Spotlight on a Member : Alena Schulz, Assistant Farm Hand at Bundoora Park Farm
I have always been at home in the bush. I spent my young, formative years growing up in suburban Western Australia, but with a simple jump of the back fence I was in bushland for as far as I could see. Or walk. I remember being surrounded by birdcall, kangaroos, enormous spider webs, insect chatter, leaf litter, smells and occasionally coming home with stowaway ticks much to my mother’s horror. I would always make sure to stop and feed my pet crocodile (a large fallen tree with an exposed and gaping, mouthlike root system) a handful of rigid grass like leaves, torn from one of many native grasstrees. A memory steeped in horror and guilt, now I know better, but still a fond one. A favourite one.
Fast track years later, and I had completed a film and arts degree at Murdoch University. Films can always transport me to a place of wonder and mystery, feelings I missed from the bush. I became a cinema projectionist, an occupation I kept and grew with until 2019. I had become Chief Projectionist at Luna Cinemas in WA. I then moved to Victoria and worked at the beautiful Rivoli Cinemas in Camberwell, before making my home at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Federation Square.
Over the last decade or so, digitisation began to creep into the trade. Cinema chains retrenched their projectionists as the industry embraced large scale automation. I was lucky to be at ACMI; I had the knowledge and skillset to screen archival film. But doubts about just how long this too, will last, began to take seed. Apart from some public facing duties, my skillset was so niche as to be untransferable. It was time to jump the fence again and return to my roots. So, I went back to study.
I completed my Certificate 111 in Horticulture in 2020. I was a mature age student, and I was one of only three women in our class that year – the anxiety was great. I began to volunteer at the Bundoora Park and Farm while studying. Not only do we grow our own feed for the animals, and sow our paddocks, but we also have a large native wildlife reserve – home to kangaroos and emus, and a small Wurundjeri garden. Working on the farm with its diverse flora allowed my worries to disperse like so many cypselae on the wind. Then like an invasive environmental weed COVID popped its head up and threw its root system wide.
As disruption took hold, my – now online – student companions began to drop out or defer. Volunteer programs halted. My offline classes moved to research books and online portals. My two-hour exercise allowance granted me the opportunity to study plants within a 5km lock-down radius. All these hindrances and I still loved it. I adored it.
My volunteer work and study has now led me to employment on the farm. I am working on our weed eradication plan in the nature reserve. I am always accompanied by three curious and over friendly emus, while the kangaroos keep an eye out from a distance. We are beginning to re-vegetate and re-establish the Wurundjeri gardens. There is always work to be done in the produce plots.
With paid work coming in I decided to volunteer again. I am now on the committee for Friends of the Yarra Valley Parks. A non-profit organisation now in its 30th year of advocating for the environmental protection of the Yarra River. We organise monthly plantings, maintenance of prior work, and weeding from Warrandyte State Park through to Bulleen Park. Based at Westerfolds Park we work closely with Parks Victoria. I have learned so much from long-standing members, it led me to join other organisations. Like Encouraging Women in Horticulture. Because who doesn’t need some encouragement when faced with the weeds of life?
The only time I have been happier is riding my pet crocodile with the kookaburras laughing above.
Spotlight on a Member : Linda Day (Horticulturist & owner of Linda Day Garden Maintenance & Design)
I was a latecomer to horticulture. Despite both my parents being keen gardeners, it wasn’t until I was in my twenties & had bought my own house that I started growing herbs & taking an interest in gardening.
Initially I had worked as a teacher, first teaching high school English, Spanish & English as a Second Language (ESL) for three years & then teaching ESL to adult migrants & refugees with an organisation called AMES. It was a rewarding career, but finally, after 28 years of working for AMES, both as a teacher & later as a manager of AMES Education Centres, I was feeling frustrated. I was also experiencing a sense of anguish about climate change & was inspired by reading Tim Flannery’s book “The Weather Makers” to take action, but I wasn’t sure what.
At that stage I had an office in William Street in the city. It had windows that were level with the canopy of the Plane trees that grew along the footpaths. In stressful times I used to stand in the windows (literally – they had protrusions that you could stand on that overlooked the footpath) & watch the trees change with the seasons & I knew that whatever I did in the future, I wanted to work outside in the fresh air. Two of my colleagues had studied horticulture at Burnley & although they hadn’t pursued it as a career, they both said it was the best thing they had ever done, so I began to consider horticulture as a future possibility.
The time finally came in mid-2009. My younger son had finished school so I had reduced financial pressures & I was eligible to take early retirement at the age of 54 & 11 months. I researched a range of horticulture courses & found one that met my need for a relatively short but intensive course: the year-long full-time Certificate 3 in Horticulture at the Greensborough campus of NMIT (as it then was).
The course was a revelation to me. I met some terrific teachers (as a former teacher myself it was impossible not to judge the quality of teaching that I received) & made some great friends. I had so much fun & learned so much! Although I loved the whole year of study, the highlight was probably designing a display garden bed for the Avenue of Achievable Gardens at the 2010 Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show. I had no background at all in design apart from the subject that I took to prepare for this, but I won the Lysaght Gardener of the Year Award.
After I completed the course I thought I would probably look for a job at a nursery, but first I went overseas with a choir of Australian women to sing in the Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains & then to continue travelling with friends for a few weeks. This has now become an annual or biennial event.
On my return, one of my former colleagues from AMES asked me to do some maintenance work in her garden & shortly after that my former manager from AMES asked me to do a design for her back garden. Almost before I knew it, my garden maintenance & design business had begun & thoughts of working in a nursery receded. As nearly all my gardening work has resulted from personal recommendations, I have only ever advertised my business once in early 2011 when I put an ad in the Leader Press. Word of mouth has been my entire source of work since then & ten years later I still maintain the gardens of many of the people (nearly all women) who responded to that original advertisement. Most of them had deliberately chosen a female gardener.
I’m now 66 years of age & am trying to reduce my work commitments so that I can work 4 days a week & gradually wind down before retiring at 70, but I’m having mixed success with that. I find it hard to say “No” to working in a new garden. My main focus over the years has been very much on the maintenance side of the business & I have loved working in so many different gardens & getting to know their owners, many of whom have become friends. I still love the physical work & the optimism involved in doing something that will provide a future benefit. The skills that I developed as a teacher & education manager have been invaluable, as in my experience, having a gardening business is almost as much about one’s relationship with the garden owners & general problem solving as it is about soils, planting, pruning, pests & weeding. I hope that I have been able to earn the trust & goodwill of those owners & to have encouraged their interest & engagement in the gardens that I have helped create & nurture.
Spotlight on a Member : Jacquie Chirgwin (Medical Oncologist and Garden Designer)
Looking back, I readily see the seeds of my disparate careers in my childhood. No doubt though, this is just a hindsight bias.
Every summer when I was young, my parents took my sister and me on a camping holiday to Europe. We would almost always go to the same camp sites in Switzerland and Austria and spend our days walking the magnificent Alpine countryside. My mother had a broad knowledge of both botany and geology so there was lots to learn. I also remember a favourite pastime from these trips. I would lose myself imagining elaborate renovations of the camping grounds where we stayed. I loved thinking how to make the sites more beautiful and better organised. I always included flower beds in these campsite plans (rarely were there any in the real life campsites) just like my mother’s garden at home. In fact both my parents were keen gardeners and so a lot was learned by osmosis whilst playing in the garden and watching my parents gardening.
However, as a teenager and young adult, I strayed from my passion for flowers, beauty and spatial planning, and followed my interest in medicine. This came from my mother too – I found her stories from her nursing days mesmerising. I remember at the age of 8 hoping it would be me who found “the” cure for cancer. I did not remember this until after I had become an Oncologist (cancer doctor), and in fact I did not get involved in the basic research required to investigate cancer “cures”. However, I did spend over 30 years caring for cancer patients (mostly with breast cancer), where I came to understand that the most valuable ingredient of what I had to offer was hope.
Sometime around 20 years ago, I found myself taking more interest in my garden and was so very chuffed one day to find a note in my letterbox from the local Victorian Open Garden Scheme organiser asking if I had an interest in opening my garden the following year. I said an enthusiastic ‘YES’ and one could say, “the rest is history”. This was 2002. I decided to name my garden ‘Garden of Hope’ – in acknowledgement of the importance of hope in my work and in remembrance of my mother whose middle name was Hope (as is mine, actually). Since then I have had my garden open a further four times and have raised over $50,000 for Breast Cancer research.
The preparation for the Open Garden really got me going and I started studying Garden Design via an online course and finally studied for a Graduate Certificate in Garden Design at Burnley, completing this in 2011. I started my business ‘Hope & Heart Garden Design’ in 2012. I continued working as an Oncologist (part time for a number of years) until March 2019 whilst also running my business. I noted intriguing similarities in my two vocations – particularly the focus on really listening to my patient/clients’ needs and hopes but also I found it interesting to contrast the level of expertise I had in the two different roles: in oncology I felt confident, knowledgeable and able to rely on years of experience; in garden design and horticulture I felt a beginner, unsure of myself and lacking in experience, and wondering whether I would ever really make it! Now after 8 years, I am able to see progress towards that expert status; perhaps only another 8 years!!
The release of EWHA’s inaugural newsletter: Verdant.
You can read it here..
The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards 2020
The Gisborne garden of Kathleen Murphy, EWHA member and Landscape Designer has been shortlisted in the Landscape Design category. She is one of only 2 women whose designs have been shortlisted. We congratulate Kathleen and wish her luck when the awards are announced in November. Here is Kathleen’s story behind the design.
In 2017 I embarked on creating my own garden essentially a family back garden, it differed from a standard family garden in that it was also to be a garden for the Landscape Design Studio I run.
My vision was to frame the amazing view we have of the Macedon Ranges and to nestle the newly built studio into the landscape. I designed the garden as much from what it looked like inside the house, looking out onto the garden. The steppers across the billabong have been positioned so that they can be seen from the kitchen sink!
This garden is essentially a family garden, catering to kids with bikes, footballs and random running all over plants! Everything is tough, and drought and frost hardy. If it doesn’t survive, it doesn’t get replanted! I use this garden as a place to experiment with plants before I use them in other projects, hence it never looks the same and is always changing. Clients get to see first- hand what some of the plants I am suggesting look like, and how they behave.
The key plants are native grasses, such as Lomandra species, as they look good all year round and are low maintenance. I have used clumps of succulents and shrubs, like clipped Westringia and prostrate Rosemary, for texture.
Adding colour is often done in my garden through the use of perennial plantings, which require more maintenance and need to be cut back in winter, however, I just love the Verbena bonariensis, Salvia nemorosa and Pervoskia their purple hues which work well with soft muted greens and greys.
The most challenging part of the project was building the billabong. The sourcing of clay and rocks was difficult. The placement of materials required large machinery to come through the garden without damaging areas already well established. We overcame this by co-ordinating deliveries and aspects of the build to reduce the impact, even moving river pebbles by hand so that areas of the garden weren’t destroyed by large machines. When EWHA visited two years ago, some of you would have seen the large hole dug for the soon to be billabong, here are some updated images of what it looks like now.
Tomato: Know-Sow-Grow-Feast wins Gold in the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards
We are delighted to share the news that two of our members Karen Sutherland and Penny Woodward along with Janice Sutton, have won Gold in the Home & Garden Category of the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Congratulations on this achievement on behalf of all the EWHA members. For more information on this award which is in its 23rd year follow this link.
Karen Sutherland & Penny Woodward amongst tomato seedlings in the Greenhouse at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens
Noelle Weatherley awarded the Order of Australia Medal, 2019
We have great pleasure in announcing that Noelle Weatherley, one of our life members has been honoured with an Order of Australia in the Australia Day 2019 Honours list. We congratulate her for such justly deserved recognition.
Along with Dawn Fleming, Noelle was one of the founding members of EWHA over 11 years ago. She was the Secretary of EWHA from 2007 to 2015 when she retired from the Committee. In 2016 Noelle was made a Life Member of EWHA. This was in recognition of her tireless work for women in Horticulture through her contribution to our organisation.
During that time Noelle provided invaluable support to Dawn and various members of the Committee over the years. Through her experience as a Horticulturist and Garden Writer, Noelle brought extensive knowledge of the industry, the players in it and how to manage an organisation such as EWHA. She ensured that EWHA grew, remained valid and provided purpose for its existence: an organisation that encourages, represents and recognises women in Horticulture.
Over this time Noelle saw many faces come and go on the Committee but she remained a steadfast and solid pillar for the group. A mentor to many on the Committee (past and present), she was always available to answer questions, to provide sage advice, to give a different perspective and to share her insights, unconditionally. To this day, Noelle still contributes to Encouraging Women in Horticulture in this way, despite no longer being involved with the Committee, in particular through mentoring some of our members. Without Noelle’s involvement, Encouraging Women in Horticulture would not be where it is today.
On behalf of the membership of EWHA (past and present) we sincerely thank Noelle Weatherley for her support of women in the industry and wholeheartedly congratulate her on receiving her Order of Australia Medal (2019) for her service to Horticulture.