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From acorn to oak, NZ’s largest arboretum celebrates 100 years

23 December 2008

Gisborne’s Eastwoodhill Arboretum returns next year to the Ellerslie International Flower Show with an exhibit to celebrate the centennial of Douglas Cook’s dream to establish New Zealand’s largest arboretum.

At the centre of the Acorn to Oak – from Small Beginnings come Great Things exhibit will be a relatively large oak, which the Eastwoodhill Trust hopes will be supplied from within the greater Christchurch area.


Eastwoodhill – the National Arboretum is one of the key features in the Hort Galore Marquee, a specialist marquee at Ellerslie for garden clubs and societies to showcase rare and premium quality plant species.


The park’s founder Douglas Cook arrived in the Gisborne district in 1910 to take up 250 hectares of farmland. Within just a few years he had planted his first arboretum trees and by the time he died in 1967, he had brought more than 4000 different species and cultivars of trees and shrubs to Eastwoodhill.


Eastwoodhill now boasts the largest collection of Northern Hemisphere trees and shrubs in the Southern Hemisphere. More than 25kms of walking tracks traverse the 135-hectare property with more than 15,000 trees, shrubs and plants.


Following Douglas Cook’s death, Eastwoodhill was established as a charitable trust in 1975. It continues to run as a charitable organisation relying on the generosity of its Friends – a number of who will be manning the stand – benefactors and donations. The arboretum is cared for by a group of dedicated volunteers passionate about preserving its legacy and a small team of dedicated staff.


Ellerslie International Flower Show Exhibition Manager Kate Hillier says the Eastwoodhill Arboretum is a perfect example of the exhibits found in the Hort Galore marquee.


“This marquee is dedicated to fostering interest in garden clubs and societies, while also preserving our horticultural history for future generations. It is a must see for all plant lovers.”


Eastwoodhill Arboretum spokeswoman Dana Kirkpatrick says the national arboretum celebrates 100 years in 2010 and to celebrate, the Ellerslie exhibit will depict an autumn scene from the arboretum.


“Oaks are a feature at Eastwoodhill at all times of the year and Eastwoodhill is home to some spectacular specimens – some of which are extremely rare.” she said.


Ms Kirkpatrick says the Eastwoodhill Friends committee is appealing to anyone in the greater Christchurch area who early next year will be cutting out or de-limbing a large oak tree.


“We need a relatively large-sized oak tree trunk preferably with one or two large branches attached for our exhibit. We hope this can be supplied from Canterbury, saving us significant freight costs.”


Anyone who can help is asked to phone 06 867 7444.

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