Trust aims to restore former plant collection

Green shoots . . . Hart’s Black Horse Brewery owner Ben Hart is looking forward to restoring the former Lawrence brewery house garden, following the removal of several invasive sycamores over winter. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON

[email protected]

VISITORS to the Lawrence daffodils may soon be able to view more than the perennially popular spring blooms.

The 4ha of daffodils and woodland walks, at the site of the former Hart’s Black Horse Brewery in the town’s Wetherstons Gully, attract more than 1000 visitors each spring.

This winter local volunteers have worked to remove about 30 invasive sycamore trees from the main brewery site that had shaded several former areas of the brewery house garden.

Site owner Ben Hart, a descendant of the eponymous attraction founder, said the brewery’s overseeing trust had discovered more about an important native species collection that had been planted there from about 1915, which they now intended to restore.

The initiative had been dubbed the Darton Hart Project, after those who began the collection — brothers Henry and Albert Hart, and friend Henry Lawrence Darton.

‘‘We know our visitors look forward to seeing the daffodils each spring, but there was actually a lot more to see back in earlier days,’’ Mr Hart said.

‘‘These men began gathering the country’s largest collection of

Veronicaspecies, in what was an early effort at conservation. As the brewery faded into ruins and became overrun with trees that’s largely disappeared, so we’ll gradually be working to restore things starting this spring.’’

He said other natives collected by the men included mountain and tree daisies which, with the

Veronicas, totalled some 90 different species. Documentation from the time reveals the inspiration for the initiative.

During avisit to the site, ‘‘Daffodil King’’ Peter Barr ‘‘expressed his unqualified admiration for the New Zealand flora and concluded by asking Henry Hart why New Zealand people planted their gardens with nothing but imported bushes.’’

Mr Hart discussed this with Mr Darton and, together, ‘‘these gentlemen decided to work together to see what could be done to create a more general interest in our native flora’’.

‘‘They felt that if something was not done soon many varieties of the New Zealand plants would disappear owing to the ravages of fire and their destruction by sheep and rabbits . . .’’

The present›day Mr Hart believed visitors this season would be pleasantly surprised by the changes to the site, which is expected to open for a month from September 15.

‘‘. . .We might see some previously shaded areas come away a bit this season.’’