tree walk in the Kyneton Botanic Gardens

This list does not attempt to identify every tree in the gardens but rather picks out those that have special interest or that have some role in the history of the gardens.

The gardens were established in the latter part of the 19th century and many of the trees planted here were being evaluated for their suitability as garden specimens. At the time that these, and other regional botanic gardens were being established, little was known about the way exotic trees and shrubs would be suited to Victoria’s various climate and soil zones.

In Kyneton’s case, the cold, wet winters and dry summers pose particular plant selection issues for local gardeners and the trees in the gardens tell us quite a deal about the usefulness of a wide range of species. Of particular interest is the good collection of oaks and conifers in the gardens. The code RST beside a tree’s name indicates that it has been placed on the State Register of Significant Trees and the Kyneton Gardens has a large number of significant tree specimens..

Enter the gardens at the main gate at the corner of Mollison and Clowes Sts. In the central bed inside the gate is a fine specimen of the Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis RST). This species is now rare in its original habitat through harvesting to make the fermented drink that its name alludes to. 

On the fence to the right of the gate is a group of five Blue Atlas Cedars (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ RST) from the mountains of North Africa. These trees are well suited to Kyneton’s climate and tolerate the dry summers well. To the left of the gate are several Giant Redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum RST) from California. In the early days of the gardens, this species grew well but the dry period from the late 1990s has left these trees, and other examples of this species in the gardens, badly stressed. 

In the bed to the left of the Wine Palm is a small Chinese Fan Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei). This species is amongst the most cold-tolerant of the palms and is found in a number of public and private gardens in Central Victoria.

Follow the path past the Fan Palm. There are several large deciduous trees growing in the lawns on either side of the path. These include a Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), a Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastaneum), and English Oak (Quercus robur) and a Claret Ash (Fraxinus ‘Raywood’). A little further along on the left is a large Acer cappadocium from the Balkans.

Follow the path that branches off to the right. It passes a bed with two palms, a Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) and a Jelly Palm (Butia capitata) from Brazil.

Along the path on the right side are several very large North American conifers. These include a Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), a Giant redwood and a Californian Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). 

Across the lawn to the right and close to the fence is a group of two very good Cork Oaks (Quercus suber RST). This tree comes from Portugal and Spain and is very well-suited to the local climate, as are the evergreen Holm Oaks (Quercus ilex) growing beside the gardener’s shed. This species also comes from Mediterranean Europe. The old weatherboard gardener’s shed, circa 1910, was moved into the gardens in the 1960’s. In 2006 the Friends group was successful in obtaining a grant from the state government to assist in the refurbishment and preservation of this important link to the history of these gardens.

From the foot of the steps, walk across towards the cream brick laundry block of the old caravan park. You will pass very good specimens of Maidenhair Tree (Gingko biloba RST) from China, Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii RST) from Southern Queensland and Caucasian Fir (Abies nordmanniana RST) from South-Eastern Europe.

Around the laundry block are a number of very large pine trees. These are mostly the Californian Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) but there are several Western Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa), distinguishable by the intricate jigsaw patterning on the bark. These two species are planted throughout the gardens. The other common pine species in the gardens is the Himalayan White Pine (Pinus wallichiana). The best of these are found inside the second gate off Mollison St., closer to the river.

From the laundry block, walk down hill to the roadway and turn right. On the right in a clump of pines is a California Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia RST). This tree has grown very successfully here and one raises the question as to why it has not been more widely planted in Victoria. There are only about a dozen of this species in the state.

Walk back into the gardens, keeping the laundry block on your right. If you walk up towards the drinking fountain there is a large cypress (Cupressus lusitanica RST) on your right. This tree comes from Mexico and the Kyneton example is thought to be one of the best specimens in Victoria. If you walk back towards the front gate you will see the weeping foliage of the Chinese Weeping or Funeral Cypress (Cupressus funebris RST). Just behind this tree is an unusual evergreen oak from the Himalayas (Quercus leucotrichophora RST). Like the California Live Oak, this is one of just a few examples of this species in Victoria.

—This walk was written by Dr Peter May, Horticulturalist and Kyneton resident, in March 2007 and edited by Roger Cousens, (and in 2018 M. McDonald).