Peter & Lynette Reilly
It is easy to become disheartened when doing voluntary work, especially if it is the hard physical kind. Where the results are obvious, the reward is immediate. Not so rewarding, I've been told, is to work hard and think that you are doing it all for nothing, that no-one will ever see where you've been.
For some of the participants, this year's working bee atMyall Park Botanic Gardenhad elements of the above. New to the Garden, they began work immediately on arrival - chipping weeds, mowing, carting and placing mulch, digging holes and planting out. You name it, they did it. What's more, they did it from breakfast till dark. As they moved around the gardens, the extent of the need seemed boundless. What an infinitesimal effect their efforts were having!
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
It is a good six hours drive from the Gold Coast to Myall Park (twelve, Russell says, if you go via St. George and Goondiwindi!). Two days spent coming and going, plus whatever other days can be spared from business or holidays, need to be given up to good effect. Believe me, fellow SGAPers, they were to very good effect.
Myall Park Botanic Garden began in the 1940s when David Gordon started planting interesting aridland Australian plants on his property. In the grand scheme of his "One Man's Dream", he laid out 120 hectares of garden. In the words of that book, "it was tended, extended and maintained with vision and solid knowledge and with the help of his dear wife Dorothy and income from the good years. . One after another these blessings were lost to him." However, he surmounted each catastrophe. Now, at 99 years of age, Dave knows that his garden is one of the most scientifically important native gardens in Australia.
The fact that there are anthills in some of its roads, or that long grass obscures some of the plants, doesn't detract from the reality of an amazingly varied collection of plants. The backbone of the collection was laid down by the grower of those famous Grevilleas - 'Robyn Gordon', 'Merinda Gordon' and 'Sandra Gordon'. The original hybrids can still be seen, even if at the time of writing, the little holly-like leaves of 'Merinda Gordon' were peeping out from a grassy curtain.
These are surface defects, not intrinsic ones. The value of the Garden lies in its complexity and biodiversity. The one thing I am sure of is that Myall Park Botanic Garden is a sanctuary and a showcase for Australian aridland plants, whose potential is still to be completely realised. Future plans include research into more hybrids, eucalypts as well as grevilleas.
The Directors, all busy people in their own right, do a fantastic job keeping the Garden open and going. Nita, Dorinda and Carol even made tine to spend working with us. They need a caretaker (free cottage) and lots of useful volunteers. This is a project worthy of all SGAPers, as you'll find if you read our aims again. When you cone to a working bee out here, you'll be accommodated free (or bring your own camping gear).
Early May was a good time, weather-wise. It was not too hot for working, not too cold for sleeping. But one of the rewards was missing - the flowers. We first visited Myall Park in the spring of 1996 and then the colours, shapes and sizes of the flowers (as well as the variety of foliage) were astounding. Just being there, wandering around, was reward in itself.
This year, our volunteers took too little time off. We should have encouraged them to spend afternoons exploring along the roads or the walking trails; rubbing their fingers on the red, silky skin of Eucalyptus salubris, photographing the Chinese-bonsai habit of Hakea lorea and feeling the pendulous foliage of Melaleuca tamariscina. Most of them saw the white Chinchilla gums, E. argophloia, and the dam where the rare pink waterlilies grow. But few recognised, as we did, that the prostrate banksias were visible above their carpet of mulch, because we did that last year. And that there were clear vistas through to many of the specimen trees because we removed the unwanted "weed" trees there last year.
As our ten days drew to a close and we rewarded ourselves with a few hours "just looking", Peter and I were thrilled that the fruits of last year's efforts were still obvious. As this year's efforts will be for years to come.
Thanks to Russell Clare, Dorothy and Laurie Meadows, and Gwen and Bob Stephenson for this year's labours.
SGAPers DO make a difference.
What about it, other SGAP Branches? Will you help us to help the Garden? With Gold Coast or at another time of your own choosing?
Gill Kidd is in charge of the Living Collection and would love to arrange a program of work for any interested group. Give her a call on (07) 4463 0720, email email@example.com
Nita Lester, the Director with responsibility for matters Botanical, has offered to talk to SGAP groups, with slides. Her contact details are:
Phone (07) 3391 4287 email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You CAN make a difference. Shall we see YOU there next time?
For more information on the gardens, go to the Myall Park Botanic Gardens page.