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History of Jervis Bay Annexe
to the Australian National Botanic Gardens

(prepared for the web in 2006 from a draft document collated by Ingrid Adler in 1991 with a longer section written by Fred Howe in 1991)


The Australian National Botanic Gardens’ Jervis Bay Annexe is situated in the Jervis Bay Territory, an area of 7400 ha (18 500 ac) acquired from New South Wales in 1915 under the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act. The Annexe was part of the Jervis Bay Nature Reserve, covering 4500 ha which was established in 1971.

The Annexe was established on what was previously a dairy farm called ' Bherwerre', owned by Octavius Charles Beale and managed by the Leslie family at one time. To commemorate the occupancy a plaque mounted on a rock was placed near the Rainforest Gully in April 1982.

An Annexe at Jervis Bay was first considered in May 1951 when the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens, Mr Lindsay Pryor mentioned the matter in a memorandum to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Mr Pryor stated "there was a need for an Annexe to secure cultivated material for the breeding programme...”. The area suggested by Mr Pryor was 300 ac (120 ha) around Lake Mckenzie.

In August 1951 Mr Pryor contacted the acting Assistant Secretary of ACT Planning and Development, Department of the Interior, requesting 5 acres (2 ha) of land at the eastern end of Lake Mckenzie, so that "planting of that material available at Yarralumla Nursery can be established in a frost free area at Jervis Bay for use during the next years.” This request was approved.

A small area was established and about 400 trees were planted in October 1951. They mainly consisted of Eucalyptus and Acacia species. Eucalyptus caleyi was the dominant species planted. Seed was collected from trees near lnverell in northern New South Wales. The planting party consisted of Dr K Norris, Dr Erwin Gauba, Mr R Watt, Mr H Newlyn, Mr M Tyrell and was led by Mr Lindsay Pryor.

Over the next three to four years other plantings were established, mostly on the southern slopes between the Green Hut and the fringe of the lawn. They were predominantly Ca!othamnus and Callistemon species from Western Australia which were collected by Dr Gauba. Some eucalypt trails were developed of Eucalyptus botryoides. Seed was collected from nearby coastal areas. Genetic selections were made from foreshore, dune and littoral habitats. About 200 - 300 seedlings were planted.

There are no records or evidence of any survivors of these early plantings. Eucalyptus botiyoides is recorded as first grown in 1968 (681109s 1 is still in section 71 and 2 in section 75). Eucalyptus caleyi has no registration but one plant is recorded as growing in section 64.

Development took place only in areas which had been cleared when the land was a dairy farm; no bushland was removed to establish these early plantings. All plants were protected with mesh and barbed wire fence. They were maintained in an ad hoc fashion, maybe only being weeded twice a year. Dr Gauba did most of the early collecting until following Lindsay Pryor to the ANU Botany Dept in 1960.

The hut, now the Green Hut, was built in 1951 to accommodate field parties to the Annexe. Access to the hut was on the existing dirt track leading to the homestead and lake.

Mr Lindsay Pryor had been involved with the establishment of the Jervis Bay Annexe since its beginning. He retired in 1959 from his position of Superintendent of Parks and Gardens.

The Annexe was officially gazetted in 1971 and the site now covers an area of about 80 ha.

The Canberra Gardens were placed on the interim list of the Register of the National Estate in December 1989 but the Annexe was not included in that listing.

Ivan Colaric period (1965 - 1967)

Ivan Colaric started work at the Annexe in May 1965 and managed the site for two and a half years. Ivan came from Yarralumla Nursery which was managed by Parks and Gardens.

He was involved with clearings for the access road off Cave Beach Road, constructed culverts and did some erosion control work. Heavy clearing was also done on the “Tank Hill”, removing some of the very large trees. Also some burning off was done on this site, resulting in much regrowth.

Some new plantings were established, consisting mainly of Hakea, Grevillea and Acacia species

Some clearing was carried Out in the creek bed and the first tree ferns Dicksonia antarcticawere planted towards establishing the Rainforest Gully.

Plumbing and irrigation lines were placed, mainly along the lake, and a diesel pump and water storage tank were erected.

Some propagation was done on site, mostly Acacia Ion gifolia, for the Soil Conservation Group and to maintain his own sanity. Seeds were collected locally. A makeshift propagation area with a shadehouse was set up; this no longer exists.

Ivan worked in close association with Dr Betty Phillips from the Canberra Gardens. Some plants from her collections were planted at the Annexe.

Ivan Colaric was a Landscape Contractor in private practice in Canberra in 1991.

Bernie Sachse period (1967 - 1969)

Bernie Sachse worked at the Annexe for 18 months. He commenced work in August 1967 after Ivan Colaric departed. Four months of his stay was taken up with fieldwork and collecting in West Australia with Dr. Betty Phillips.

Much of the clearing of natural vegetation was done before his time, so he concentrated on new plantings in these cleared sites. One of his tasks was to interplant on the southern slopes of the “Tank Hill” right up to the Green Hut area.

The other major planting was towards Lake Windermere; planting consisted of Eucalyptus and Acacia species. More plantings were established in the Rainforest Gully consisting mainly of king fern, Todea barbara and tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica. Acacias were planted to stabilise steep slopes. All plants came from the Canberra Gardens.

Irrigation pipes and sprinklers were put in to keep those plants in the Rainforest Gully alive and water was pumped from Lake Mckenzie.

The first plant labelling was done using aluminium labels and plants recorded on “mud maps”, maps drawn not to scale.

At the time of Bernie’s stay there were five people at the Annexe, Bernie and four gardeners. One Victa hand mower completed the outfit. Staff consisted of Bernie Sachse

  • lan Mcleod
  • Phil McLeod
  • Arthur McLeod, the father of Ian and Phil
  • Jack Hammond
  • Dennis Green (who stayed only a very short time).
  • Bernie Sachse left the Annexe in February 1969 to return to Yarralumla Nursery.
  • Bernie worked in liaison with John Wrigley who commenced earlier in 1967 as Curator at the Canberra Gardens. John’s involvement ceased when he retired in 1981. John Wrigley then worked as a Horticultural Consultant near Coffs Harbour, NSW.

Fred Howe period (1969 - 1995)

Fred Howe took over the management of the Annexe in March 1969 and the following are Fred's words, relating to the period up until 1991.

In 1969 the botanic gardens at Jervis Bay was only partially developed. There was an entrance road and one path leading from the Depot at the top of the gardens to the lawn behind the Green Hut in the lower gardens. Next to this was a small tea—tree covered shade house used as a holding area for plants sent from Canberra.

There were a number of stone culverts that had been constructed front stone that was available on site. Much of this stone had been brought to the site in the early l900,s for the construction of the milking yards of Beales farm. And there were acres and acres of grass, not used, as the gardens were not open to public, but religiously cut. Equipment at that time was virtually non-existent.

The collection of plants would have been quite small in 1969, just how many plants could only be determined by counting the individuals off the old maps. Since that time many new sections have developed and the planting density is much higher.

The annex was and remains to this day severely under resourced, then with a lack of equipment and infrastructure, now with a lack of staff.

The gardens was divided up into sections with a map of the sections. The plants were shown on graph paper in their approximate positions in the same way as was done in Canberra. The labels on the plants were white plastic and many were badly faded. A considerable ammount of time was spent shining bright lights at various angles in order to decipher the name or number of the plants. Many of the early plantings have no records as a result of faded or lost labels. From this experience we began to write a number on both sides of the label and subsequently adopted the foil labels for numbers. In the early days the losses were fairly high mainly due to lack of adequate irrigation and animal grazing the former being the most telling factor but the latter by no means insignificant.

Irrigation was provided by a gravity feed system. Firstly the water was pumped from Lake McKenzie by an old Lister diesel piston pump. This filled 4 galvanised iron tanks with a total capacity of around 12000 gals. The water was reticulated around the gardens through galvanised iron pipes. This was how we got our water until around 1982 when watering by hand with hoses or buckets was still the norm. In our gully plants from the 1972 field trip to Qld struggled to survive. Gravity fed sprinklers barely turned as the pump got old and the pipelines became severely corroded and scale build up reduced internal diameter by as much as 50%. The storage tanks too were rusting away. The luxury of the new pump which can do in two hours what used to take 2 days was easy to adjust to. The new system could pressurise lines the old system could not and it didn’t even require life threatening cranking. This great improvement in the water delivery system demanded that we take the next logical step - improve the reticulation system.

The way the gardens had developed was greatly influenced by the coverage of the water reticulation network. There were large areas with development potential without any water supply. Remedying this fundamental flaw has taken a great many man hours over the years and is still not complete.

“The great leap forward” came with CEP, the Commonwealth Employment Program, which provided many thousands of dollars in grant moneys and accelerated development in many sections of the gardens. The conversion of all irrigation lines to PVC or polythene pipe is continuing. PVC being the most common material, polythene used in rocky areas. The water reticulation system was originally galvanised iron pipe. This was certainly robust but under the local conditions was not practical. It was decided to convert the entire system of water reticulation to PVC. It is easier to handle(lighter) cheaper, less friction in pipes no corrosion. Probably the most important factor is the fact that with very little training, systems can be constructed and repaired with our own staff. Over the years this would come to represent a considerable cost saving to the gardens.

Development of the annex up until the late seventies was restricted to that which we could achieve using available labour. Path construction being a labour intensive activity was something we could do with the resources we had. The site was not particularly accessible and so with consideration for the obvious variations in landscape and vegetation we constructed a series of walking trails to redress this problem. Consideration was also given to the likelihood of public opening in the future. Variations in vegetation influenced by substrate’s and topography are a feature of the gardens that will one day have a suitable standard of interpretation. Hence the lake trail and the Nature trails were constructed. These were all cleared and formed using hand tools.

The paths through the general areas of the gardens provide access to sections within the site valuable for the purpose of stocktaking, maintenance and planting. Once the annex was open to the public it was apparent that some effort should made to improve access generally. Prior to public opening such improvements were being made in anticipation of that event. There was a conscious effort from the start to have easy gradients and as few steps as possible. The paths began as of formed and cleared sandy tracks. Then we put down some gravel, then we bordered these with pine logs we cut from the pine forests. These lasted no time at all and eventually we began to border our paths with treated logs as is the current practice.

The board-walk was constructed with the aid of a grant under the CEP program. The reason for its construction is simple. The terrain in the gully is such that the sand formed paths changed shape as the sand shifted down the slopes and the edges would fall away. As well it is a means of getting people close to the plants but in a controlled way.

The nursery was originally established near the Green Hut. This was because the Green Hut served as a depot for some years prior to 1969 and the location was convenient. There were no propagation facilities initially and so a cold frame was constructed with bottom heat provided by a layer of horse manure. For some years the nursery remained on this site but was eventually relocated to the upper gardens site.

With the latest development and equipment acquisitions, the annex has gone from having initially no plant production capability to potential self sufficiency in this area.

The concentration of active areas near the depot providing all weather tasks in order to maximise productivity was an important goal.

In 1979 the telephone was connected. Prior to this communication between JB and Canberra was sporadic. The annex operated in isolation and the only contact was through the mail and through occasional trips to Canberra and visits from Canberra staff. When necessary telephone contact would be made through the Jervis Bay Office of Dep. Territories or to my home phone.

Since 1969 the area under grass has been reduced. It clearly made little sense for a Botanic garden, which was not at that time open to the public, to have so much grass and the maintenance of grassed areas took up a considerable ammount of time. Mowing equipment at the time consisted of one Victa mower and one Rover mower. In the summer time mowing was non-stop. Grassed areas are still regarded critically and are removed and converted to shrub beds where this can be justified. Again better equipment has improved productivity. A mowing of our grass takes approx 3 man days as opposed to 10—12.

The main depot at the annex consisted of a messroom, toilet, washroom and storeroom. In 1969 the bldg was red brick and with no electricity, no heating no artificial light and little natural light it was a dismal place to be on a rainy day. Such days were not very productive. The depot was not big enough to hold any major items of equipment such as a tractor. Which was one reason we didn’t have one because we had nowhere secure to put it. We therefore needed secure storage for the equipment that we planned to acquire over the ensuing years. As well, in order to fully utilise the staff an undercover work area was needed.

In retrospect it is hard to believe that we did without electricity for so long. The major advantage has of course been in the area of water reticulation and the use of electric powered water pumps, but also in the creation of a civilised work environment.

The Green Hut, built by Parks and Gardens in about 1956, was on the verge of collapse in the mid seventies. It was infested with white ants and the roof (fibro) was broken open in many places. The renovation carried out in the late seventies has ensured that this building will survive as a part of the early history of the annex. The most appropriate use for this building is in some interpretive function, perhaps the Aboriginal prehistory of the area as well as the early European land use. It currently houses a photographic display of the flora of the area.

The JB gardens was thrown open to the public without the usual fanfare associated with such events. The then Secretary of the Dept of Territories, Mr Lou Engledow, following a visit to the gardens decided that this was too nice an area to be closed to the public. With a stroke of the pen the Secretary advised the Director, the Director advised the Curator and the Curator advised the Overseer and the gardens was duly opened.

It was not until 1988 that we had our first and only public event. This was the Jervis bay Environment Fair. This attracted 13,500 people to the gardens over three days and represented a quantum leap in the level of public awareness of the gardens. This exercise provided many valuable lessons about the capacity of the gardens to cope with large numbers of people or more particularly, their cars.

While the gardens developed in its capacity to house a living collection of plants, the living collection itself did not advance as well as might have been hoped. The function of the annex was defined as the place to provide frost free conditions to increase the range of plants the ANBG could have in cultivation. This was not reflected in the the range or quality of the plant material that we received and often had the feeling that all we got we leftovers. Many times plants went in the staff handouts in Canberra without any apparent consideration for how they could enhance the annex collection. Over the years very few wild collections were done locally and additions to the JB collections were either a part of normal plant outs arising from field trips, collections I made from ANBG garden plants to expand the horticultural appeal of the collection or Planting Officer initiated re-props from the ANBG collection. I perceive today a growing confidence in the ability of the annnex to successfully maintain plant collections and it is therefore more productive to build on the present situation than dwell on past weaknesses. Today the range and quality of plants ammounts to a vote of confidence in the annex and its staff.

There has never been a strong commitment institutionally to having the annex fulfill the role defined for it. Today I would describe the institutional commitment to the annex as growing rather than strong. Living Collections sub-section would be the exception to that generalisation. There is a better feeling today for the role that the annex has to play in the ANBG collection strategy than at any time in the past. Moves to collect regional flora for incorporation into the collection and willingness to relocate glasshouse stock into the open ground at JB is giving a focus to the activities of the annex.

A weakness in the Annex is the interpretation of the collection to the public. In this respect we are and always have been the poor relation. I have little confidence that this situation will change.

Given the importance that we place on informing the public and the level of resourcing ANBG commits to this in Canberra, this is a source of disappointment. The idea of giving the annex a regional function is a relatively new concept and probably coincides with the RAPIR initiative. Our ability to carry out the entire process from field collection to a living plant in the gardens means we can, with little input from ANBG, develop the regional collection. The only inhibiting factor here is in the limited human resources available.

In trying to put activities at the gardens into a time sequence it must be remembered that in the early years progress was not made in leaps and bounds but rather a series of small steps. These small steps, sometimes forward sometimes back, were as much as anything part of the process of us learning how to do our job as effectively as we could with what we had. Many of these will not appear in the chronological list.

DEVELOPMENT CHRONOLOGY during Fred How's period

1969 Construction of paths throughout the gardens
1973 Declared a public park
1974 Open to the public
1975 Carpark constructed
1979 Public toilets constructed at the car—park.
1979 Telephone connected
1980 Conversion of water reticulation from gal to pvc
1980 Renovation of green hut
1980 Conversion of water reticulation from gal to PVC
1981 Open first Sunday of the month
1981 Boundary surveyed
1982 Plaque on rock
1982 New water pump installed (diesel)
1982 Development of the perimeter fire-break
1983 Electricity connected
1983 Changed to electric pump
1983 Aboriginal trail constructed
1983 Construction of board-walk
1983 Construction of kangaroo proof boundary fence.
1983 Construction of board-walk
1984 Waterlines installed on Aboriginal trail
1985 First of 2x50000 litre water tanks constructed
1985 Construction of trial plot area
1985 Shelter shed built
1985 Trial plots constructed
1985 CEP path construction project
1985 Picnic area developed
1985 Auto Irrigation in rf
1986 Fertiliser shed built
1986 Proposed visitor centre shelved
1986 CEP re doing Proteaceae section
1988 Underground fuel storage installed
1988 Environment Fair held
1988 Entrance road re-aligned
1988 Old entrance road rehabilitated
1988 Front entrance constructed
1988 Additional staff facilities depot mods
1988 Car park expanded
1988 Glasshouse constructed
1989 Cave beach road sealed
1989 Open every Sunday
1990 Commencement of herbarium collection at JB
1990 Potting shed built.
1990 Toilets at lower gardens built inc disabled access
1990 Commencement of herbarium
1990 Joined ANPWS July
1990 Major internal survey conducted by AUSLIG


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