Sandi PullmanGreat value in garden volunteers

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.

Bishopscourt, Melbourne

Bishopscourt, Melbourne

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.

Bishopscourt garden, Melbourne

Bishopscourt garden, Melbourne

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.

Burnley volunteers and the Burnley Table

Burnley volunteers and the official opening of the Burnley Table


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.

elm tree bed Feb2011 018

Volunteers at the Elm Bed, La Trobe’s Cottage


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.

Feb photos 020

Volunteers discussing the succulent bed at La Trobe’s Cottage


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.

Bishopscourt Garden

Bishopscourt Garden

Bishopscourt Garden

Bishopscourt Garden

Bishopscourt Garden

Bishopscourt Garden




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Sandi Pullman

About Sandi Pullman

Sandi was a horticultural advisor to ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has 21 years experience. She is a regular contributor to Vasili’s Good Gardening and Your Vegie Patch. She has also contributed to the Gardening section of The Age and to the Australian Garden History Society journal over the years. She is a founding member of the Friends of Burnley Gardens and now is volunteer garden co-ordinator for the Friends of La Trobe’s Cottage and is researching what plants were available from 1800 to 1854 to recreate an authentic garden of early Melbourne.

2 thoughts on “Great value in garden volunteers

  1. Well done Sandi, garden volunteers make a valuable contribution while enjoying themselves. If any of your followers would like to join the Bishopscourt garden group they would be very welcome. Third Wednesday off each month is working bee day. Garden will be open for Open Gardens Australia on 9 and 10 November and we would appreciate help then.
    Keep up the good work Sandi.

  2. How wonderful your volunteers sound, Sandi, and what better way for fun, useful and healthy get together. Hard work and demanding that gardening is, I am always energised afterwards. And doing it with like-minded people who can teach me things would be my idea of a heavenly outing. Do wish I could afford to give up work so to spend my days: 1 gardening my own place; 2 volunteer gardening and 3 reading at the beach.
    Dream on!!!

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