Melbourne Museum’s high prune

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
18 August 2011
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The Forest Gallery is one of the icons of Melbourne Museum – a cool temperate rainforest merging into drier eucalypt forest complete with creek, ponds and waterfall, all in the heart of a major city.

The gallery is dominated by large gum trees, wattles and southern beech, which have been growing consistently under the close supervision of Live Exhibits horticulturalists for more than 10 years. This is a ‘Forest in a Box’, a museum gallery in which the living trees must be strategically pruned on a regular basis in order to maintain the desired effect.

A view from above the fire poles. A view from above the fire poles at the northern end of the Forest Gallery, giving some idea of the height of the pruning operation.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Last week arborists from ArborCo visited the Forest Gallery for an annual prune of the larger trees. The arborists must scale remarkable heights to reach the crowns of the trees, even before they commence their work.

Crew Leader Andrew Caldecott prepares to climb a Southern Beech for the annual trim. Crew Leader Andrew Caldecott prepares to climb a Southern Beech for the annual trim.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Great attention is paid by the arborists to the health and safety of both themselves and the trees. Much of the preparation is done on the ground, and the pruning operation is planned weeks in advance. It must be done in such a way that preserves the natural shape of the tree and promotes growth in the right directions.

Arborist Joel Creech makes his way up a gum tree towards the upper canopy. Arborist Joel Creech makes his way up a gum tree towards the upper canopy.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

During their visit, the arborists also apply their skills to climbing one of the poles which houses the Forest Gallery’s wind gauge. The gauge is used to monitor wind speeds, and Museum staff will occasionally close the gallery temporarily if the wind becomes too strong.

Malachi Ewan at the top of a fire pole cleaning the wind gauge. Malachi Ewan at the top of a fire pole cleaning the wind gauge.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Branches removed by the arborists are recycled on site into mulch, to be used on gardens throughout the Museum. When suitably aged, some of the mulch will be returned to the Forest Gallery to sustain the trees from which it came.

Mulching the prunings Left: ArborCo’s Gary Lambert feeds a steady stream of branches through the chipper. | Right: Brendan Fleming from the Live Exhibits Unit begins moving mulch back onto gardens around the museum.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

During the pruning operation, some of the branches cut from the Forest Gallery are tested to monitor the long term health of the trees. Foliage samples taken from new growth in the upper parts of the canopy can tell much about the trees’ nutrient content. Dr Peter Hopmans from Timberlands Research collects samples and uses them, in conjunction with soil samples and trunk diameters, in an ongoing review of plant health.

Collecting foliage samples Dr Peter Hopmans from Timberlands Research collecting foliage samples, watched by Brendan Fleming and Customer Service Officer Veronica Barnett.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Forest Gallery combines ancient geology and the power of water with living birds, reptiles, fish and frogs. It also exemplifies indigenous and European use and management of forests, and the role and impact of fire. But the heart of the forest is the giant trees that stand above all else, and ongoing management should ensure their existence for many years to come.

Links:

MV News: Forest gets a haircut

Pruning saves the Forest from the storm 

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Rod 19 August, 2011 09:12
Great post!
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