Talking Trees and Tools with Will Jones

There are almost 6000 trees growing in the Melbourne Gardens, and the arboriculture team, made up of Manager Will Jones and his two colleagues Peter Berbee and James Shugg are primarily responsible for maintaining and caring for all of them! The team assists with selecting, establishing, maintaining and removing trees across the gardens, as well as monitoring potential hazards. First and foremost, the Arboriculture team care about the safety and health of the Garden's trees and visitors.

Some of the trees in the Gardens have incredible histories, such as the 140 year old Bunya Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii) which was nominated for Victorian Tree of the Year, and the Lions Head Tree, a River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) which has been growing since the early 1800’s, where it was originally nestled beside a marshy backwater the Yarra River would flood into, known as Tromgin to the first people. These trees aren't just historically important - other ecosystems are also reliant on the form and foliage of the tree canopy, so keeping every tree maintained is critical to the overall health of the Gardens.

A typical maintenance tasks includes reducing the hazards associated with dangerous or sick trees - an example is the aforementioned Bunya Bunya Pine, which boasts giant cones that can weigh over 10 kilograms. When these are shed, they can do some serious damage, so monitoring the maturation of the cones and cordoning off the Pines accordingly is incredibly important for visitor safety. Other tasks include improving poor tree health and vigour by improving the living conditions surrounding the trees, as well as carrying out tree removal operations in confined spaces, improving soil conditions for tree roots, and nurturing new trees from seedling through to maturity.

“It's physical work which takes its toll on our pruning and removal tools - especially considering it takes a full 18 months to cycle through the tree maintenance schedule across the Gardens,” says Will Jones, Manager Aboriculture. “Our tools need to be reliable, tough, dependable and safe, so were really happy to recently partner with German outdoor power equipment company STIHL.” The STIHL brand has a 90 year heritage and in that time has focussed on making high quality German engineered products to ensure they too are sustainable and that there is longevity in the product. STIHL is all about making sure that there is the right tool for the right job, for the right person.

Aside from quality and practicality, another of STIHL's drawcards is its focus on sustainability. The Gardens is a world leader in planning for changes that will come about as a part of climate change,  and as such, sustainability is part and parcel with its operations. The Arboriculture crew operates sustainably in a number of ways - all woodchips from prunings and small removals are integrated back into the Gardens self-produced mulch, and large removals that produce usable timber are offered to local salvage-based woodworking schools, as an avenue to promote education and skills development.

Using battery-powered equipment such as STIHL's range to complete these and other tasks has many benefits. “With all the climbing we do, we are regularly finding ourselves in an awkward spot reaching for a cut, whilst needing to maintain stability at height in the face of gravity, so we need to be confident in our equipment,” says Will. “STIHL’s battery-powered tools are lightweight, and easy to use as they don’t require any pre-mixed fuel or pull starts, so they are right for the job." Battery powered tools also minimise noise pollution and emissions. This has the added benefit of further enhancing the experience of the visitor to the Gardens as well as being more environmentally sustainable.

The Gardens have been here for 173 years and have been a place of retreat and relaxation for the Australian public, and it is important they are maintained with the best gardening tools for many more generations to enjoy.  "The Partnership between STIHL and the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria is really valuable to both organisations. There are a lot of natural synergies and brand alignment with the focus on future sustainability of both the Gardens and STIHL garden tools lasting the test of time. So together we are working to sustainably manage the Gardens as well as maintaining the health and wellbeing of their team, to create beautiful spaces for people to enjoy for many years to come,” said Jo Katsos, Head of Marketing, STIHL Australia.

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