Journey to our arboretums

Thursday, 11 May 2023

Journey to our arboretums

British horticulturist, Monty Don, said that ‘a garden is not a place, it is a journey’.

We couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to our arboretums. If you learn about the history behind them, there is a journey to be found. Couple that with visiting the arboretums and seeing what they have to offer, it can be a very special and worthwhile experience.

H E HART ARBORETUM - Lake Coleridge

Sometimes, all that beauty needs to thrive, is the imagination and belief of one mind.

Autumn settings in Lake Coleridge Village

The Hart Arboretum in Lake Coleridge Village was created by one man, Harry Hart. You may remember our article on the history of Lake Coleridge Village, which looks closer into the unique history of the village itself. Harry Hart was the superintendent at the Power Station of Lake Coleridge from 1923 to 1953, and he was a man with vision.

Hart made it his mission to collect and replant exotic trees, particularly conifers, from all over the world during the time he worked as superintendent. Over time, the collection grew so large and diverse that it earned its title as an arboretum.

Although the initial reason for planting the trees was to provide shelter for the staff working at the power station, it soon became something entirely different; it became a work of art and beauty.

Over the years, the original collection has been added to and maintained by the Central Canterbury Farm Forestry Association Arboretum Trust.

Much of the maintenance and development has always been carried out by local volunteers who take great pride in the Hart Arboretum.

An interesting variety of conifer cones can be found in the village

Unfortunately, the original Harry Hart arboretum is unfit for walkers, however, do not be dissuaded by this, as the village is very much like an arboretum itself, with magnificent conifers scattered all over.

And what a beautiful time of year currently to take a walk around Lake Coleridge Village and enjoy the autumn colours from the many ornamentals, which are amongst Harry Hart’s conifers all through the village.

There is also a new arboretum being established in the village to rejuvenate many of the older trees in the original arboretum. This will be found in the centre of the village and will be nothing short of spectacular. 

With such a vast variation of trees throughout the village, it is difficult not to feel at one with nature and in awe of its creation and landscape.

TW ADAM’S ARBORETUM - 59 Adams Road, Greendale

Spring at TW Adam’s Arboretum

Another great and determined mind behind what we now know as TW Adams Arboretum in Greendale, Selwyn, which is now a site of national historical significance, was that of Alfred Albert Thomas Williams Adams (generally known as TW) who moved to New Zealand, from England, in 1862.

After falling in love with what the Canterbury district had to offer in terms of beauty and tranquility, it wasn’t long before TW found his own 100 acres of land in Greendale to settle on.

One of the initial reasons for planting trees was to provide shelter for an otherwise treeless and shelter-less site. But, after planting his first tree in 1866, Adams never stopped planting and by 1910, his plantations totalled 150 acres, an arboretum made up of over 800 species of trees and shrubs, all but 50 introduced!

Through TW’s own correspondence and research from collectors and botanists all over the world, he introduced a whopping 750 species to Canterbury! You could say his passion began with that first planting back in 1866…

As well as contributing significantly to his own land and plantations, TW was one of the first to conduct planting trials, keep a good record and publish the findings. Most of these were published in the New Zealand Country Journal and the Journal of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association.

He recognised the promise of Pinus radiata and Pinus laricio, promoting them for widespread planting, and he specifically encouraged and recommended the Cupressus macrocarpa, eucalyptus, Acacia dealbata and oaks for Canterbury.

Since TW's death in 1919 when 100 acres of the homestead block was handed over to the School of Forestry, the land was leased to local farmers. Unfortunately, the arboretum area languished for 100 years without any care and became inaccessible.

In 2016 the Greendale Community Trust saw the need to preserve and restore the arboretum and took on the project of making this heritage site accessible to all.

They installed information boards and tree signage and establishing walkways. A later project now completed, was continuing the walkway through TW's area that he called the nursery block and then across the paddocks to the Greendale Domain.

TW Adam’s Arboretum walkway through the Nursery Block

This accessible arboretum is only 10 minutes south-east of Darfield on the Canterbury Plains. Filled with amazing specimen trees, with some now being considered endangered.

And with a part of history still within the arboretum, the remains of the sod hut TW built for his first wife and child, it is an experience to be cherished!

A thank you to Greendale Community Trust for restoring a truly special historic site here in Selwyn.

Remains of TW’s sod hut, now covered with a shelter to protect it from further weathering.


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