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Dunedin Botanic Garden celebrates 150 years

Dunedin Botanic Garden celebrates 150 years
June 28, 2013

The Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand's first botanic garden, is celebrating its 150th anniversary through 2013 with a celebration to be held this Sunday (30th June).

Established in 1863, the Garden was first located on a 3.6 hectare site now occupied by the University of Otago before relocated to its present 28 hectare site in Opoho Road in 1869.

The relocation saw many of the Garden's original trees and shrubs moved, including the surviving Royal Oak planted in 1863 to mark the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the first public occasion marking the establishment of the Garden. The oak is still thriving today.

The Garden employed its first horticultural apprentice in 1885 and today there are nine.

Centrally located in the lower Garden is the restored Winter Garden Glasshouse which, when opened in 1908, was reported as Australasia's first conservatory.

New Zealand's first living maze was planted in the lower Garden.
The Rhododendron Dell plantings began in 1914 with 500 plantings – today, there up to 3000 planted.

In 1979, the Garden became the first public garden in NZ to employ a botanist.

A Garden of International Significance
The Dunedin Botanic Garden is one of six Gardens of International Significance in New Zealand, and the only public garden. The Botanic Garden has held this status since 2010, with reassessment every two years.

Gardens are assessed by the New Zealand Gardens Trust and the criteria for International Significance include best practice in horticultural expertise, health and safety, and the design and flow of the garden. The assessment system allows the tourism industry to confidently recommend gardens that will be of year round interest to visitors to New Zealand.

As many collections as a museum
The Dunedin Botanic Garden comprises a wide range of horticultural and botanical collections (and an avian collection) including roses, the herbaceous and perennial borders, a rock garden, New Zealand native plants and four hectares of Rhododendron Dell.

The New Zealand Native plant collection is involved with the cultivation of rare and endangered native plant species. The Geographic Collection has plants from temperate climates of North Asia, the South, Central and North Americas, Southern Africa, the Himalayas and the Mediterranean.
In 2012, the Camellia Collection was awarded recognition as an 'International Camellia Garden of Excellence', one of 29 gardens worldwide and one of two in New Zealand to be acknowledged in this way.

A community favourite
The Dunedin Botanic Garden is consistently rated at >95% satisfaction in the Dunedin City Council's annual Residents' Opinion Survey. It is used by school groups, families, horticultural, botanical, zoological, and pharmacy students and tourism operators for recreation, as well as education.

A more serious role
The Dunedin Botanic Garden plays an important role in New Zealand's conservation of native and endemic flora as well as supporting breeding programmes for various bird species.

The Geographic Plant Collection is the exotic scientific collection which includes rare and threatened plants. Plants are grown in situ, in conditions as near to their natural environment as practically possible. Some plants are naturally rare and don't have a wide distribution.

Although the conservation of native plants is generally the Department of Conservation's remit, the Garden has several areas of regenerating native bush on its upper slopes as well as the Native Collection. Garden staff enhance and manage these areas by removing exotic species and the areas provide a habitat for animals - including the peripatus or velvet worm.

Strong healthy relationships
The Dunedin Botanic Garden fosters many and various relationships with organisations all around the world, including the Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand, the Department of Conservation, the University of Otago Botany Department, the Otago Polytechnic and local schools.

The relationships vary from practical training opportunities for tertiary and school students to professional networks and advocacy groups.

Sculpture trails
There are many structures in the Garden, from Peter Pan and Wendy to the Winter Garden Glasshouse, there is a wealth of history and quirky features to be found. Most of the sculptures are in the lower Garden. The Wolf Harris fountain is the oldest, constructed in the 1890s in the Queens Gardens.

Women's place in the Garden
Between 1924 and 1945, only 12 women in New Zealand completed formal horticulture qualifications - eight were from the Dunedin Botanic Garden.

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