Reflections and milestones of a horticultural career

By Dan Austin

It’s no trade secret that joining multiple industry bodies is one of the most valuable things a person can do for a successful career foundation. On reflection of my own career, the value of belonging to these organisations and being involved has allowed me to reach many milestones along the way.

I have often written on the benefits of being a member of the International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS) which brings together an amazingly diverse collection of plant enthusiasts from across the globe. The society has provided opportunities to travel abroad, to get behind the scenes at a myriad of horticultural ventures and given me a diverse range of knowledge and experience over the years. Additionally, membership with the society presented the opportunity to write for Hort Journal Australia, a publication that also facilitates the transfer of skills and knowledge among plant people, while fostering a connected industry. The two are a horticultural match made in heaven.

Pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.) as seen in Borneo- another of the book’s featured locations
Pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.) as seen in Borneo- another of the book’s featured locations

They say time flies when you’re having fun, and having had the freedom from the society and publication to research and produce articles on just about anything plant related, the years have flown by. So much so, that I’m having to pinch myself with the realisation this will be my sixtieth article for the magazine. We’ve looked at everything from the pioneering leaf cutting propagation techniques developed to preserve the giant Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum), to exploring the phenomenon of inosculation and its function in grafting, and I hope readers have been enjoying the content as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.

With the years of horticultural writing my role with IPPS and Hort Journal Australia have provided, I thought it was about time to put all the practice to use and over recent years, have been working on authoring something a little longer than a regular article. As a result, I am happy to be able to share that this November will see the launch of a new book for plant lovers everywhere – Off the Garden Path: Green Wonders of the World.

Off the Garden Path: Green Wonders of the World cover
Off the Garden Path: Green Wonders of the World cover

Off the Garden Path was initially planned as a celebration of botanical photography to share some of the remarkable horticultural enterprises I have been fortunate enough to be involved with around the world, in the hope of inspiring gardeners and travellers alike. However, it soon became a book for anyone with an interest in the wonders of our planet. Over the years since its conception, the project has become an international collaboration, with numerous centres of horticultural excellence abroad offering assistance. From the Bogor Botanic Gardens in Indonesia to the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens in Israel, even Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay have played a significant part in the text reaching fruition.

Much like the articles contributed to Hort Journal Australia each month, Off the Garden Path: Green Wonders of the World is full of botanical factoids. From exploring the weird and wonderful world of parasitic plants to delving into the lives of plants that survive through symbiosis and mutualism, the content is diverse.

Ants live in the caudex of Myrmecodia tuberosa in a display of plant biological mutualism, as discussed in Off the Garden Path (Image: Brendan Cleaver)
Ants live in the caudex of Myrmecodia tuberosa in a display of plant biological mutualism, as discussed in Off the Garden Path (Image: Brendan Cleaver)

As the title suggests, the text takes readers off the beaten track to locations less travelled, from remote tribal villages in Tanzania and floating gardens in Myanmar, to enormous centre pivot farms in the deserts of Jordan. The sites featured in the publication aren’t your average gardens and the people are not your average gardeners, which offers a chance to travel vicariously in a world of restrictions and inspiration for when things open up again.

The soft cover form of the book is available through Amazon and Booktopia. In addition, premium copies can be purchased by enquiring through sales@beyond-green-australia.com.au and can be sent to arrive by Christmas, while stocks last.

All plugs aside, horticultural writing is a fantastic niche in our eclectic vocation and looking back, I have really appreciated the opportunity to contribute to Hort Journal Australia each month. The pursuit of content has led to otherwise unanticipated networks and friendships, travels and knowledge. With sixty articles down, I am always on the lookout for more topics and though travel options are limited, if you are involved in any interesting horticultural enterprise you think the world should see, don’t be afraid to get in touch.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the best people really are in horticulture.

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