Arboretum loses a ‘font of knowledge’

Obituary: Bob Berry.

Obituary: Bob Berry.

Hackfalls Arboretum founder Bob Berry celebrated his 102nd birthday in June with his wife Lady Anne Berry, family and friends at the Kiri Te Kanawa retirement village. Picture by Liam Clayton
Photo of Bob Berry taken on his 100th birthday. Picture by Paul Rickard

Refused enlistment with the navy due to a supposed weak heart, Hackfalls Arboretum creator Robert (Bob) Berry died on August 2 at the grand old age of 102.

Mr Berry was a long-time member of the International Dendrology Society and was renowned for establishing at Hackfalls Arboretum the most comprehensive collection of oaks in the Southern Hemisphere.

Hackfalls Arboretum has a collection of about 3500 rare and exotic species of trees and shrubs spread over 50 hectares. It is also home to one of the largest private collections of Mexican oaks in the world.

Born on June 11, 1916 in Gisborne, and known mostly as Bob, Mr Berry once told The Gisborne Herald he became interested by trees because “it was just something to do other than farming.”

That interest attracted many awards over the years. Among them was the 2010 Ron Flook Award for outstanding service to the care of trees and the arboriculture industry, a lifetime service award in 2012 from the International Oak Society for his dedication to the cultivation of Mexican oaks, and in 2015 he was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Veitch Memorial Medal for “outstanding contributions to the advancement of the science of horticulture”.

Gisborne man Rodney Faulkner shared Mr Berry’s interest in trees. Both men were Eastwoodhill Trust board members.

“He was a font of knowledge for Eastwoodhill and anyone interested in his line, which was oaks. He was a world authority on Mexican oaks.”

In 1981, Mr Berry visited Mexico, which has more native oak species growing in its mountainous regions than any other country, and returned with a variety of oak seeds. He propagated them at Hackfalls Arboretum and gave seedlings to people around the country.

Mr Berry was a humble man but encyclopaedic in his knowledge, says Mr Faulkner.

He spent many years going up to Eastwoodhill every week to map out where trees were and identifying various specimens. When there was a chance the land would be sold, HB Williams bought the property and donated Eastwoodhill to the Eastwoodhill Trust Board.

“Had it not been Bob’s deep knowledge of the property and trees it contained, the property might not have been bought for the country,” says Mr Faulkner.

In 1990, Mr Berry married English horticulturalist Lady Anne Palmer and the two continued to work on Hackfalls Arboretum together.

Refused enlistment with the navy due to a supposed weak heart, Hackfalls Arboretum creator Robert (Bob) Berry died on August 2 at the grand old age of 102.

Mr Berry was a long-time member of the International Dendrology Society and was renowned for establishing at Hackfalls Arboretum the most comprehensive collection of oaks in the Southern Hemisphere.

Hackfalls Arboretum has a collection of about 3500 rare and exotic species of trees and shrubs spread over 50 hectares. It is also home to one of the largest private collections of Mexican oaks in the world.

Born on June 11, 1916 in Gisborne, and known mostly as Bob, Mr Berry once told The Gisborne Herald he became interested by trees because “it was just something to do other than farming.”

That interest attracted many awards over the years. Among them was the 2010 Ron Flook Award for outstanding service to the care of trees and the arboriculture industry, a lifetime service award in 2012 from the International Oak Society for his dedication to the cultivation of Mexican oaks, and in 2015 he was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Veitch Memorial Medal for “outstanding contributions to the advancement of the science of horticulture”.

Gisborne man Rodney Faulkner shared Mr Berry’s interest in trees. Both men were Eastwoodhill Trust board members.

“He was a font of knowledge for Eastwoodhill and anyone interested in his line, which was oaks. He was a world authority on Mexican oaks.”

In 1981, Mr Berry visited Mexico, which has more native oak species growing in its mountainous regions than any other country, and returned with a variety of oak seeds. He propagated them at Hackfalls Arboretum and gave seedlings to people around the country.

Mr Berry was a humble man but encyclopaedic in his knowledge, says Mr Faulkner.

He spent many years going up to Eastwoodhill every week to map out where trees were and identifying various specimens. When there was a chance the land would be sold, HB Williams bought the property and donated Eastwoodhill to the Eastwoodhill Trust Board.

“Had it not been Bob’s deep knowledge of the property and trees it contained, the property might not have been bought for the country,” says Mr Faulkner.

In 1990, Mr Berry married English horticulturalist Lady Anne Palmer and the two continued to work on Hackfalls Arboretum together.

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