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Plant Focus

A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

Centenary Celebrations in Hackfalls

IOS member Bob Berry, who turned 100 on June 11, 2016, under his Quercus rysophylla, grown from seed gathered in 1989 on Cerro Chipinque, Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. Photo: © Harriet Tupper 

I went out to New Zealand to join the local members of the International Dendrology Society holding their AGM and combining this with the 100th birthday of Bob Berry. Bob’s birthday actually falls on  11th June, but the visit to Hackfalls was on 29th April. Hackfalls, like many properties in New Zealand, is in the back of beyond but in a beautiful setting. The house sits on a small hill enjoying the view and there by the gate were Bob and Anne waiting to greet us all (about 80 people).

While we had coffee in the sunshine, Bob was presented with the first copy of his illustrated catalogue of Hackfalls Arboretum. You might say this is his life’s work, but of course it is actually the record of his life’s work. (See below how to get hold of a copy.) We then divided into two groups and I set off with the first group led by Bob, who was driven around in a rather dashing buggy by Diane Playle, who now manages the property. We set off at such a lick that it was a matter of either keeping up with Bob or stopping to look at labels and admire what we were hurrying past! As we were IDS rather than IOS, our eyes were caught by many different trees, not only oaks. However, the first main pause was by Quercus rysophylla, which will be the Tree of the Year in the IDS Yearbook. It is a very well-grown and shapely tree, difficult to photograph against the light unless you scrambled down the steep hillock it grows on. I think some people managed to find acorns and I managed to take photos, including  Bob.

We then went rushing on to the other great excitement – an acorn on the Quercus insignis. I believe this tree had started to develop at least one acorn before, but it had not matured. It looks as though this one will ‘go the

"Extra, extra! Quercus insignis fruits ex-situ!" The first acorn to mature on a Hackfalls' specimen of this species, grown from seed collected by Bob Berry and Peter Murphy near Huatusco, Veracruz, Mexico, in 1989. This is thought to be the first time this species has borne seed outside its native habitat. Photo: © Harriet Tupper

whole way’ – the perfect present for a centenarian oak aficionado. It is protected by netting which was carefully lifted off so that we could admire and photograph it.

Other oaks which I noted as we rushed past were Q. macrocarpa, Q. crassifolia,  and  Q. alba, all with acorns thick on the ground around them and those of Q. alba sprouting already (it being autumn in NZ!). I noted the interesting bark of Q. rugosa and that there were airbags on Q. macranthera  in order to take cuttings, presumably because it hybridises so readily.

After lunch Bob took the other half of the group around this area and the rest of us walked around the other parts of Hackfalls. The autumn colours were superb, especially of Q. rubra.

Bob and Anne took part in the rest of the mini-tour, joining us for the AGM and dinner on 29th, for the plant auction and dinner on 30th, and for the visit and lunch at Eastwood Hill on 1st May. I was lucky enough to sit next to Bob at dinner and asked him what his favourite tree was. The answer was Quercus candicans.

Nick Seymour presenting to Bob Berry the first copy of Bob’s 400-page book in which he catalogues in words and photographs the nearly 3,000 trees and shrubs at Hackfalls Arboretum.The book can be ordered from Peter Jackman, 672 Back Ormond Rd, R D 1, Gisborne, New Zealand. Email:  pjackman@clear.net.nz (Cost 120 New Zealand dollars + postage)