In 1978, in the gardens of Narryna Folk Museum in Battery Point, the Australian Camellia Research Society Tasmanian Branch, as it then was, entertained the idea of establishing a camellia garden. In November that year, Mrs Judy Lewis, President of the ACRS Tasmanian Branch, and a small group of committee members met at Narryna with the Board of Management to discuss establishing a Camellia Garden at the Folk Museum. It was considered to be an excellent project for the branch and an ideal site for camellias. As Narryna is owned by the Government of Tasmania, the Society had to wait patiently for the necessary approval.
When this was granted, members tackled the garden with enthusiasm. Much hard work was required following years of neglect to get the garden ready for planting. Blackberry was growing up through large clumps of agapanthus and the removal of this proved difficult until one member suggested it be given to anybody who would like to come and remove it. The Hobart and Kingborough Councils amongst others were keen to avail themselves of the offer. A backhoe was used to lift out the agapanthus. Beer bottles, glass, rubble, self-seeding cotoneasters, and a large pampas grass were also removed.
All the original plantings were grafted and grown by Denise Meldrum, a member and Secretary of the Society at that time. Together, Denise and her husband, Keith, had established a camellia Nursery and were largely responsible for the introduction and propagation of Reticulatas into Tasmania. The Society decided to plant only Australian Cultivars. Mrs Lewis sketched out a plan, which was presented at the Society’s Meeting and then given to the Narryna Board of Management.
In September 1979, 40 camellias were planted. The early plantings were in groups of two and three and included Alba Plena, Archduchess Augusta, Camden Park, Aspasia Macarthur, Australis, and Otahu Beauty. In October of that year, magnolias were purchased and in December another 100 camellias were planted. Between 1981 and 1991 care of the garden continued with regular working bees and the installation of a watering system, and more camellias were added.
At the end of 1991 the Society withdrew from caring for the garden following difficulties with the Board of Management. It was then looked after by the Hobart City Council until 1996, when once again the Society took over the care and rejuvenation of the camellias, which had suffered considerable neglect. Mick Haddon-Cave, then President of the Society, was an enthusiastic leader of the garden team, inspiring members to get the garden back in order. A new dripper system was installed, Plantation Pink was espaliered against the back fence and C. Odoratissimo, E.G. Waterhouse and Great Eastern were planted. In October 1996, five reticulatas which had been propagated from cuttings from Princes Park, an earlier project of the Society, were planted. By year’s end the camellias were looking healthy. Other camellias that have been planted since include C. Margaret Waterhouse, Hari Withers, Lady Pamela, Sweet Jane. Dr Tinsley, Roger Hall, Can Can, Marina, Anna M. Page, Helenor, Chandleri and Paeoniflora.
In 2002, a new automatic watering system was installed by the Narryna Board of Management. Further camellias were added: C. Hilda Jamieson, Shirley Anne, Tiffany Dawne, Brushfield’s Yellow, Beatrice Emily, Margaret Davis, and The Czar, followed by four Marg Millers, planted to trail over a low stone wall. In 2009 the Society was pleased to add 11 potted camellias, a gift from the daughter of the late Margaret Knight. Following the very successful National Camellia Show and Congress held in Hobart in 2010, the Society was able to plant seven sasanqua camellias along the front of the camellia bed.
In 2013/14, the Narryna Board of Management embarked on a Landscape Master Plan with the aim to re-establish a garden to compliment the house built by Andrew Haig and its times. The plan would aim to:
- Restore the front garden to further enhance the historic significance of Narryna a house that has always marked the entrance to Battery Point.
- Create symmetrical borders relative to the main access and sympathetic style of a Georgian
- Plant the garden with varieties that would have been growing in the 19th Century including early varieties of
At this stage the Society continues to have monthly working bees in the camellia garden. These are very enjoyable especially when there are a number of helpers, and we talk and exchange camellia news over morning tea.