Women in Horticulture: Emmaline Bowman

Interview with Emmaline Bowman

by Emma Herd

Emma chats with horticulturalist, Emmaline Bowman, about how she became interested in the field and why she loves it as much as we do.

“What drew you to horticulture initially?”

Initially I would never have thought I would be involved in horticulture as my passion revolved around animals. However to have animals you need a balanced and healthy ecosystem that comprises of many different plant species.

I quickly became fascinated/addicted by the different types of ecosystems, and the varieties of plants. Equally, I loved how integrating and planting back indigenous plant species which were once lost to the area encouraged local animal species to come back. I have complete respect and admiration for our native plant species and when I visit other countries, I am always blown away at the adaptations these plants make to suit their environment as do animals.

“What pathway did you take to get there?”

Initially, I undertook a Bachelor’s degree in Biosciences and Zoology, but my vision was to somehow help our broken and fragile environments and re-establish habitats for plants and animals. This led me to discover Landscape Architecture. When I researched the course, it revealed a profession that can lead you to many different roles or preferred areas of expertise.

“What obstacles have you encountered along the way?”

The current system is a huge obstacle: the rules and mentality surrounding the world of development and construction is tailored to creating mass profit at the expense of our natural environment. Though many companies word their new developments as sustainable and environmental, I have found by the time the landscape is involved the overall budget is exhausted. This restricts the ability to hire professional individuals like ecologists which most times results in a planting of monocultures that have a very small benefit to the huge varieties of flora and fauna. This has made me feel hopeless and disheartened at times.

“Who were your mentors?”

During my course in Landscape Architecture, I had a beautiful teacher called Jane Shepherd. She was very focused on empowering women and was incredibly influential and a born teacher. I looked up to her and respected her very much. She taught me about food production, history of landscape design and site conditions.

Two people who I have always admired and looked up to are Sir David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.  Though they haven’t provided me with a physical mentorship, their teachings and their passion for the natural world inspired me at a very young age and I too want to share, protect and teach others about our natural environments and the unique lifeforms within.

My biggest mentor of all is Mother Nature. All the answers are found in nature.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I really hope to be inspiring and teaching others about our local environments and leading some major rehabilitation projects to restore habitats and help threatened animal species.

I also hope that I will have my own land to conduct rehabilitation trials and regenerative agriculture on.

“What is your favourite plant?”

The problem with loving plants is you can have many favourite plants.
Pycnosorus globosus was my first favourite however my two current favourites are Isotoma axillaris and Utricularia species. Utricularia are fascinating, they are a carnivorous plant commonly known as bladderworts and they grow in fresh water or boggy soil. They capture their prey in the bladder like traps located in their roots. Not only this, they have pretty little flowers which is why they are commonly named ‘Fairy Aprons’.

“What is your favourite material to work with?”

Stone. I love the variations of colour and form, planting around large stone boulders, and how they become valuable habitat to vast amounts of insects, reptiles and many other animal species. I am also aware of how important it is to use local geology and to remember that it is better to use materials on site rather than importing, as rock is quarried and taken out of the environment.

“What are 3 of your most worthwhile tips?”

1. Look at your local native plant ecologies: I always incorporate indigenous plants into every garden along with natives and exotics. If we want to be conscious of helping our environment, one thing we can all do in our backyard is to help restore habitat.

2. Responsible gardening: We all have a huge responsibility in the types of plants we use. Species that are not local and can pose a weed threat should be planted in a way that won’t pose a risk to the environment. We all have a responsibility to know what plants we put in the ground and to educate the clients we work with.  Remember most weed species have all started from someone’s backyard.

3. Site conditions: Make sure to assess the site aspects, soil type, moisture and existing species.

“What are your 3 loves about the industry you work in?”

1. I love the diversity of different people we get to work and engage with.

2. The continuous learning, you never ever stop learning and the plant world is so exciting and complex.

3. That we can actually make a big difference in the world and help our environment. Sustainable practices and planting back local plants will provide habitat to insects and animals and rehabilitate areas that had been destroyed by our actions as well as teaching others to appreciate the amazing plants, insects and animals that we share this world with.

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