Forest gets a haircut

13 August, 2008

Tree shaping.
Arborists prune the trees in the Forest Gallery.
Image: Luke Simpkin
Source: Museum Victoria

Melbourne Museum’s Forest Gallery trees have recently received a shape and prune, if not a short back and sides, to maintain their natural canopy shape while ensuring they continue to fit within the confines of the gallery.

After surviving the stress of transplantation during their first 5 years, the trees and shrubs were growing vigorously. They were planted only 9 years ago but had largely filled the vast space beneath the soaring roof of the gallery.

This presented a unique challenge to horticulture staff: to maintain the trees and views essentially as they now are for the lifetime of the museum, and to keep this living exhibition fitting within its ‘box’.

On 5 August, arborists from ArborCo, directed by horticulture staff and the original landscape architect, carefully shaped the trees and larger shrubs in anticipation of their next few years’ growth and to preserve a natural canopy shape without the flat-top lopping we see often in tree management. This delicate exercise involved great care, not only for the arborists’ safety but also in order to protect the birds and infrastructure of the gallery.

Although the forest vegetation still looks perfectly natural, it is of course highly managed, albeit in a non-intrusive, practically invisible fashion.

The tree works were completed just in time before onset of the forest birds’ breeding season. This time of year, male Red-browed Finches can be seen doing their mating dances (waving grass stems at the females). Their untidy grass nests are being constructed in the bushy Sweet Bursaria three metres above ground. Visitors to the Forest Gallery may notice the male Satin Bower Bird is adding wattle blooms to his blue object collection as he courts the green-feathered females, while Superb Blue Wrens are filling the gallery with their noisy territorial calls.

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