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Meet: Stuart Pittendrigh

Barangaroo Point, Sydney’s great new harbourside park will soon open to the public. Before the ribbons are cut, meet the project’s horticultural consultant, and friend of Graham's for over four decades, Stuart Pittendrigh. Robin Powell interviews him on site!

Meet Stuart Pittendrigh, horticulturist. Photo - Robin Powell

What’s the big idea behind the project?

Our aim was to create a naturalistic planting of Sydney Harbour plants. So all the plants here are indigenous to Sydney’s harbourside, apart from four extras - Gymea lily, spotted gum, Sydney blue gum, and a particularly good cultivar of water gum, Tristaniopsis laurina ‘Luscious’.


How many species are planted here?

There are some 74,000 plants in the landscape from 83 species, some of which have never been grown commercially before.


Some of the 74,000 plants in the landscape from 83 species of plants all indigenous to Sydney. Photo - Robin Powell

You’ve been working closely with soil expert Simon Leake. How have you approached the planting?

Simon and I looked at the optimum growing conditions of all the plants we selected – at the topography, aspect, drainage and soil type, and put all that on a spreadsheet. Then we clustered plants together that like particular conditions and provided those conditions. So we have communities of plants that thrive in woodland, moist gully, or on the waterfront and so on. This has been a great success and our plant losses have been very low.


What has been the biggest challenge on the project?

We needed to make a big impact so we have had to plant extremely advanced plants.


A fantastic new view of Sydney. Photo - Robin Powell

How did you manage that?

The first thing is to transport them from where they have been grown. We hold off watering them for long enough to induce some wilt. This makes the limbs floppy rather than stiff and reduces the risk of breakages when we lay them on the flat bed of a truck. We prepare the planting hole like a wok – it’s wide and shallow, only 800mm deep but twice as wide as the root ball at the bottom and three times as wide at the top. We root prune the tree before we put it in, and then drench it with water and a couple of doses of Seasol over the next week to get the roots establishing fast. It’s been very successful.


One of the dominant features of the landscape is the sandstone. Where has that come from?

It’s all been quarried on site, from the underground carpark. Nothing has been brought in – even the soil has been made on site, from what has been dug out to create the cultural centre.


The giant sandstone blocks were quarried from the site's carpark. Photo - Robin Powell

How do you think people will respond to Barangaroo Point?

The visitors we have had so far are amazed and excited by it. It really has an effect on them. I think Sydneysiders are going to love it.


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Author: Robin Powell