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9th Febuary 2009

 floral clock birthday

Taronga Zoo’s Floral Clock is celebrating its 80th birthday with a special planting during its Anniversary year.

The unique clock is one of only three traditional mechanical floral clocks in the world and was donated to the Zoo by the late Sir Arthur Rickard, KBE, of Sydney.

The birthday preparation began in early December and the planting has reached full bloom in time for a commemorative visit by Sir Arthur’s oldest granddaughter, Yvonne Howarth who was 15 years old when the clock was donated.

Taronga’s Manager of the Horticultural Unit Martin Gordon, said: “It’s a magnificent display we’ve designed to acknowledge our Floral Clock’s 80th Anniversary. The floral timepiece is set amongst a wash of purple Heliotrope and framed by English Box Hedges with a backdrop of topiary Zoo creatures. The formal garden took four horticulturalists over a week to plant and the clock face contains over 1,500 plants,”

Sir Arthur Rickard was a renowned real estate developer especially known for opening up much of the waterfront land across Sydney. He purchased the clock from Scotland at a cost of 200 Pounds and it was officially set-in-motion at the Zoo on the 19th December 1928.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Yvonne to the Zoo to revisit her Grandfather’s timeless gift. Over the years, the clock has seen many changes and we’ve designed a number of displays to reflect special events such as the New Millennium and the Olympics,” said Martin.

While the Zoo’s horticultural practices have changed over the years since the clock’s installation, the floral garden is one of the few areas where traditional horticultural practices have remained.

Martin Gordon said: “The traditional English style garden receives much attention. We spend over 30 hours a week just maintaining it, using traditional horticultural techniques such as hand cultivating the soil and clipping the hedges weekly to ensure the Roman numerals set into the clock face remain distinct.”

Visitors can also see how a traditional mechanical clock operates from an observation window situated below the viewing platform. The mechanism is the same as that of a tower clock where weights drop into a deep pit which sets the movement of the hands.
The formal English-style garden is comprised of a clock face with two crescent shaped beds either side, and beds around the perimeter. Three topiary animals, a kangaroo, an elephant and emu are featured at the rear of the garden. The clock keeps time accurately, “cuckooing” every 15 minutes and is wound once a day. The large clock face has diameter of 5.5 meters with huge hands stretching 1.8 and 2.7 meters.

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