The Floral Clock was donated to Taronga by the late Sir Arthur Rickard, KBE, of Sydney. The clock was officially started on 19th December 1928.
The clock’s mechanism is the same as that of a tower clock, the movement being initiated by heavy weights. The weights drop into a 1.8m deep pit and three underground rods extend to the centre of the dial, turning gear wheels which control the movements of the hands. This mechanism, situated under the observation platform, can be viewed through glass.
The clock 'cuckoos' once at the quarter-hour, twice at the half-hour, three times at three quarters of an hour, and the full number of hours at each hour. The clock keeps the time accurately and is wound once a day.
The Clock Remains the Same
While horticultural practices have changed over the years since the clock’s installation, the Floral Clock garden is one of the few areas in the Zoo where time has stood still.
Traditional practice includes garden bed preparation and hand cultivating - garden beds are not mulched. The size of garden beds and types of plants used in the clock has varied over the years. Originally the display consisted only of the floral clock face planted with annuals (including the hands), surrounded by a large lawn area.
The floral clock garden is bordered by a box hedge Buxus microphylla.
Three topiary animals are featured at the rear of the garden, a kangaroo, an elephant and an emu. They are comprised of Muelenbeckia axillaris. (Maidenhair vine) grown over a wire frame. The animals are clipped weekly with hedging shears.
The garden is comprised of a clock face, with two crescent-shaped beds either side, and beds around the perimeter of the garden which are planted with annuals. The photo below shows the display for the opening of the new “Serpentaria" (reptiles) exhibit.
Floral Clock Planting Designs
The Floral Clock garden is replanted four times per year. Each display is designed by the Horticultural staff of Taronga Zoo. Themes for the clock face design have reflected various events within the Zoo and opening of new exhibits. Displays have often featured messages written in plants in the clock face.
Past messages have included the following:
- 1985 – You Belong in the Zoo an advertising campaign
- 1988 – Tempis Fugit - time flies for Australia’s bicentenary. Since this was the original message in the clock it remained for many years
- 1988 – Keeping Time for Sixty Years to celebrate the clocks 60th birthday, having been set in motion by Sir Arthur Rickard 19th December 1928
- 1991 Zoobilee - celebrating 75 years since the Zoo’s opening
- 2000 – Roaring into 2000 – celebrating the millennium
In 2002 the Floral Clock acknowledged both the Sydney Olympics and the opening of an Australian bush exhibit – the Creatures of the Wollemi, now called Platypus Pools. The Floral Clock displayed an Echidna, Platypus, Kookaburra and the Frilled-neck Lizard of the Paralympics which are all animals found in the Zoo.