Perfume and colour

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 07-Dec-2017

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Sydenham Gardens became a by-word in early Bendigo as a wonderful place for relaxation and recreation. As previously mentioned, the garden’s instigator was a pioneering Prussian named Frederick Wilhelm Kraemer.


As soon as Kraemer had purchased his first slab of land in 1854, he set about immediately improving the soil, planting an orchard with a variety of fruit trees, erecting arbours and planting flower beds.


Mention has been made of the family’s first primitive residence built from split slabs of timber. 


It did not take long for the first of Kraemer’s hotels to be erected sharing the same name as the gardens. Many tradespeople were able to be employed, as he possessed the necessary where-with-all to do so.


What types of flowers did Kraemer plant in the specially prepared beds? One area was specifically devoted to roses of which there were more than 70 varieties.


There was a specialisation in many coloured carnations, there could be seen dwarf ones as well as large. 


However one carnation variety of which Kraemer was particularly proud was the “Prince Pickler” according to a report, this carnation was named after a prominent German speaking botanist. 


One Prince Pickler plant, because of its rarity, was able to sell for half of an average man’s weekly wage.


Kraemer was reputed to have the most extensive range of carnations to be found in any garden in Bendigo. 


There were 74 different varieties of other blooms that were cultivated and grown.


He grew certain indigenous flowers, celebrated among them was his Sturt Desert Pea, he even donated seeds to the White Hills Botanical Gardens to the north east of Sydenham Gardens.


Sunflowers were grown in quantity, there was one variety that had purple centres, these created considerable interest.


The herbs that were available from his garden were almost a compulsory necessity for purchase by the women who accompanied their menfolk there.


During the early autumn the dahlias were in bloom and loved by the many patrons and visitors alike. 


Unlike William Hyde, Kraemer never placed a charge for entry to his gardens. However we must remember that Sydenham Gardens was a good distance away from the main population concentrations in early Bendigo, so to go there was a real outing.


Meals were purchased from the hotel dining room and many drinks were ordered from the bar or from waitresses and waiters. From these sales Kraemer was able to make a good income.


The sale of fruit from his orchard, vegetables out of the garden and plants and cuttings all added finance to the till. 


It was revealed that the sale of seedlings and cuttings alone averaged £10 per week. 


Kraemer also sold plants, vegetables and flowers at the Bendigo Market in Hargreaves Street close to the western side of the town hall. Most likely one of his many employees attended to the market stall.


To keep his name in front of the public Kraemer ran regular advertisements in the newspaper of the day. 


Advertising was the key to letting the Bendigo and district public know of any special events or activities which would be held at the Sydenham Gardens. 


Superlatives were at times liberally used by reporters when they were writing about the gardens, such as one instance in 1866 it was mentioned that the gardens had, “The finest collection of plants in the colony”.


Undoubtedly there were a great variety of plants of all kinds and always an extensive range of blooms to delight any eye or engage the nose with their perfume. 


Flowers were provided for bouquets, posies and cut blooms, special arrangements and wreaths for funerals.


As Kraemer quite early on had established the reputation of the Sydenham Gardens, he was nominated to the committee of the Bendigo Agricultural and Horticultural Society serving on that body for very many decades, he having been the chairman as well. 


Because of his knowledge he was frequently asked to be a judge at agricultural shows in other towns.

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