''Old' Buckie'
and the
'Buchanical Gardens'


John Buchanan 1819–1898
Draughtsman, botanist, artist


 

One of those who played a significant role in the establishment of the Wellington Botanic Garden was John Buchanan. Close associates called him 'Buckie' with 'his' garden often referred to as the 'Buchanical Garden', even by the Hon. W.D.B Mantell, MP and Executive Member of the Government, when writing as sometimes Acting Director to James Hector when the later was overseas. Mantell was a foundation member of the Botanic Garden Board and its first secretary, and would have had considerable contact with Buchanan. Such naming can only represent the respect Buchanan acquired from those he worked with over the years. The amendment to the garden name also suggests that amongst his associates he was seen to have played a substantial role in its establishment. It is noted he was responsible for much of the design of the garden and displays for the Colonial Museum.

Adams notes "
John Buchanan belonged to a highly competent group of men, who, although largely untrained, had the intelligence and ability to respond to the stimulus provided by the leaders of the small scientific community that existed in the mid nineteenth century". Sir Joseph Hooker noted that Buchanan "sent home to Kew the best collection of plants that were received from Australasia"

John Buchanan was born 13 October 1819 in Scotland, educated at the local parish school and mechanics' institute and initially apprenticed as a pattern designer at a calico print works. Moving to Busby, Glasgow, he devoted his leisure to botany. He never married. In July 1851 he emigrated to New Zealand on the barque Columbus, arriving at Port Chalmers in February 1852.


John Buchnan portrait around the time he moved to Wellington in 1865

After a brief sojourn on the Victorian gold fields, Buchanan returned to New Zealand to farm his 2.54 hectare section in North East Valley, near Dunedin. He was employed as an assistant on the provincial reconnaissance surveys between 1856 and 1859 and in March 1858 was the first to find gold at the Tuapeka and Clutha rivers, although never received any of the £2,000 reward offered to those finding a payable gold field. In 1861 and 1862 he went prospecting in the Tuapeka and Manuherikia regions. During his journeys Buchanan collected plants to send home to his friend Dr John Ross, a medical practitioner and amateur botanist in Busby. Ross recommended Buchanan to Joseph Dalton Hooker as a knowledgeable botanist to serve on James Hector's forthcoming geological survey of Otago. In the spring of 1862 Hector engaged Buchanan first privately and then officially as botanist and draughtsman for both his expeditions of 1863, when they explored the West Coast of the South Island.


John Buchanan's highly rated 1863 painting of Milford Sound

A good example of Buchanan's artistic work from his workbook

Under Hector's scientific direction Buchanan had, by the end of 1864, produced what has been described as his finest work, including maps, botanical drawings and watercolour panoramas of the western lakes and sounds. Hector, appointed director of the newly constituted Geological Survey and Colonial Museum in Wellington in 1865, secured appointments for all his Dunedin staff in their former capacities. Buchanan came to live in Wellington for the next 20 years.

Hector described Buchanan's duties in Wellington as :
Lithographs for Institute (Transactions), maps for Geological Survey, arrangement of herbarium comprising plants of New Zealand and foreign collected during last past 10 years, work at the Botanic Garden from time to time surveying roads etc., and miscellaneous work in connection with Museum and Geological Survey. In addition during Hector's frequent absences from Wellington often responsibility for the day to day running of the Museum, meteorology, and the Garden and Institute business.

It would seem he did not have much spare time especially considering his extensive botanical and geological trips continued to take Buchanan to all parts of the country, and were documented in field-books and many landscape and natural history drawings. Sketches, paintings, reports and personal papers are now preserved in libraries and museums in Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Sydney, although much of his botanical collection has been lost over the years. Buchanan published 36 scientific papers as well as the three volume, illustrated folio work The indigenous grasses of New Zealand . He wrote some thirty botanical papers for the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. Most described, in concise terms, new species of native plants. Others dealt with plants in particular regions, for example, the floras of the Wellington region, Kawau Island and Campbell Island. He was interested in native timbers, as a paper "On the durability of New Zealand timber, with suggestions for its preservation" indicates. Some more learned botanists crticised Buchanan for his identification of some specimes, but acknowledged that the absence of herberia or botanical literature made matters difficult for him to do this.

Who designed the Garden?

The Wellington Botanic Garden has an extensive network of paths and roads, and recently I have been wondering 'who was responsible for setting these out'. The 1874 map shows most of the paths that exist now. True, there have been some additions with some minor realignment, but the basic layout remains recognisable.

In a recent article, Tyler (Linda Tyler Art in the Service of Science Dunedin's John Buchanan 1818-1898) noted that John Buchanan 'designed the plantings in the Colonial Botanic Garden'. Later in her article, however she elaborated, stating 'it is difficult to ascertain the extent of Buchanan's role in designing the Garden, supervising the formation of paths, fences and plantings'. Before making up our minds, let us look at what evidence is available.

In February 1872 the Board confirmed Hector, Ludlam and Travers as a management committee for the Garden. Twice when Hector was overseas, Mantell took his place as acting manager. Thus these four men were responsible for the day to day running of the Reserve as well as the overall planning and planting in keeping with policy laid down by the full Board. John Buchanan although not a Board member began to make daily visits to the Garden on his way to the Museum, and so gradually took over the supervision of work initiated by Ludlam. Board members Thomas Mason and Archdeacon Stock were also concerned with the physical aspects of the area.

The local Maori had areas under cultivation in pre-European times, especially around the cable car area. They would have had tracks through the bush areas, presumably along the ridges and spurs, but I can find no information on those, and whether they had any impact on the location of the developed paths we have now.

James Hector had administrative responsibility for the Garden from 1868, but additionally with control over scientific institutions inclining the Colonial Museum, Colonial Observatory and Time Service, the Geological Survey, the Meteorological Department and the Standards and Weight Measures, he would have had little time for direct involvement in the Garden. He would have certainly continued oversight of its development.

While in Dunedin John Buchanan had been sending botanical material to Dr John Ross, a medical practitioner and amateur botanist in Britain. Ross recommended Buchanan to Joseph Dalton Hooker as a knowledgeable botanist, suggesting that Buchanan would be an ideal addition to serve on the Reconnaissance and Triangulation Survey of Otago, led by James Hector. In the spring of 1862 Hector engaged him first privately and then officially as botanist and draughtsman for both his expeditions of 1863, when they explored the West Coast of the South Island. He obviously developed a good relationship with Hector, and when the later was chosen to found the Geological Survey in Wellington, appointed Buchanan to his permanent staff. It is therefore likely that Buchanan had Hector's confidence, and was delegated responsibility for much of the day to day development of the Garden.

Hector's schedule of duties for Buchanan in Wellington included 'work at the Botanic Garden from time to time surveying roads etc.'

Right from the start Buchanan was required to start each working day going to the Garden to inspect the work being completed, and to provide detailed reports to both Hector and the Board. With daily visits he would have been in a position to have a significant say on what was taking place.

In September 1870 the Board appointed a professional gardener originally from Britain, William Bramley, as the first curator. Initially Alfred Ludlam had supervised the garden development in the earliest years, influencing the choice of plants and personally procuring many of them during the first 5 yeas. Buchanan took over this duty as part of his daily visit to the garden probably from the late 1860's, supervising the work being completed. Bramley would have worked closely with Buchanan in the development of the area, in particular organising the detailed planting, filling the areas created by Buchanan's road design. One can envisage there would have been good co-operation between them.

W.D.B Mantell, MP and Executive Member of the Government, when writing as Acting Director to James Hector when the later was overseas, often referred to the 'Buchanical Garden' in correspondence. Others also used this name. Mantell was a foundation member of the Botanic Garden Board and its first secretary, and would have had considerable contact with Buchanan. Such naming can only represent the respect Buchanan acquired from those he worked with over the years. The 'amendment' to the garden name also suggests that amongst his associates he was seen to have played a substantial role in the establishment and development of 'his' Garden. Nevertheless he was never appointed to the Board.

The story, however, does not end there. There are two further people who are likely to have played a role in the design. Both had extensive, developed and established gardens in the Hutt Valley, even in the early stage of the colony. These are Alfred Ludlam and Thomas Mason.

Alfred Ludlam (1810 – 1877) was a leading New Zealand politician, horticulturist and farmer who owned land in Wellington and the Hutt Valley. He developed an extensive garden in Lower Hutt. A member of three of New Zealand's four earliest parliaments, he was also a philanthropist and a founding proponent of the Wellington's Botanic Garden.

In Exotic Intruders Joan Druett noted ..........

"some early settlers, appreciating a need and more enterprising than most, set themselves up in the occupation of importing and cultivating seed and plants for sale.

One of those dealing in plants was Alfred Ludlam. He, with his friend and neighbour Francis Molesworth, set up an exchange system of sending plants back to England and receiving others by return ship. The garden they established on Francis Molesworth's Lower Hutt farm eventually became the Bellevue Gardens, nearly 20 hectares of native and exotic shrubs, including magnificent trees and massed beds of English flowers.”

Ludlam supported the Wellington Colonial Museum and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Wellington Botanic Garden in 1868, having introduced into the New Zealand Parliament legislation to "establish and regulate" the garden, and serving on the Board from the first year. He introduced in 1869 an act of parliament which entrusted management of the Botanic Garden to the New Zealand Institute (forerunner of the Royal Society of New Zealand). He made substantial donations of plants and trees to the Garden, including over 500 species in 1870/71; 250 pine trees and a packet of pine seeds in 1874/75 plus significant other donatons. He possessed some of the earliest pines found in Wellington, and many of these found their way into the Garden. With his knowledge and experience he would have been able to contribute many ideas dring the formative stage.

The second individual was Thomas 'Quaker' Mason (1818 - 1903), the third settler to occupy a section in the Hutt Valley at Taita, who quickly established one of the outstanding gardens in New Zealand after his arrival in 1841. Significantly engaged in horticulture, he became closely involved in the Wellington Botanic Garden from its inception, completing 15 years on the Botanic Garden Board, and was the final Chairman of the Board prior to the transfer of the Garden to the Wellington City Council in 1891.

When Thomas Mason came to New Zealand at the age of 22, he brought with him skills in farming, horticulture and commerce, that fore-shadowed the prominent place he came to occupy in later years, creator of what was widely regarded at the time as the finest botanical garden in New Zealand, sometimes even called 'the best in the Southern Hemisphere'. On his death there was pressure to preserve his garden in the Hutt Valley for future generations, but funds could not be found to do this. With his experience in establishing a 'botanic garden', his knowledge would have been invaluable. In addition he was also able to provide significant plant donations over a wide range of genera, also at the time when major new plantings were taking place. These included
1871/72 381 species
1872/73  1 Pinus halepensis, 3 Pinus austrtaca (a form of Pinus nigra), 3 Pinus longifolia (synonym of Pinus palustris) and 60 Laoristinus (Viburnum), 6 Widdringtonia (cypress family), 2 Cupressus junebns, 100 Oaks, rose cuttings and assorted cuttings
1874/75 24 shrubs
1875/76 12 Phlox, 6 azaleas, 24 shrubs
1877/78 Collection of plants and cuttings
with further unidentified donations 1878/79, 1879/80, 1880/81,1881/82,1883/84,1885/86,1889/90 and 1890/91

There was a considerable reserve of knowledge and experience from a number of people available when needed to assist in estblishing this Garden, and the result tells its own success story. While Buchanan appears to have played a key role in the development, working with him was a team of knowledgable and practical people who would have been able to make considerable contributions to the final successful result. To them all we owe an everloasting vote of thanks for a job well done.


Buchanan drawing from this 'grasses' publication,
showing his detailed artwork

Like many of those involved in the establishment of the Wellington Botanic Garden, he was a foundation member of the New Zealand Institute and lithographed the illustrations for the Transactions from its first issue in 1867 until 1885. In 1876 he became a fellow of the Linnean Society, and on his retirement from the Colonial Museum in June 1885 was made a life member of the Wellington Philosophical Society. Buchanan returned to his home in North East Valley, Dunedin.

In the Auckland Museum's manuscript collection one of John Buchanan's notebooks has been recently refound. It provides a fascinating insight of New Zealand’s science history and perspective on Buchanan. His sharp blue eyes noticed differences between the plants he had collected around Wellington in 1866 and the ‘official’ descriptions in Joseph Dalton Hooker’s newly published (but unillustrated) Handbook of New Zealand Flora, commissioned by the New Zealand Government.

The New Zealand Native Passionfruit drawing from page 193 of Buchanan's Notebook

Unsurprisingly, given the energetic botanical collecting he engaged in as soon as he arrived in New Zealand from Scotland in 1852, most of the species that bear John Buchanan’s name are plants. But there is also a predatory sea snail, Antimelatoma buchanani described in 1873.



Many plants where named in honour of John Buchanan, and his illustraton of Ranunculus buchanani 1865, is a typical example of such a plant.
Described by Joseph Dalton Hooker, and named in his honour, it is one of the original illustrations to Buchanan’s A Sketch of the Botany of Otago produced for the New Zealand Exhibition in Dunedin in 1865.


Pittosporum crassifloium from his notebook

One of the plants illustrated in the notebook is Pittosporum crassifolium is from a plant grown at Wellington, quite probably from the Botanic Garden, where Buchanan oversaw its development and who was studying the local flora naturally present in the garden. He writes regarding this plant: ‘It is difficult to make out what Hooker means by “bracts broadly ovate ciliate imbricate”. There is no appearance of any bracts at all on the plant unless one or two floral leaves be considered so and they do not agree with the description.’

Buchanan's artwork of a plant named after Hector

Buchanan worked closely with James Hector and Alfred Ludlam in the establishment of this garden, possibly even before its formal establishment in 1868. It is, however, his “Notes on the Colonial Garden Wellington and its Flora” which is his most significant publication, which he read to the Philosophical Society in October 4 1875. Recommended for publication in the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, it was never published. Providing a historical record of both indigenous and exotic plants in the garden at that time, it is now regarded as a valuable document providing an insight to the native plants in particular present within the garden at that time. The full document is published in The Botanic Garden Wellington A New Zealand History 1840 – 1987 by Winsome Shepherd and Walter Cook. Proceeding the article is an excellent illustration showing the artistic skill of Buchanan.

Buchanan's title page from his
Notes on the Colonial Garden Wellington and its Flora


Another example of his work

Buchanan's artwork for the Transactions covered a wide range of subjects.
This drawing of a moa neck is a typical example

Nancy Adams has penned a fascinating article on the life and work of John Buchanan, his exploration and botanical collecting in Otago and, especially in relation to the Garden, in the Wellington region. His early exploration of Otago, and extensive travel to many parts of New Zealand make interesting reading. Examples of many of his botanical drawings can be found on the web, and the Transactions of the NZ Institute records the considerable work he compiled there to illustrate many articles during the first 18 years of its existence, covering a wide range of subjects. He also produced many articles for the Transactions, listed in the Adams article.

John Buchanan died at Maori Hill Dunedin on Thursday 18 October 1898. Unmarried, no next of kin were recorded, although his estate was left to his brother in Sydney. He is buried in the Northern Cemetery in Lot 2 Block 86. The marker is in good order (2001) although the lettering is badly eroded.


IN MEMORY OF
JOHN BUCHANAN F.L.S.
DIED AT DUNEDIN
18th OCT 1898

Not widely recognised for his work even in this garden, recently (November 2012) a seminar was held on his life and work in Dunedin, with an exhibition held in both Dunedin and Auckland.

It would be nice to think that this exhibition could be seen in 'his' buchanical garden some time in the future.




  SOURCES AND RESOURCES

Interview
Linda Tyler discusses John Buchanan on Dunedin’s Channel 9.

Biography on John Buchanan Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1b42/buchanan-john

Twenty-one specimens in the Museum’s herbarium collected by John Buchanan. http://muse.aucklandmuseum.com/databases/general/Botany/6541.detail?Ordinal=1&c_collector_search=buchanan

Auckland Museum’s record detail on Hooker’s Manual of the New Zealand flora.

Auckland Museum’s record detail on Cheeseman’s Manual of the New Zealand flora.

John Buchanan F.L.S. botanist and artist (1819–1898): Nancy M. Adams: Tuhinga 13, 2002, Nancy Adams, 2002 John Buchanan F.L.S. botanist and artist (1819–1898): Nancy M. Adams: Tuhinga 13, 2002, Nancy Adams, 2002

Part 1 http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/SiteCollectionDocuments/Tuhinga/Tuhinga.13.Article4_pt1.pdf

Part 2 http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/SiteCollectionDocuments/Tuhinga/Tuhinga.13.Article4_pt2.pdf

Portrait of John Buchanan http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/ObjectDetails.aspx?irn=532839

Early New Zealand Botanical Art IX — John Buchanan and Nature Printing http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-SamEarl-t1-body1-d8.html

Plate 26 Ehrharta stipoides Labill. (meadow rice grass) John Buchanan http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/etexts/SamEarl/SamEarlP026.jpg

Art in the Service of Science – Dunedin’s John Buchanan
http://blog.tepapa.govt.nz/2012/11/26/guest-blog-art-in-the-service-of-science-dunedins-john-buchanan/

http://www.buchanan-heraldry.net.nz/body/WKjohn.html

Picturing the plants: John Buchanan’s illustrations of New Zealand flora http://blog.aucklandmuseum.com/2012/11/picturing-the-plants-john-buchanan%E2%80%99s-illustrations-of-new-zealand-flora/

http://www.northerncemetery.org.nz/burial/8118


The grasses John Buchanan illustrated in The Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand (1878-1880): H. E. Connor and E. Edgar: Tuhinga 13, 2002   http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/SiteCollectionDocuments/Tuhinga/Tuhinga.13.Article3.pdf

 john buchanan watercolour   http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/search.aspx?term=john%20buchanan%20watercolour
 

Tyler, Linda Art in the service of science: Dunedin's John Buchanan
    http://issuu.com/lyus27/docs/buchanan_print

Art in the Service of Science – Dunedin’s John Buchanan https://blogs.otago.ac.nz/thehockenblog/2012/11/26/art-in-the-service-of-science-dunedins-john-buchanan/

James Hector
   Art. VI.—On Recent Moa Remains in New Zealand. with Buchanan sketch  http://rsnz.natlib.govt.nz/volume/rsnz_04/rsnz_04_00_000720.html

John Buchanan articles in the Transactions of the NZ Institute as currently indexed

 Art. XXXIII.—Description of a new Species of Erigeron. By J.Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 17, 1884

Sketch of the Botany of Otago, By Mr. John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey of New Zealand., from Volume 1, 1868

Art. XIV.—On some new species of New Zealand Plants. By John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey Department., from Volume 2, 1869

Art. XXXIX.—On the Wanganui Beds (Upper Tertiary). By J. Buchanan, of the Geological Survey of New Zealand., from Volume 2, 1869

Art. XXXIII.—On some New Species and Varieties of New Zealand Plants. By John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey Department., from Volume 3, 1870

Art. XLV.—Notice of a New Species of Senecio, (S. hectori). By John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey of New Zealand., from Volume 5, 1872

Art. XLVI.—List of Plants found on Miramar Peninsula, Wellington Harbour. By John Buchanan., from Volume 5, 1872

Art. XXXVIII.—Notes on the Flora of the Province of Wellington, with a List of Plants collected therein. By John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey of New Zealand., from Volume 6, 1873

By John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey of New Zealand.On some New Species of New Zealand Plants, from Volume 6, 1873

On the Durability of New Zealand Timber, with Suggestions for its Preservation by John Buchanan, from Volume 6, 1873

Art. XLVII.—On the Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Chatham Islands. By John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey Department., from Volume 7, 1874

Art. XII.On Charring Timber as a Protection from Teredo. By John Buchanan., from Volume 9, 1876

Art. LXXIV.—On the Root-stock of Marattia fraxinea, Smith. By John Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 9, 1876

Art. LXXVI.—Revised descriptions of two species of New Zealand Panax. By John Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 9, 1876

Art. XVIII.—On a means of selecting the most durable Timber. By John Buchanan., from Volume 10, 1877

Art. LXIII.—Description of a new Species of Celmisia. By J. Buchanan., from Volume 11, 1878

Art. LVI.—Notes on New Zealand Plants. By J. Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 12, 1879

Art. XLVII.—On the Alpine Flora of New Zealand.Plates XXIV.–XXXV. By John Buchanan, F.L.S., of the Geological Survey Department., from Volume 14, 1881

Art. XLVIII.—On some Plants new to New Zealand, and Description of a new Species. By John Buchanan, of the Geological Survey Department., from Volume 14, 1881

Art. XLI.—Notes on new Species of Plants. By J. Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 16, 1883

Art. XLIII.—Campbell Island and its Flora. By J. Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 16, 1883

Art. LII.—On Cyttaria Purdiei, Buch. By John Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 18, 1885

Art. XXIX.—On some New Native Plants. By J. Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 19, 1886

Art. XXX.—Botanical Notes. By J. Buchanan, F.L.S., from Volume 20, 1887

Art. LXI.—List of Plants found in the Northern District of the Province of Auckland. By J. Buchanan and T. Kirk., from Volume 2, 1869 3

On the Durability of Matai Timber. John Buchanan, from Volume 9, 1876

Art. XXXIX.—On some New Species of New Zealand Plants. Buchanan, J., from Volume 4, 1871