Griffin and Weston – two men, two views on the greening of Canberra

Media release: Saturday, 21 November 2015

Two men who have individually left their mark on Canberra – Walter Burley Griffin and Charles Weston – just couldn't see eye to eye when it came to natural beautification of the city. This meant that plans for an arboretum for Canberra were shelved for almost 100 years.

As part of the Design Canberra program, the National Archives of Australia is offering visitors an opportunity to learn about Griffin's relationship with federal horticulturalist Weston and its impact on the arboretum – as well as Weston's contribution to the greening of Canberra.

The original plans drawn up by the Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin reveal how sensitive they were to the physical features of the national capital site. They envisaged botanical gardens and an arboretum consisting of seven continental areas: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, North America and South America.

Weston, appointed as officer-in-charge of afforestation in Canberra in 1913, carried out extensive trials to identify species that might grow well in the area. His contribution to the greening of the ACT has been widely admired.

While the Griffins gave their imaginations full rein, Weston was the realist. The conflict between them arose over whether the Griffins' grand concepts would work in the landscape. Weston's knowledge of the native environment contrasted against the Griffins' less practical views.

Visitors are invited to join historian Lenore Coltheart and National Archives curator Amy Lay in conversation about the records that give an insight into this little known aspect of Canberra's history, at 11am and 1pm on Saturday 21 November.

Visitors can also simply drop in to the National Archives reading room between 10am and 4pm on Saturday to view original records, including Griffin's original 1915 plans for a continental arboretum, Weston's diary, plans of Weston's plantings around the city and correspondence between the two men.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au

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