Imagine a perfect day on Tasmania’s beautiful east coast and be jealous because you missed a fantastic occasion. I am certain everyone who came and
walked in the gardens and around the bush block, chatted with friends, bought plants and heard the tales of the labour of love that this represents went home feeling that they had witnessed something very special. I had such a profoundly good feeling about it all. But all is not lost because you can share it when you visit Tasmania’s Bushland Garden next door to the Pulchella nursery on the Tasman Highway just south of Orford. The garden features a dolerite hill, a permanent creek, a variety of communities of woodland and grassland flora and a former bluestone quarry. It has wallabies, pademelons, wombats, echidnas and lots of birds and frogs. The planted beds (0.5 hectares) are in natural plant communities such as she oak groves, grasslands, rocky dolerite shrubberies, wet gully floras, sandstone heath, granite heath etc.
How all this came to be is such an inspiring story, it deserves telling. It is a classic case of Margaret Mead’s belief , “Never believe that a small group of committed people cannot change the world, it is the only thing that ever has.” It is a tribute to volunteerism and to commitment to a better world.
Ten years ago a group of about 20-30 people who love Tasmanian plants joined forces to bring to fruition a vision of establishing a regional botanic garden showcasing South Eastern Tasmanian plants. Graham Roberts and his wife Ingrid had seen such gardens on their travels interstate and enthused about setting up one here to give people a place to enjoy our fascinating and diverse flora. I am always
loathe to mention names because inevitably you leave someone out and end up insulting people who have devoted themselves to the task at hand but on this occasion I am going to name names as it would be wrong not to give credit even at the risk of leaving someone special out. That is the advantage of a blog. I can add another comment later to set the record straight so please feel free to write about others who must be mentioned.
So big cheers to the Roberts, Keith and Sib Corbett, Les and Helen Payne, David and Trauti Reynolds, Alan Gardner, Jeanette and Don Closs, Sue Meech, Shirley Fish, Ted Milne, and Joyce Batchelor. You are our local heroes, a small group of volunteers who had no land, no grants, nothing but a love of our flora, some very useful skills and expertise and a willingness to work and make things happen and you did.
Every third Sunday for ten years they worked on the block. Others joined in with earth moving equipment to help clean up the quarry site and turn it into an amphitheatre that I hope will be graced by our own Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra one day.(Time for us all to start lobbying Nicholas Heyward). Les Payne of Pulchella nursery donated all of the plants, and the magnificent new steel gates were crafted by Graham Roberts from a design by Sue Meech. The Australian Plants Society, Tas Branch members are both supporters and volunteers. Over the years some of the dedicated few died and so there are quiet reflective spaces in which to remember them.
It was very moving indeed to see Glad Dodson, now 90 years old able to be at the opening as she donated the money to buy the 20 hectare bush block which now forms the garden but which then was a sheep run. How generous is that? What a wonderful legacy to leave for future generations. How many of us have the foresight to leave something behind that gives everyone living now and yet to be born an insight into the endemic species that give colour and texture to the landscape so central to our identity and which provides habitat to our birds, animals and reptiles so quickly being lost. The garden features an example of Tasmania’s rarest plant found only recently in the Hazards and other disappearing species like the South Esk pine. Wouldn’t it be great if Tasmanians got behind growing South Esk pines instead of exotics..think about it before you decide to opt for an exotic conifer.