Yarralumla Nursery : 90 Years of Greening Canberra
Canberra is proud of its image as “The Bush Capital” but little of its public garden areas would have been possible without the work of Yarralumla Nursery.
The majority of trees & shrubs planted in Canberra’s public places have come from the Nursery.
The trees in the Parliamentary Triangle, Glebe & Weston Park are good examples.
A plant issue scheme has been operating from the Nursery since 1925, providing free trees & shrubs to the owners of newly constructed homes.
This far sighted program has helped Canberra develop into a garden city, far removed from the bare plains that faced the City’s early inhabitants.
The plant issue scheme still continues today providing plants suitable for Canberra’s climate to owners of new blocks of land helping to keep Canberra a garden city.
The Nursery has grown over 53 million plants in its 90 year history.
This year  over 1500 species of plants will be grown with over 500,000 plants produced in total.
The Nursery was established by Thomas [Charles] Weston in 1914 on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
Although known as Yarralumla Nursery, it actually predates the suburb of Yarralumla as it was not started until 1928.
The original production nursery occupied more than 28 hectares & another 130 hectares was used for permanent plantings.
This larger area was included as part of Westbourne Woods, now the Royal Canberra Golf Course & Weston Park.
The Nursery now occupies 2 sites, 10 hectares in Weston Park at Yarralumla & 21 hectares at Pialligo near the Airport.
At Yarralumla, plants are propagated & grown in containers.
Plants are dispatched wholesale & there is a retail Garden Centre.
The Pialligo site is used to propagate & grow deciduous trees.
At its peak the Nursery employed 70 people in the 1940s.
Today there are around 25 permanent staff plus 4 or 5 contract staff in the peak season.
The Nursery contains a number of historical buildings & facilities going back to the earliest days of the Nation’s Capital.
Hobday’s Cottage was built around 1922 & has seen several Nursery Manager’s families grow up over the years.
It currently serves as a gallery & restaurant.
The potting & propagation buildings were constructed in the early 1900s & the greenhouses date from the 1930s.
Many of these facilities are heritage listed in recognition of the Nursery’s role in Canberra’s development.
The Nursery has been associated with many people significant in Canberra’s early development.
[Thomas] Charles Weston was the first manager of Yarralumla Nursery & he pioneered the greening of the Canberra area & its surrounding hills between 1913 & 1926.
Over this period Weston was responsible for the planting of more than 2 million trees & shrubs.
Many of the mature trees seen around the Nursery date back to Weston’s time as manager.
Weston is largely responsible for creating the basis for much of the landscape of old Canberra.
With dense plantings of indigenous & exotic trees & shrubs, he created a special landscape character for the streets, avenues & parklands of the emerging City.
His work achieved strong seasonal colour effects & provided protection from the winter cold & hot dusty summer winds.
John Hobday who was Superintendent under Weston, became the next Nursery Manager & carried Weston’s vision forward.
Lindsay Pryor was Manager of the Nursery from 1944 to 1958 & in this time did considerable research on breeding & selection of plants at the Nursery.
WORK OF THE NURSERY
The Nursery collects a large proportion of its own seed & propagation material.
Much of this is collected from the local region ensuring that the species grown will be suitable for Canberra’s severe climatic & soil conditions.
In the late 1970s, the Nursery pioneered the direct sowing of Australian trees into specially designed tubes.
That has now developed into a state of the art process using containers that produce a stable, high quality root system.
Around 80 species are now grown this way & many of these are used by land care groups & in rural plantings.
In 1998 the first line of threatened Australian plant species were made available through the Nursery increasing awareness of all rare & endangered species.
The Nursery also has a major role in Floriade, Canberra’s spring flower festival, co-ordinating the purchase & supply of many of the plants used to create the large display beds & has sponsored & supported the festival since it began.
It also continues to provide an important community service, for example the Nursery has grown over 1000 Cyprus Pine seedlings to replace trees lost in the 2003 bushfires & has supplied many other trees to restore burnt public areas.
It has propagated seedlings from the Lone Pine from Gallipoli to help schools throughout Australia celebrate ANZAC Day.
The Nursery continues to train special needs children at Black Mountain & Woden Schools & provides opportunities for horticultural apprentices.
Yarralumla Nursery has a rich history & with over 53 million plants being supplied since it began, it deserves much credit for the charm of Canberra’s streets, parks & private homes.