Did you know? The System GardenFeatures — By Sara Brocklesby on 17th June, 2010 at 8:45 am
The System Garden was designed by the University’s first Professor of Natural History, Frederick McCoy in concert with architect Edward Latrobe Bateman in 1856.
Associate Professor in the School of Botany Andrew Drinnan says the garden is unusual because unlike a botanical or ornamental garden, the plants were selected and planted according to an evolutionary system of classification – hence, System Garden.
In the original design, visitors could walk from the middle of the garden to the outer edges and trace the evolution of the plant kingdom.
“It’s a form of garden you rarely see today, because it’s a scientific garden, and though it is ornamentally attractive, that’s not its key function,” Associate Professor Drinnan explains.
The garden originally covered a quarter of the University’s grounds and featured an octagonal glasshouse at its centre that housed several plant habitats. The gazebo, which still stands in the garden today, was the glasshouse’s central structure and marks the exact centre of the original garden.
It was originally bounded by a spectacular acacia hedge, and though this was removed to make way for the Botany and Zoology Buildings which now occupy much of the original garden, some of Professor McCoy’s original plantings are still flourishing, including three towering palm trees, the Osage orange tree (Maclura pomifera), and some of the larger conifers.
Twenty years ago the garden was updated to reflect a more current system of classification – the Cronquist classification system – with the beds laid out according to plant subclasses.
Associate Professor Drinnan says though it’s designed to highlight the science of Botany and the evolution of plants, the garden is a beautiful space often used by students and staff as a quiet place to think, read or eat lunch.
“It’s also an amenity garden that the University community can enjoy,” he says.
Property and Campus Services has recently commissioned a new conservation and management plan for the System Garden, which will enhance its ongoing value as a scientific, teaching, and recreational resource.
“We can’t afford to lose a garden like this,” Associate Professor Drinnan says.
This article was originally published in Melbourne University Staff/Student E-News.
The Student Union has some very cute System Garden t-shirts for sale! Visit their site for information about prices and ordering. The Systems Garden shirt is the second from the right.