Emily's love of flowering trees

By Laurel Stowell, laurel.stowell@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

WANGANUI owes some of its most gorgeous street trees to a public-spirited gardener active in Wanganui in the late 1800 and early 1900s.

Emily Marshall-White came from Suffolk, in England. She found that she could grow exotic Southern Hemisphere plants in New Zealand, and fell in love with them.

Her first Wanganui garden was a large one on St John's Hill. She delighted in trying plants like New Zealand ferns, cabbage trees and palms, and she imported the winged seeds of what she called scarlet flowering gums. They were brought in from Sydney, and cost her a penny each.

As recorded in Kerry Carman's edited version of her book, Emily's Garden, Mrs Marshall-White's seedling gums flowered within four years.

She was responsible for planting both the gums and pohutukawa on Wanganui streets, including a row of gums in Victoria Park near her house. Some of the biggest and oldest pohutukawa and gums in the city are the result of her "personal city beautification crusade".

Mrs Marshall-White was an enthusiastic member of the city's horticultural society, and founded and competed in its chrysanthemum society. She was very pious, and Carman's book records that she and her daughter used to sell bunches of violets at Marton Junction Station, with the proceeds going to church funds. She gardened at Turakina and Marton as well as Wanganui in her later years. She was 97 when she died in 1936.

The "gums" that she planted have been reclassified botanically as bloodwoods, which makes them technically corymbias rather than eucalypts.

The albany red flowering gum, Corymbia ficifolia, is only found in the wild in a small area on the south coast of Western Australia, near Albany. But its glorious flowers, hardiness, smallish size and tidy habit have made it a popular street tree grown in temperate climates all over the world.

The biggest tree of its type in the world, according to Wikipedia, is in Princes St, Hamilton.

The trees are said to flower heavily only every second year. Because most of the growth happens in spring the flowers are on the outside of the tree and very visible.

Do you have a favourite sight, sound or smell of summer? Ring 06 349 0710 ext 50833, email laurel.stowell@wanganuichronicle.co.nz or write to Laurel Stowell, Wanganui Chronicle, PO Box 433, Wanganui.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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