Mulberry Tree planting – a symbolic gesture to OCAV’s 150th anniversary

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Mulberry Tree planting – a symbolic gesture to OCAV’s 150th anniversary

February 24, 2021

A new mulberry tree stands sentinel in one of Rushall Park’s extensive lawns, a symbolic gesture to mark OCAV’s 150th anniversary and to pay tribute to a former resident, a pioneering silk grower in Victoria.

The Morus Alba pendula, or weeping mulberry, was recently planted in the lawn outside the Jean Stewart building. The choice of tree was deliberate, not only will it look glorious in Autumn, provide clusters of green edible fruit in Summer, but it also brings back mulberries into the village… where many used to grow.

Marika Pedrioli, Head Gardener at Rushall Park, said the idea for a mulberry tree emerged from the Garden Party held in the village to celebrate the sesquicentennial.

“We wanted a tree that had connections with the history and was a nod to the present and future. Choosing a tree which bears fruit and is unusual in today’s gardens was also important,” Marika said.

Best of all, according to Marika, is that the mulberry tree allows people to learn more about some of the ‘invisible’ women associated with Rushall Park, one of whom was silk grower Ann Timbrell.

Back in the 1860s Ann was a leading sericulturist in Australia. She was awarded the first Government premium for silk growing in 1864, and went onto many other awards including one from the Dublin Exhibition of 1865. She was competent in every sense, arguing vociferously in treatises about the benefits on silk growing.

After her husband journalist Andrew Timbrell died in 1881, Ann applied to the Old Colonists’ Council to become a resident at Rushall Park. Two and a half years later, her application was finally successful not least because of the support she received from Baron Ferdinand von Mueller and lawyer Sir Redmond Barry.

After moving in, she was paid a visit by Mary Gaunt, a writer for The Argus. In the 1893 article Old Colonists’ Homes, we learn that Ann Timbrell maintained her interest in silk growing, with three thriving mulberry trees in her garden.

“Ah, my dear, I took an interest in it before you were born; but the people were in a hurry to get rich then. They couldn’t wait, they couldn’t have patience to grow the trees and then rear the silk worms. They were all in such a hurry then.”

Her advice to anyone interested in silk was simple: “Get your food, then you can feed your worms.”

Ann Timbrell died aged 83 in Rushall Park.

The apartments are beautiful, with lovely, open and bright rooms, and a balcony for growing plants in pots. I am starting to make my apartment into a home.

– Catherine, Leith Park

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