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President’s Report September 2019

President’s Report September 2019

Welcome to the start of spring and the lead into the busy run to Christmas.

Over the last three months, the AIH Committee have been tirelessly working to organize a fantastic line-up of speakers for our upcoming conference. We are also preparing the annual awards night which looks set to be a great night of networking and social engagement.

The conference, for which you have no doubt received plenty of information about, is going to be an informative day that will give an insight into how horticulture is assisting with ameliorating the changing climate. I thank our national councillor and conference Convenor, Neville Passmore, FAIH RH, for his assistance with setting up this event.

A big thank you also goes to our hard-working and extremely committed members I have working with me at AIH. Their work on the conference and awards night will ensure that the two events will be enjoyed by all who attend. Therapeutic Horticulture Australia, where I sit on their council, is also delivering an impressive line-up of speakers for their conference. It is a must for anyone wanting to gather information on what’s happening in this emerging sector of our industry.

With only a couple of weeks to go, I recommend to anyone wishing to network with like-minded professionals and hear what both Therapeutic Horticulture and horticulturists are doing about climate change, to come along and have a look at what’s on offer in Perth from 19th – 22nd September 2019.

Hope to see you in Perth.

Michael Casey

Focal Points: Iconic Feature Specimens By Designer Trees

Focal Points: Iconic Feature Specimens By Designer Trees

The use of focal points in design architecture reflects the clever placement of an eye-catching feature in the landscape that draws the eye and creates an impressive ‘wow!’ factor. Much more about quality and style than quantity, the use of iconic plant specimens can create dramatic focal points that can be balanced by more muted plantings to fill the landscape as a canvas. The aim is to create the right level of attention with key plantings that have particular dramatic features – shape, colour or form.

At AIH’s September Walk and Talk, we brought members and guests to the beautiful Designer Trees nursery at Lower Portland near Sydney. Sponsored by AIH Gold Sponsors Botanica Nurseries and Fitzpatrick Insurance, this visit was gratefully hosted by Tony Gigliotti and family on a windy Saturday morning.


Members and guests gathered at Designer Trees in the valley along the Hawkesbury and Colo River.

Tony Gigliotti shared his knowledge of successful Grass Tree cultivation and sustainable production.


The Incredible Blue Grass Trees

There really is no other plant quite like the Australian Grass Tree (Xanthorrhea spp). The result of millions of years of evolution in a fire-prone continent, its species are found across the mainland and Tasmania in a variety of climates. A unique monocotyledonous (grassy) plant, it has a highly unique biology that serves to protect it in fire-prone environments.

Designer Trees have arguably the finest Blue Grass Trees available anywhere, as a result of Tony’s unique landholdings, family history and focus on licenses that allow them to curate a collection of Grass Trees that are tens to hundreds of years old. Tony explained the intricacies of legal curation of these species:

“The licensing regulations protect the species from illegal and unsustainable collection, and the susceptibility of this species to fungal rots brought in by people makes it essential that every specimen is uniquely tagged and managed.”

For a feature planting, Tony advocates being part of the whole process.

“We guarantee our stock, and that means we want to see where and how it is being planted to ensure that the Grass Tree has the right conditions to thrive. We take care of delivery, installation and post-planting checks.”


Tony explained that the ‘pups’ that forms off the sides of the grass are usually firmly attached to the mother and don’t successfully transplant as they have no real roots of their own.

Designer Trees produce a wide range of sizes and each trunk takes decades to grow.

Some customers prefer the smaller grass trees.

The biggest ones really are huge and could easily be in the range of 300-500 years old or more.

Most Grass Trees thrive on fire and it stimulates their growth and flowering. Designer Trees burn theirs to promote regrowth and flowering.

Open cuts or breakages in branches can lead to fungal entry and slow progressive decay, so Designer Trees burn cuts clean and the resin seals the wound.

They are exceptionally beautiful and cleanly produced plants of the highest quality.



Bottle Trees

Designer Trees also have an impressive collection of Bottle Trees and related species (Brachychiton spp.) whose distinctive foliage and trunks create presence and focus in the landscape. Tony explained that these trees thrive on well-watered ground.

“There is wide variation in leaf shapes that really influences their form. We find that pruning helps to encourage their growth and within a month they are flushing the most amazing foliage. Once they’re in your landscape they’ll do well with space and as much water as they can get, and become stunning landscape specimens”.


Pruned Bottle Trees.

Not long after pruning the trees flush with growth.


A Rich History At Portland

Tony also produces a range of trees and produce for the top-end restaurant markets, adding to the property’s story dating back to its establishment by Mary Reibey and her family. Mary is best known for being the face of Australia’s twenty-dollar note.

She and her husband Thomas established the farm on the banks of the Colo River on one side and the Hawkesbury River on the other, plying their produce into Sydney by river and becoming famous and wealthy new Australians. Originally convicted for stealing a horse, Mary rose to become an Australian icon and role model for her efforts in the new colony.

Two hundred years on, the property is a superb location for the future landscape specimens of Australia’s most iconic species.



In Appreciation

The Institute wishes to thank the wonderful support by Tony and the Gigliotti family, who so kindly staged the breakfast barbeque, homemade cakes, drinks and cooking. Thank you so much for opening your property to our members and friends.

We would also like to thank Chris Poulton FAIH RH for coordinating the event with tireless enthusiasm, and members Wayne Van Balen MAIH RH and David Ting MAIH RH for support.

Thank you also to our Gold sponsors Botanica Nurseries and Fitzpatrick Insurance for your continued support.

The AIH acknowledges the Darug People past and present, the traditional owners of the Portland region of the Hawkesbury River with its long tradition of First Peoples settlement.

An Urgent Need to Rethink What It Means to Be ‘Green’

An Urgent Need to Rethink What It Means to Be ‘Green’

Media Release


An Urgent Need to Rethink What It Means to Be ‘Green’

Australian Institute of Horticulture National Conference & Awards, Perth September 21 – 22, 2019


The Australian Institute of Horticulture’s, ‘Horticulture and Humanity’ conference will explore how human activities can affect positive changes in our climate, the environment, food and agricultural systems.

John Rayner, Assoc. Prof. and Director of Urban Horticulture at The University of Melbourne commented “It is important that the AIH is presenting this conference topic. It recognises that horticulture is not just cosmetic but is a functional profession to help with cooling cities”.

The challenges that come with changing climate and evolving ecosystems present opportunities for innovation and problem solving by ornamental and production horticulturists. Conference speakers will outline practical and innovative ways that industry professionals and other interested people, can contribute to minimise, and ameliorate the impacts of human activities.

Topics are being presented by in one main forum, followed by break-out sessions and panel discussions and include:

– Reversing the decline in urban tree cover
– The daily dose of Biophilia
– Mining rehabilitation
– Canopy cover and in WA’s local government areas
– Successful rooftop gardens and green walls in WA’s climate
– The future of food growing with new farming technologies
– Food security in the 21st Century Australia
– New perspectives on re-vegetation with local area natives
– How can Horticulturists help moderate human effects on our planet?
– Tucker Bush and Bindi Bindi Dreaming – a new partnership linking traditional foods

The conference is being opened by a Welcome to Country by Professor Simon Forrest.

The 59th AIH Awards & Gala Dinner, to be held on September 21st, will be hosted this year by Logie award winner, Costa Georgiadis.

On Sunday, September 22nd a bus tour of the Perth horticultural wonders has been organised to top off a wonderful 4 days of learning and camaraderie.

Therapeutic Horticulture Australia will be running a two-day conference ‘Better Together’ September 19th and 20th, prior to the Australian Institute of Horticulture conference. AIH and THA will share the same venue, Aloft Hotel in Belmont. This is worth considering when making your plans.


Get more information and book online for the conference, dinner and bus tour.


If you require assistance, please phone 02 8001 6198 and leave a message.


Conference Accommodation Special Offer at the Aloft Hotel Perth
$205 AUD per night includes buffet breakfast for 1 guest – Book Now.

Leadership Development Scholarships Now Available: Women in Horticulture

Leadership Development Scholarships Now Available: Women in Horticulture

Funding grants of up to $10,941 per person are currently available to women who work in the horticulture sector to support their participation in a leadership development program.


The grants have been allocated as part of a joint funding arrangement between Women & Leadership Australia and Hort Innovation, and provide access to one of three part-time practical courses.


Participants will network with women peers from a variety of industries, and cover such topics as reinforcing resilience and wellbeing, rewiring your networks, evolving strategic change, team dynamics and supporting leadership performance.​


Expressions of Interest
Find out more and register your interest by completing the Expression of Interest form here prior to 15th November:

Walk & Talk at the Riverdene Nursery 7 July 2019

Walk & Talk at the Riverdene Nursery 7 July 2019


By Tom Lantry FAIH, AIH convener for Central Coast & Hunter regions.


After a general introduction of Noel Jupp OAM and Tom Lantry FAIH, Noel began to tell us about the family driven Riverdene Nursery and was joined by his daughter who looks after propagation. Noel showed that they have developed a system where they use old video cases to hold their plant tags. (It certainly keeps them neat and tidy, and easy to find.)


Group during introduction.

Group during introduction.


Noel then proceeded to demonstrate his potting machine, and all the other machinery they use at the nursery. All machinery built themselves. They also make their own potting mix. The majority of plants use common mix, but some require alteration.



Noel explaining potting machine.

Noel explaining potting machine.

When asked about special growing pots to prevent roots tangling, Noel spoke about how pots were introduced after he saw them advertised in a USA nursery magazine. He contacted the manufacturer to find out if they had a similar pot, and the manufacturer followed up and introduced the pots. Noel also said even though pots were 10 to 15% dearer, they produced a better plant with less transplant shock. As we walked around the nursey, he showed us when removing plants from pots; the roots were growing down groves and not around the pot.



Pot root development.

Pot root development.

Staking larger plants, he demonstrated how the spaghetti tube was used. This also allowed for some stretching. In propagation, every second sprinkler was adjusted slightly above the one next to it so that even watering was applied. When using cuttings, jiffy plugs of coco fibre were used so staff can easily see when cuttings take root. A heating mat under the liner was shown to advance rooting of cuttings.


Cuttings in Jiffy plugs.

Cuttings in Jiffy plugs.


Noel explaining procedure.

Noel explaining procedure.


We were shown where pine bark fines and fly ash was stored in separate bins prior to addition of fertiliser. A discussion took place about fly ash, and Noel raised that the latest information is that it may need replacing with sand due to the latest information/concerns about heavy metals in the fly ash. In a discussion about plant variety rights in Australia 18 to 20 cents per plant overseas 4c per plant, but when you have over 1,000,000 plants being sold then it’s still a handy sum. Riverdene keeps track of sales as plants are not allowed to be sold without their labels.

Noel is also involved with the propagation of old citrus varieties and spoke of where he has found old varieties. Some species do not like budding, so they must be propagated by cuttings. Several questions were asked about grass trees propagation and growth rates. Noel said that seeds germinate readily and if given room in pots they develop quickly. So get them out of tubes into 200 mm pots quickly.


Noel at the riverbank.

Noel at the riverbank.


Penny Kater MAIH.

Penny Kater MAIH.

We were then taken to the revegetated river banks which, once they started to attract birds and many other species not planted appeared. Naturally, with the now thick plantings erosion of bank is greatly improved. Before leaving, one of the group members moved a vote of thanks to Noel for the opportunity and open discussion. Tom then spoke to the group about an opportunity to visit a community arboretum just up the road, so we then headed off to the arboretum. After the visit to the Arboretum, several had lunch in town. Overall the visit and networking were worthwhile.

New education platform answers the needs of a changing world

New education platform answers the needs of a changing world

Private education veteran and sponsor of the Australian Institute of Horticulture, ACS Distance Education,  has released its answer to the changing needs of the education market: a monthly subscription of $29.95 buys you unlimited access to a range of micro courses across a huge range of disciplines.

“Learnhowto” has everything from horticulture, agriculture, and business to environment and science covered… and most things in between!

Developed in response to a range of needs (professional development, ‘dip your toe in’, and personal interest), the courses have been developed by highly qualified education specialists who boast years of relevant industry experience. More courses are added each month.

It also has the corporate sector covered: businesses can pay a fee to offer all their employees’ professional development.

It is quick and easy to join, you can study when and where you like, cancel at any time, and even awards a ‘badge’ upon completion of every micro course. Each course takes 3-4 hour each or less to complete, and you are awarded a badge upon completion.

To visit, go to

What are “micro-credentials”, and why were they developed?

Micro-credentials are the new wave of education.

Fewer people are enrolling in degrees, diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships. Mainstream education is struggling to respond to the new landscape with most are simply doing more of what they’ve always been doing.

In reality though, these changes require a more profound response toward a pathway that allows each person to curate their own learning ‘playlist’. To help develop their ‘personal capital’ that will enable them to evolve and sustain a career/s across their lifetime in a fast-changing world.

Blended learning and micro-credentials provides an opportunity to customise learning and economise by taking into account demand, gathering shorter term, project-specific skills, specialist training, regional differences, minimise repeat or irrelevant learning, circumstances.

They are looking to increase their personal capital and differentiate themselves through blended learning and micro-credentials.

What is changing:

  1. Employers are increasingly more concerned about the passion and capability of an employee to do a job and are more likely to engage someone based on attitude and competence than on qualifications alone.
  2. Less qualified people today are often more job secure and earn more than the highest qualified people.
  3. Enrolments in micro credentialed courses are growing extremely fast, as enrolments in longer, mainstream qualifications are in steady decline.
  4. Though the job market is changing, corporations still want to attract the best staff and are increasingly offering career coaching, mentoring and professional development in salary packages.
  5. Many corporations are improving service to their clients by customising services which require agile, flexible employees who can pick up necessary skills ‘on the fly’.
  6. Soft Skills such as communication, problem-solving, and awareness have been identified as key areas many employers prioritise in their staff. More and more graduates are seeking out opportunities to develop non-technical skills

To find out more about the Learn How To range of micro-credentials, and how it all works, take a look:

For all horticulture courses please visit

President’s Report July 2019

President’s Report July 2019

Dear Councillors and Members,


Welcome to the middle of the year and the countdown to our 2019 Conference and Awards night to be held in Perth, Western Australia.


The National Council have now received all the nominations for the upcoming awards and I send out a big thank you to all that sent through their nominations as there have been some fantastic projects and colleagues nominated. I must say the large amount of nominations that came in this year was great to see. Our Conference Convenor Neville Passmore has been working hard to ensure that this year’s conference will not disappoint.


The line up can be seen on the AIH webpage as can the online booking form so ensure you make the most of the discount offered for the conference early bird tickets. The wildflower and garden tour is open for all AIH members and the public so please make the most of booking early as numbers are limited. It will be held on Sunday 22nd September following the awards and can be seen on the website.


Therapeutic Horticulture Australia is also having their annual conference on the 20th September and this will be full of accomplished presenters discussing innovation, practice and research in the field of therapeutic horticulture. Please ensure you take a look at the THA website for more details or you can book online at our Trybooking site.


I would like to acknowledge the hard work of our membership team who have been working hard over the last 2 months ensuring all members have their current memberships processed and replying to messages of both support and inquiries from prospective members. We have had a great number of new members join in recent months and I welcome them to the AIH on behalf of the National Council and myself. To all renewing members please ensure you head to the website of ACS Distance Education to receive your $30 eBook voucher. Thanks again to John Mason FAIH for this kind gift to our members.


The continuing workshops and ‘walk and talks’ around the country are bringing both fantastic and insightful topics and sites for our members but more importantly, they are attracting large amounts of participants ensuring that members can network with like-minded industry colleagues. The appointment of Wayne Van Balen as our Registered Horticulturist Manager will also ensure that these events be run around the country and with the best topics and presenters we can find. For all RH members, we will be starting our auditing of members CPD points so please ensure your records are up to date.


Thank you again to all members and if there is anything myself or the National Council can help you with then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.


Michael Casey

Hort Journal: Therapeutic Horticulture – Digging Deep Into Student Wellbeing

Hort Journal: Therapeutic Horticulture – Digging Deep Into Student Wellbeing


By Michael Casey MAIH RH and Dr Kate Neale AAIH


This article first appeared in the June 2019 of Hort Journal – visit for the full edition.


A residential project at the home of a school principal six years ago began a dialogue regarding how the therapeutic benefits his new outdoor space was having a positive impact on his wellbeing. He wanted to know whether a garden could be recreated within his school to deliver the same benefits for his students. Located on the outskirts of Melbourne, the senior high school sits within a multi-cultural and diverse residential community, with many students from different cultural backgrounds and religions. The principal recognised the importance of ensuring students at the school, many of whom were newly settled in Australia, quickly felt safe and settled in their new environment. He required something that would not only assist students to cope with their new environment but help assist their family as well.


The program allows Year 11 and 12 students to enrol in an outdoor project management or horticulture program whilst working towards their VCE studies. Projects within the program vary in size and scope but have previously included the design and construction of landscaped areas or construction and maintenance of food gardens. The program utilises students’ own skills and interests whilst working alongside an industry professional or team of trained tradesmen to build their capacity to build or manage a specific project. Objectives include: improved graduate employability; student cohesion and increased school spirit; building student esteem and potential; building confidence and encouraging student voice.



‘Naturing Education’ facilitator, Michael Casey in the food garden with students studying their Certificate 2 Horticulture.

‘Naturing Education’ facilitator, Michael Casey in the food garden with students studying their Certificate 2 Horticulture.



The Theory Behind Wellbeing

There is also overwhelming evidence emerging that active student participation within their own education is a predictor of student wellbeing. Research led by Professor Anne Graham, Centre from Children and Young People at Southern Cross University explored student wellbeing through active participation and found students working together through dynamic, reciprocal and meaningful interactions with others, including teachers and school staff, had a positive impact on their wellbeing.


Seeds of Wellbeing

Unsure or fearful of how ideas would be received, students were initially reserved in sharing ideas and expertise in group brainstorming sessions. The collaborative nature and shared power structures within the group, however, enabled and encouraged ideas in a supportive and action-based environment. The program structure enabled students to either vocalise ideas or express them through their physical contribution outside. Students quickly responded to this by engaging in the opportunity to lead aspects of, or co-manage the projects alongside, and with the safety net, of experienced professional facilitators to guide them.


Being in the garden offered an opportunity for teachers and students to converse in a manner that built rapport. This strengthened relationships, developed mutual respect for each other’s perspectives and enabled both to feel more comfortable discussing matters that may not have been raised in a classroom setting. This also enabled the cohort to develop individual and shared problem-solving, resilience and team-building skills as inevitable challenges arose within the project or school environment.



A small section of the food garden showing beds have been prepped by the students for future mass plantings of leafy greens.

A small section of the food garden showing beds have been prepped by the students for future mass plantings of leafy greens.


As the research continues, students’ own perspectives will be privileged in understanding what other benefits of active participation in greenspaces impact upon their wellbeing and ways this can be enhanced further.



Michael Casey is Director at MJC Horticulture Pty Ltd a Design, Consultation, Construction and Management company operating in and around Melbourne. He is currently President of the Australian Institute of Horticulture and National Councillor with Therapeutic Horticulture Australia. Michael can be contacted via:

Dr Kate Neale is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Children and Young People specialises in the therapeutic benefits of gardening on children and people with disability. Her email is:





President’s Report June 2019

President’s Report June 2019

Dear Councillors and Members,


I have enjoyed the last month both working alongside the National Council and fellow members in various activities that are either associated with AIH or the broader industry. This has included working with the hard-working conference team, led by Neville Passmore, as they put together a fantastic program of speakers and topics. The conference will be highlighting the role of horticulturists in a changing world and environment. My role on the national council with Therapeutic Horticulture Australia (THA) has allowed me to work with their President, Steven Wells, and their conference team as we all put the THA conference together, which has a growing line-up of fantastic speakers.


On another front, my chats with Interior Plantscape Association President, Karen Smith, has seen the two of us work on some very exciting ideas that we will both release very soon. The more we chat to our colleagues and friends in the industry, the more we open our eyes to the many professions that this great field of work we are in associates us with. The word collaboration gets used a lot, but I’m actually seeing it play out more and more as it now becomes a fundamental way in which we network within our professional community.


My recent trip to Singapore was a wonderful one that allowed myself, Vice president, Alan Burnell, Singapore Convenor, John Tan, and AIH member, Dr Kate Neale, to attend the opening of the first Singapore Horticultural Show. This show highlighted everything great in horticulture and was targeted at professionals, families, students and anyone with an interest in horticulture. The amount of educational demonstrations held during this event made an outing to this show a must for people wanting to understand more about our profession. Myself, Alan, John and Kate would also like to acknowledge and thank NParks for their kind invitation to speak on behalf of the AIH on various topics from our professional fields.


At the time of compiling this newsletter, the AIH award nominations have closed and the national council will be busy discussing the various projects, members and associated colleagues who have nominated themselves or have been nominated. The awards night, which will be held in Perth following the conference will be a fantastic night to both highlight some of the wonderful work in horticulture as well as a worthy networking event. Tickets will be on sale very shortly for both our AIH conference and awards night as well as the Therapeutic Horticulture conference.


AIH workshops continue to be presented around the country with some fantastic events facilitated by our convenors and horticultural experts. These events are always being added to the calendar and can be viewed online. The Walk ‘N’ Talks will also continue with some new ones being added to the Victorian calendar very shortly. Thanks to our Registered Horticulturist Manager, Wayne Van Balen and all the regional convenors. I am looking forward to some great events over the next few months.


And on a final note, you will have received your annual renewals for membership. The national council thanks you for your ongoing support as a member and we look forward to assisting and promoting you and the industry throughout the next 12 months and beyond. A big thank you goes out to John Mason from ACS Distance Education for their kind donation of a $30 voucher that goes to all members on renewal of their membership. Let’s all get behind them as a valued sponsor.


Michael Casey

The Urban Tree Puzzle

The Urban Tree Puzzle

Urban Greening Efforts In Australia A Puzzle With Pieces Missing

Delegates at the Urban Tree Puzzle forum hosted by the Australian Institute of Horticulture at Botanica Nurseries in western Sydney learned how successful urban greening with trees requires all parts of the puzzle to work together when presenters Ross Clark of Impact Trees and Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH showcased best-practices in tree selection and establishment.


The ‘puzzle’ refers to the idea that tree establishment will only work in the long term if the following elements all work together:

  1. Planning: of the site, soil, species and logistics
  2. Species: ensuring that the species are suitable and resilient
  3. Provision: of high-quality trees and careful transportation
  4. Stock: specifically AS2303:2018 compliant stock
  5. Planting: ensuring the soil and root pruning methods are adequate
  6. Establishment and Maintenance: including post-planting watering and care
  7. Communication: across all elements and stakeholders


In many cases, major tree planting and greening efforts are getting most of these elements wrong and this means that the chances of long-term success are much lower than they could be. From poor quality stock, to the wrong species for the position, to a lack of post-planting care and watering, many trees are failing and this costs millions of dollars in lost opportunity and lost value, according to the speakers.


Ross Clark provided a highly-comprehensive presentation on the way that all parts of the Urban Tree Puzzle absolutely must fit together. To ignore or get wrong any single part often leads to the kinds of failures now being experienced across Australia as newly-planted or even established trees fail. Often, tree failure is blamed on storms or droughts where in reality, the real causes were apparent in the trees’ establishment and due to poor root development, poor root establishment or a failure to provide sufficient and thorough watering.


“There is no value in second-rate trees” said Ross. “You either use trees that have been grown to the Tree Stock Standard AS2303:2018 or you don’t plant at all. Second-rate trees have less than no value because the potential for failure is so high and you are likely to incur an opportunity cost by using bad tree stock”.


Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH is highly-regarded in the industry and consulted on the Barangaroo project that features more than 75,000 native trees and plants. Stuart spent weeks researching the plants that existed at the time of white settlement in 1788 and chose iconic native species, nearly all of which were endemic to Sydney Harbour with the added exceptions of Spotted gum, Gymea Lily, Sydney Blue Gum, Water Gum and  Callistemon citrinus “Anzac”.


Stuart outlined the enormous success of the effort that went into the Barangaroo ‘puzzle’, and perhaps the best evidence of its commercial success is that fact that less than one percent of trees failed when normally fifteen percent would be expected to fail. This is testament to the value of planning and the result is a vital and beautifully-planned precinct that matches the astonishing Sydney Harbour forefront.


This leaves you with one simple question: in your next landscape or urban greening project, will you make the effort to ensure that every part of the tree puzzle is properly planned?


Or will you simply hope for the best and pray that your energy and investment doesn’t keel over when the wind blows?




Tree Stock Standard Summary Guide

Tree Stock Standard Reference Card

Check your trees for compliance within the range accepted by AS2303:2018


Photo Gallery

Take a photographic tour through the workshop and share in the learnings from the AIH Urban Tree Puzzle…

It is with thanks to our Gold Sponsors Botanica Nurseries and General Manager David Hanna that the Urban Tree Puzzle was made possible. With gratitude.


Chris Poulton FAIH RH welcomed the delegates to the inaugural Urban Tree Puzzle event. The event aimed to build on recent outreach events around AS2303:2018 and its release in December 2018. It is with thanks to Chris and his tireless efforts that the Urban Tree Puzzle event could be made possible.


The event attracted a large group of professionals, members of the AIH and guests to learn from the experts on successfully establishing trees.


Ross Clark has been in tree production for decades and brought his charismatic expertise and knowledge to the event. Ross started by explaining the missed opportunity in current tree planting, and the challenges faced by time-poor developers in completing successful tree planting projects.


Ross presented each of the seven parts of the Urban Tree Puzzle where each individual part must work together to achieve successful tree establishment.


Ross further explained the absolute importance as an industry of pulling demand for AS2303:2018-compliant stock through the supply chain. As selectors and buyers, it is essential that every purchasing decision demands compliant stock in order to raise the quality of all trees sold into industry.


Ross built on the efforts by Western Sydney University in promoting the Tree Stock Guide (available at as a handy reference guide to using the AS2303:2018 standard in the field.


Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH presented a compelling overview of his work at the stunning Barangaroo site in Sydney. With his wide knowledge of trees and tree establishment honed over decades of experience, Stuart showed the sheer logistical challenge that it took to make Barangaroo such a beautiful venue.


Stuart also provided advice on successfully managing complex sites such as sloping landscapes with a combination of soft and hard landscaping and retaining techniques that provide depth and drainage needed to provide successful tree establishment.


General Manager of Botanica Nurseries, David Hanna, shared his thanks to Chris and the AIH team and guests for providing a highly-valuable workshop.


Ross then took guests on an outdoor tree assessment session, starting with four sizes of Tristaniopsis ‘Laurina’ trees.


Outwardly, all four appeared to be fairly good trees but a close inspection started to reveal some hidden issues…


This is the rootball from the smallest tree out of a six-inch pot. It certainly looked like a straight, upright tree with a good root to shoot balance. However, pulling out the soil shows clearly that the tree retains its tube-shaped rootball, indicating that it spent too long in the tube and the roots have grown downwards from the lower part of the tube rootball. This tree will continue to grow with these defects evident at a young age.


The next size tree was in an eight-inch pot and appeared quite good. However removing the soil showed that the rootball had curled around and not through the soil, creating a void directly under the stem-root junction. This is a problematic defect that will create stability and establishment issues.


This rootball is clearly far too long in the pot and has fully circled and bound the roots into a tight ball that requires significant remediation. Roots like these would continue to circle even with significant root pruning.


It proved difficult to loosen these roots, demonstrating how tightly-bound the rootball had become.


Ross showed the practice of using a handsaw to remove the outer spiraled roots, peeling away matted roots like carpet. This then forces new tip growth that grows outward and aims to remove the circled root growth.