Establishing the Olive Pink Botanic Garden
An arid zone flora reserve
The Olive Pink Botanic Garden adjoins the Todd River, close to the center of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory. The garden was founded in 1956 by Olive Pink, honorary curator, and opened to the public in 1985. Initial developments as a botanic garden were made by Miss Pink and her gardener, Johnny Jampijinpa Yannarilyi. Miss Pink lived within the garden until her death in 1975. The early 1980s saw increased development with the establishment of irrigation and the construction of a visitor center completed in 1985. Over 300 of Central Australia’s plant species can be seen within the 16 hectares.
Olive Pink Botanic Garden Visitor Centre 1995
Photo: taken by Connie Spencer - courtesy of OPBG
An excerpt from Olive Pink’s letter to Dr William Crowther 2/10/1959 below, describes the successful campaign she fought to turn the land, which she rented and camped on for two years until her hut was re-erected there, into an arid flora reserve.
Image taken by Miss Pink of her tent on the Reserve. She lived in this from October 1956-March 1958 as inscribed on back of image.
Photo courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
Reconstruction of Miss Pink's army hut on the Arid Zone Flora Reserve at site where Visitor Centre now stands. Photo: taken by Olive Pink - courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden
"And I had to live somewhere! – (when evicted from the (ex-Army Provost Guards sleeping Hut in Gregory Terrace – where I had lived since 1946 when I had come in from my Thompson’s Rockhole Camp (1942-1946).
Huts are not now allowed to be erected in certain parts of Alice Springs (residential areas) So a place had to be found where this could be re-erected. (I was, after a fight - allowed to buy the one I had lived in for nine years.
So it was decided (by my good friend) the Director of Lands and Surveys of N.T. that I could rent yearly ½ an acre here. (But for 2½ years I lived in a tent! While its re-erecting was being sabotaged by my enemies! (In bureaucratic circles in top grades!)"
“But it was worth fighting for,- to live at this site. One looks at Mt Gillen – and the Todd ‘River’ Gums – (with hardly any building visible (in that direction) even now. There were none in 1956. I thought it so “heavenly” a view (especially at sunrise , sunset and in rain,) that I wrote to the Acting Admin. To ask “Could it not be preserved as a Flora Reserve – for posterity? (As a place of peace and beauty: to preserve the flora already growing there, and to plant the flat area – with Arid region (ONLY) flora viz. 12” rainfall. Or what is called “the Mulga belt” area. The Acting Admin. wired to me to know “If Administration gazetted it as a Flora Reserve would you ( I ) be willing to be Hon Curator of it?”
I wired back “ Honoured and delighted to accept, - provided that I can still continue what I am trying to do for the N.T. full-bloods and attend court cases.”
So here I am!!! Curator with No Knowledge of Botany whatever!!. (And don’t want to have it! It seems chiefly arguments about classification of plants!!!)
Miss Pink's garden on her excision within the Arid Zone Native Flora Reserve.
Photo: by Todd Studio photographer - courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
Olive Pink's garden around her hut in the Flora Reserve.
Photo: - courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden Collection.
But I “ worship” trees and flowers. And especially the “gallant” ones of the arid regions of Australia So I encourage and plant as many as I can get (and at 75 have strength for!). I also have some “garden” flowers and bulbs near the Hut and “my” creek.
It is a most interesting (though unpaid!) job.”
(Excerpt from letter from Olive Pink to Dr William Crowther, 2 October 1959. Courtesy of Crowther collection, Tasmaniana Library, State Library of Tasmania.)
Sketch by Olive Pink of "Reserve for Australian Arid regions Native Flora"
from Olive Pink’s letter to Dr William Crowther 2/10/1959
Courtesy of Crowther Collection, Tasmaniana Library, State Library of Tasmania - enlarge
‘She worked on the public garden, a project very close to her heart, for nearly twenty years, rising each summer morning at four or five o’clock to water and weed the delicate seedlings. She wrote to an old friend in Tasmania: ‘it is for future generations!! (A Peace and beauty spot for the public in years to come).’
Johnny Jampijinpa Yannarily
Photo courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
The hot dry years made watering an enormous and exhausting job. Olive Pink and her gardener, Johnny Jampijinpa Yannarily, dug a complex series of drains, shallow ponds and gutters to catch and channel any water gushing from the hills towards their plantings. They sank pipes into the ground at the base of each tree so that water would be led down below the surface and towards the root systems. These were the basic eco-technologies used to support the first botanic garden devoted to the flora of the arid regions of Australia.’
(from: Marcus, Julie ‘The Indomitable Miss Pink’ Sydney, UNSW Press, 2001 p.293
Johnny Jampijinpa Yannarily - enlarge
Photograph courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden collection.
Inscription by Olive Pink on photo (left) - enlarge
Courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden collection.
Above: Postcard of view from Annie Meyers Hill within the Reserve
looking south toward Todd River and Heavitree Gap. circa. 1930-33.
Roll mouse over image for similar view taken in 1997
(taken by Frances Smith).
Below: revese of postcard with notes by Olive Pink.
Photos: courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
Olive Pink at the Reserve
Photo: courtesy of Olive Pink Botanic Garden
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