Backyard Bltiz but with a twist

10 November 2020

ANU has had a Backyard Blitz, but with a twist...it was led by the great kids from our  childcare centres.

Capitalising on the fresh spring sunshine, a small team at F&S's Gardens and Grounds - comprising Melinda Walker, Tim Millard, Ben le Dieu and Matthew Mahoney - recently held tree planting activities with some of our childcare centres. Over four days, more than 80 kids planted 30 trees.

On18 September, with a little bit of rain drizzling through a muted grey sky, the kids  descended on the Vice-Chancellor's residence. There, they planted some Japanese crab apple (Malus tschonoskii), explored the gardens and enjoyed a picnic lunch. The broad drooping foliage of the Kashmir Cypress was a particular favourite amongst the group.

On the 22 November,  another group of kids  planted 15 Banksias (Banksia spinuloas) at the Research School of Biology Gould Wing. As explained by the F&S team, the Banksia provides a food source for the Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo.

Following this, the next group of budding arborists assisted with planting some Japanese crab apple (Malus tschonoskii) at the South Oval BBQ area. It wouldn’t be a full day of work for the kids without some artwork, so an expedition through the Vice Chancellor’s garden evolved into an opportunity to collect pinecones for painting

Finally, on 22 November, the last group of children   planted a dozen Banksias (Banksia marginata and Banksia spinulosa) near the Ethyl Tory Building. These banksias not only provide food for the local Yellow Tailed  Black Cockatoo, but also the Gang-gang Cockatoo.

Melinda Walker, our University’s Arborist manages the beautiful trees on campus and was one of the organisers of the tree planting events. Besides encouraging new plantings, this was an opportunity to  educate junior aborists on the value and importance of trees. As Melinda explained:

“Often I see people do not value trees and that is a big mistake. It is important for kids to know that ecosystems are essential for supporting life systems and everything is connected.

“Actually, I was very impressed at how much the kids knew when I asked them about the importance of trees. Most knew all the answers – trees provide food, paper, the air we breathe, places for animals to live, shade and are important for bees.”

When you dig into the details, a lot of work and knowledge goes into organising tree planting. Across our campus, the Garden & Grounds team are always considering how the trees we plant contribute to and enhance the local ecosystem. This has been especially important with recent weather conditions – last year’s below-average rainfall and a brutal summer resulted in many natives on campus dying. The Gardens & Grounds team have planted more than 150 trees this year to help bring campus back to life.

Melinda explained how the team selected the trees they planted:

“Once I had the sites picked out, I check out the surrounding trees to see what new trees would fit with the landscape and what type of trees would perform well. I am always keen to introduce new species of trees to maintain biodiversity.

“This year I have been inspired to plant more banksias to attract the beautiful birdlife we have in Canberra. This has been particularly inspired by a woman I met recently. She was from Louisiana State University and was studying the feeding mechanisms of cockatoos. As she walked around campus, she was amazed to be able to study the yellow tailed black cockatoos close-up. That made me really excited to attract more of these birds to campus.”

This is not the end of the University’s unofficial arborist academy. We can look forward to more involvement from the childcare centres, with the Gardens & Grounds team excited to be planting more Hakea, Casuarina and Banksia next year.