You know, I think the world would collapse without volunteers, especially gardening ones. Volunteers save organisations thousands and possibly millions of dollars in labour, do jobs that otherwise would not get done and without them we wouldn’t have many of the special places we like to visit.
I have volunteered in several gardens: Bishopscourt in East Melbourne (the Anglican Archbishop’s home) and Burnley Gardens (Burnley Campus) where I had the idea to set up a friends group after one of my lectures on the different types of friends groups around the world. I also volunteer at La Trobe’s Cottage, where I have had the best fun searching out original species available to La Trobe in the 1840s and early 1850s.
Friends groups are a great way to gather like-minded people together to work on a project. Becoming incorporated is a pain (a lot of paperwork) but it is the best way to formalise the group and provide a structure. Also by being incorporated you need to have your own insurance which means you can run funding events and you can apply for grants.
The Friends of Burnley Gardens is a volunteer group and they have helped raise money to fix the leaks in Luffman’s Pond, have re-established the traditional pruning day (now called Open Day) that Burnley was once famous for and are currently involved in organising celebrations for our 150th birthday this year.
The garden at Bishopscourt would not be here today without the support of the Australian Garden History Society’s volunteers who saved it. They have single handedly renovated the garden over the years and they are still looking after it today. They have removed agapanthus, found the original spoon drainage system, moved the wood shed (it was in the wrong place) and held open days to raise money.
I have a great group of volunteers at La Trobe’s Cottage. Our garden thrived over summer and everything GREW! In February I organised our first working bee and wouldn’t you know it, the temperature was going to be 35C+, so not many volunteers (understandably) wanted to come. Well Neville came and with the help of Rick, who works for Citywide who also looks after the garden (they do the rotten jobs like mowing the lawn and fixing the watering system – like when I either cut the damn plastic pipe or it isn’t working properly), we achieved a huge amount of work – and then collapsed.
It is now autumn and the garden needed another tidy up, so I organised another working bee Again we achieved a huge amount of work, which made me realise how important volunteers are. I took at least 5 wheel barrow loads down to the skip at Citywide. Helen got into the Elm bed and cut back all the plants that had grown into each other and Jenny cut back the plectranthus so we can now see the beautiful flowers on the camellia. Joy, who has a hip problem came, and I thought she would just sit and talk to us, but she happily pruned away. And then we found Allen her husband, who was pretending to hide from work, had pruned back the creepers so they didn’t get under the shingles. Beverley planted the babiana bulbs and Paula planted the jonquils and ixias donated from Hancocks Bulbs.
Without the support of the volunteers, none of these important gardens would have improved and would have remained in the static state they were in. They would all be struggling for funds and quite possibly decaying even more with a high possibility of being lost forever.