1933 The Advisory Council of the Federal Capital Territory recommended to the Minister that a botanic gardens be established in Canberra. 1935 Dr Bertram Dickson, head of the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, completed a report to the Minister on the establishment of a botanic gardens. 1949 Prime Minister Ben Chifley and the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Sir Edward Salisbury, planted trees at a ceremony to formally initiate the Gardens. 1950 The Minister for the Interior approved the boundaries of the Gardens in Canberra. 1951 Planting commenced at the Gardens annexe at Jervis Bay. 1960 The Minister confirmed that the main feature of the Gardens in Canberra would be an `indigenous collection'. A botanist was appointed to work full time on the Gardens' botanical collections. 1966 The first building, housing the Herbarium, botanists' offices and the library, plus a depot and three staff cottages were built within the Gardens. 1967 The Gardens in Canberra were open to the public for the first time. A Curator was appointed to manage the Gardens' living collections. 1970 The Canberra Botanic Gardens was formally opened by Prime Minister John Gorton. 1972 The Jervis Bay annexe was opened to the public. 1974 The current Herbarium building, library and botanists' offices were built. 1978 The Gardens were renamed the National Botanic Gardens. 1979 The first Director of the Gardens was appointed. 1981 The Gardens in Canberra was extended from 49 ha to 90 ha with the addition of land to the south (37 ha) and the north (3.5 ha). 1982 The Banksia Centre was opened by Mrs Malcolm Fraser, the wife of the then Prime Minister. 1984 The name of the Gardens was changed to the Australian National Botanic Gardens. 1985 The Visitor Information Centre was formally opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales. 1991 The Governor-General proclaimed the Gardens a reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. The developed parts of the Gardens in Canberra were placed on the Register of the National Estate.The first step towards the creation of the Gardens was taken when the Advisory Council to the Federal Capital Territory recommended that a botanic gardens be established in the national capital. In 1933 Dr Bertram Dickson, Chief of the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, was chosen to report on the feasibility of such a project. Dickson travelled extensively in Australia and abroad and concluded that the best site for such a gardens in Canberra was on the lower slopes of Black Mountain. He reported to the Council on the site and its development in 1935.
Lack of funds during the Depression and the Second World War delayed any action on the ground but just three weeks after the war in the Pacific ended Mr Lindsay Pryor, the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens, made an immediate start on the development of the Gardens. Pryor used the occasion of an international forestry conference in Canberra in September 1949 to have the Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, and the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Sir Edward Salisbury, plant ceremonial trees to formally initiate the Gardens. This was the first official recognition of the Gardens.
The land for the Gardens was resumed from a number of leaseholders who were using much of the area for grazing, and planning and planting continued throughout the 1950s. Dr Dickson's report had noted the importance of incorporating the Australian flora in the Gardens and, in keeping with the increasing community appreciation of the Australian flora in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Gardens adopted the policy of giving priority to Australian native plants.
The Gardens' annexe at Jervis Bay was also developed during this period: Pryor realised the need for a frost-free environment to complement the site in Canberra. A second annexe, for cold-tolerant plants, was created near the snowline at Mt Gingera, in the Brindabella Ranges west of Canberra. Planting here began in the 1950s but active maintenance of this annexe ceased in the late 1960s, and the area is no longer a part of the Gardens.
The Gardens have always been seen as a scientific institution: a herbarium and library were established within the first building erected and a laboratory for horticultural research was built soon after. From the beginning Gardens staff recognised the need for accurate details of the origin of all the plant collections and thus the need for field trips to collect material. This departure from the conventional botanic gardens practice of accepting gifts of plants of unknown origin, or of purchasing plants from nurseries, became the hallmark of the Gardens' scientific collection. Field collecting expeditions became an integral part of development.
The basis of the Gardens' scientific theme plantings was established in the early years, with sections devoted to different taxonomic plant groups. Ecological themes followed: the Rainforest Gully was begun in 1968. It was with great vision that the misting system in the Gully, which provided adequate water and humidity for the successful establishment of rainforest plants, was installed. Twenty-five years later the Rainforest Gully is one of Canberra's major attractions.
The Gardens' research interest in orchids began in the mid-1970s and its living collection of Australian orchids is now the most extensive known in cultivation. Also in the mid-1970s the Gardens began the establishment of significant collections of cryptogams (mosses, lichens, and so on) and the Herbarium now contains the largest collection of cryptogams in Australia.
The provision of information, interpretative and education services to the public and special interest groups began in the late 1960s with the production of a guide to the Gardens and the installation of interpretive signs. Ranger-guided tours, the provision of propagation workshops for school children, and the development of a regularly changing exhibition program were among the early initiatives. There is now an Environmental Education Centre and an education officer produces material designed to help students and teachers to make the best use of the resources of the Gardens.
The Gardens' photographic collection was established in the late 1960s and has expanded into one of the largest collections of accurately named portraits of Australian plants and their habitats. It also provides a photographic record of the development of the Gardens. Information in the photographic collection is linked with that on the living collections and Herbarium specimens through a computer database.
Electronic data management became a significant aspect of the record-keeping system in the 1980s. The Gardens was among the first botanic gardens in Australia to fully computerise the records of the living collections, and about one-third of the Herbarium records are now stored electronically. The Gardens now manages the index of plant names for all of Australia and plays a leading role in the coordination of botanical data standards for all the nation's botanic gardens and herbaria.
The process of development of the Gardens as a national scientific, educational, conservation and recreational resource continues, with major initiatives in the areas of botanical data management, taxonomic and biological research and a special interest in the presentation of the Australian flora to the public.