What has been achieved at Barangaroo Reserve is unique. No-one has ever sought to plant more than 75,000 native trees and shrubs - including mature specimens that are more than 20 years old - on a new artificially created harbour headland before.
The planting involved 84 different species that were native to the Sydney region over 200 years ago at the time of European settlement.
Choosing those plants was largely the work of Stuart Pittendrigh, an acclaimed horticulturalist and landscape architect who specialises in Sydney’s native botanic species.
In 2010, Pittendrigh was invited by the Barangaroo Delivery Authority to join the team creating the design by celebrated American landscape architect Peter Walker in association with local partners Johnson Pilton Walker.
Pittendrigh spent weeks researching what plants were growing around Sydney Harbour’s foreshore in 1788 when the First Fleet arrived.
Plants at Barangaroo include:
14 species of native trees, palms and tree ferns - including 713 mature trees
25 species of native groundcover, vine, grass and fern
45 species of native shrubs, small trees and Macrozamias
Only five of the 84 species were not native to Sydney Harbour. Four of those were chosen because they are iconic plants of the Sydney basin: Spotted gum, Gymea Lily, Sydney Blue Gum and Water Gum. The other late addition was a bottle brush, Callistemon citrinus, “Anzac” - an appropriate gesture given Barangaroo Reserve opened during the centenary of Gallipoli.
Pittendrigh identified seven different vegetation types that could be planted at different parts of the headland reserve:
Ridge top woodland
Heath and scrub
Open dry forest
Tall moist forest
Damp gully forest
Because the Authority wanted Barangaroo Reserve to open with maximum visual impact, 16 mature fig trees from southern Queensland and 89 cabbage tree palms were transplanted into the park.
The rest of the trees, bushes and plants were grown under special conditions at the Andreasens Green wholesale nursery at Mangrove Mountain on the Central Coast - chosen partly because its slopes, elevation and proximity to strong, persistent winds are similar to those of Barangaroo Reserve.
At Mangrove Mountain, the Barangaroo plants were grown under specialist conditions - including a custom-made potting mix devised by soil scientist Simon Leake.
Before each tree left Mangrove Mountain for Barangaroo, 31 plant quality control items had to be satisfied.
The attention proved invaluable. Pittendrigh says between 10-15 per cent of plants are usually lost on a project this big. Yet the failure at Barangaroo Reserve was just one per cent.
Planting at Barangaroo Reserve started in February 2014. The final tree - a Forest Red Gum (or Eucalyptus tereticornis) - was planted on Walumil on 28 July 2015.
For the record, there is a total of 75,858 plants at Barangaroo Reserve - 923 native trees, palms and tree ferns, 1935 native shrubs, small trees and Macrozamias, and 73,200 native groundcover, vines, grasses and ferns.