|President||Emma Herd (Horticulturalist and Landscape Architect)|
|Vice President||Rosemary Ulph (Garden Designer)|
||Bec Bennett (Horticulturalist)|
Ordinary Committee Members
Horticulture was very much a second career for me although as I was growing up there were influences which gave me an appreciation for the natural world and gardening. I grew up on farms in South Gippsland at Pound Creek where we were able to roam on bush blocks and attended Leongatha South Primary School where our teacher incorporated gardening into our routine, looking after the school grounds. Later, after moving in to Leongatha, my mother’s gardening also rubbed off on me.
However horticulture was not in view when I left College, in fact I didn’t have a clear ambition. I worked with Telecom for 4 years, married and then went to the US for a year. When I returned I commenced what became 17 years in the finance industry, working in credit unions and building societies. A health scare (breast cancer) in 2000 was the catalyst for me to reassess whether I really wanted to continue in this line of work or choose something closer to my heart.
I was already a keen gardener and loved the idea of working in a retail nursery. For this I would need a qualification so I attended open day at Burnley College. At that time they offered a Graduate Diploma of Applied Science (Horticulture) which would only take one year to complete – perfect!
For the next 10 years I worked in retail nurseries around the Melbourne suburbs, firstly at Going Going Green in Hawthorn (where an apartment block is now being built), then Town & Country in Malvern (now also an apartment block) and then at Pinewood Nursery in Glen Waverley.
In 2012 I grew restless to try a different area of horticulture and when nothing suitable presented itself I decided to start my own garden design business, ‘Your Garden Oasis’. Whilst this did lead to some design work, it didn’t pay the bills so I started looking after other people’s gardens. I placed an ad in the local paper simply saying “Just Weeding – Call Rosemary on…”. (I limited it to weeding so that I didn’t need to carry many implements, power tools, lawn mowers etc.). That one ad led to enough work to last me for the next 8 years – such was the demand for weeding. Admittedly it is a part-time job but it was as much as I needed. I currently work in 6 gardens usually on a monthly basis.
For the past 7 years I have also worked part-time on the Evergreen Garden Care (makers of Osmocote, Debco and Lawn Builder brands) Home Garden Advice phone line, providing information on products and garden advice.
My voluntary role as Vice President and Event Coordinator for EWHA takes up a considerable amount of time planning and running the events with the other Committee members and assisting with some of the secretarial duties. It is a role which I enjoy very much: sourcing new event opportunities and then bringing them to fruition.
Since starting out in the industry my passion for “all things hort” has only grown. Wherever I am I seek out garden nurseries, tours and festivals and have travelled to other countries in search of hort wonders – in England, the US, Spain and Singapore. Fortunately my husband’s work gave me the opportunity for many of these experiences.
Although my Camberwell garden, which I have tended for 21 years, is fairly traditional in style with plenty of roses and box hedging, it is also a mixture of the rare and unusual – like Stephen Ryan, I can’t resist a rare plant! I have never been drawn to cultivating a vegie plot so it’s an ornamental garden, though I do have the obligatory lemon tree. I love working in it each day, rain or shine, and sometimes in the dark!
Next year I will be entering a new phase. With the passing of my husband 2 years ago, it’s time to down-size to a house near the beach and I’m very much looking forward to building a new garden there. Gardening offers such opportunities to create, change and nurture – it’s a source of constant possibilities!
I’ll finish with a couple of tips: keep a diary of when your plants are flowering/fruiting each month. It becomes such a useful resource for the future. And when planting a hedge don’t be tempted to use different cultivars of the same species: always stick with the same cultivar to maintain a unified look (a lesson learned early from bitter experience).
What was your childhood and journey to horticulture like?
I’m sure there was a time when I wanted to do something other than horticulture, but I don’t remember it. I shared my Mum’s passion for gardening. We would spend our weekends in the garden and one of our favourite places to visit was the Coffs Harbour Botanical Gardens. As a teen I collected cacti and succulents and I remember various members of my family dropping me off or picking me up from my first weekend nursery job. I was very supported – no one ever questioned me pursuing horticulture.
You work at the wonderful Botanix nursery. What’s a day in your work life like?
First, tea. Second, check BOM, no point in making plans without knowing what the weather is doing. My role at Botanix is largely organising and supporting my team and the nursery. I never saw myself in a “leadership” position, but I find the work satisfying. There is no typical day, sometimes it’s like the old days out in the nursery, maintaining trees. Sometimes it’s non-stop phone calls and paperwork. But usually, it’s a mix of both.
Who’s a horticulture hero of yours?
This is a hard one, so I’m going to cheat a little and name two. My Mum started me on this path, supported me and inspires me. I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without her. Someone in Hort that I look up to is Karen Sutherland. Karen taught me when I was at TAFE and has been a source of encouragement and motivation for me. Karen’s work and ethos is brilliant.
What are things you’d like to influence and improve in horticulture?
The culture of the industry. It has been improving over the years, but it still has a way to go. Areas I think are particularly important are gender and ethnic diversity and mental health. There are some old school stereotypes that are fading, and I’d like to help speed that along.
What’s your pitch to women thinking about a career in horticulture?
Just go for it. You will come up against people that make it hard, but you will have even more people behind you to support you and help you succeed. Do it for the plants, do it for yourself.
What inspires you?
The excitement of all there is to learn, all the growth I can achieve.
What’s your favourite group of plants?
Another hard question! Right now (and it has changed many times) it’s trees. I love the diversity, what we can do with them, but mostly their longevity. We can learn a lot from trees.
You have a passion for bees, do you have any tips for creating native bee habitat?
Native bees will be attracted to exotic flowers, but it just makes sense that they love native flowers! What kind of nesting environment they will need depends on what type of native bee you have in your area (we have over 1600 species in Australia!) Blue Banded Bees are ground nesters, so heavy mulch can be a deterrent. I would advise against the ‘off the shelf’ bee hotels, they are often chemically treated and not typically designed with the bees’ interest in mind.
Is there an encouraging message you’d like to share with our readers?
Our connection with nature is sacred. Knowing the seasons, touching the soil, feeling life around you may be the most grounding thing we can experience every day.
Kaye Roberts-Palmer (Committee Member in 2019/2020) shares her experience of being a new general committee member:
I really liked the idea of the Encouraging Women in Horticulture Association (EWHA) as there wasn’t a lot geared towards supporting women. I enjoyed several events that EWHA had organised and was surprised by the amount of interesting places to visit. After attending the AGM in 2019 I decided to help out as a general committee member and have organised my first event. I’m also collaborating on awards, website content, and attending events in an official capacity. I really encourage others to join up to be a general committee member and get involved so that we can grow and strengthen our EWHA.
Committee Position Descriptions:
|Patron||Dawn Fleming (Fleming Nurseries)|