Friends of the Gardens – the lifeblood of Rockhampton Botanic Garden

By Stuart Elder

In my first days as Curator at Rockhampton Botanic Garden last September, I was struck with a very welcoming and familiar sight dressed in bright pink shirts, the Friends of the Botanic Gardens!

Having worked for many years in various roles for The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, I was very familiar with the various programs that were run under the Foundation and Friends Inc. banner, and really appreciated the value on the ground through initiatives such as Helping Hands and Growing Friends. Having stepped directly into Rockhampton Botanic Garden after enduring two weeks of hotel quarantine in our new COVID world, my eyes were certainly a little hazy. The welcoming site of bright pink shirts and a very familiar program certainly lifted the fog very quickly, and this energetic and valuable group is what greets the public with a friendly smile every Tuesday at Rockhampton.

The Friends of the Gardens, Rockhampton, formed in 1999, are genuinely interested in the well-being and public appreciation of the Gardens and have an immense wealth of knowledge and interest in plants to share with staff and visitors alike. The Friends of the Gardens assist Garden staff with horticultural, botanical and nursery maintenance and propagation activities at our three sites, Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, Kershaw Gardens and the Rockhampton Regional Council Nursery.    

Friends of the Gardens planting prior to opening of the Visitors Centre Botanic Gardens Open day
Friends of the Gardens planting prior to the opening of the Visitors Centre Botanic Gardens Open day

Rockhampton Botanic Gardens (RBG) is one of the oldest and most significant Botanic Gardens in Queensland, having been proclaimed as a Reserve for Botanic Gardens in 1869. The gardens’ first curator, Scott Edga,r was appointed in 1873 and the garden was constructed between 1873 to the 1930s and celebrated its 150th Anniversary in December 2019. The Gardens were added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 23 July 1999.

Kershaw Gardens, a former landfill site, was opened to the public in 1988 and is a major parkland facility, accessible by the public, that has a documented Australian Native Botanic collection. It is a major tourist and community attraction and was severely damaged by Tropical Cyclone Marcia where nearly 50% of its tree collection was lost.

The Rockhampton Regional Council Nursery services multiple council departments, residents and community organisations. The nursery services and provides advice to external community organisations, local authorities and private landholders, with the ability to provide endemic plant species for the regeneration of natural areas and conservation work within the Rockhampton LGA.      

Volunteer Lenore working at the Rockhampton Regional Council Nursery propagating Carpobrotus
Volunteer Lenore working at the Rockhampton Regional Council Nursery propagating Carpobrotus

In addition to the group’s many talents, on the 29th May, BotanicGardens Open Day marked an exciting new change moving forward. The Friends of the Gardens resumed and took on the operation of our information centre here at Rockhampton Botanic Garden after a lengthy Covid hiatus, and operates between 10am and 2pm on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. As people begin to travel again in a post-COVID world, the visiting public and tourists will benefit from the wealth of information these passionate volunteers have of the garden’s rich history and its 150 year old botanical collection. The opening was celebrated in conjunction with Botanic Gardens Day, a BGANZ (Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand Inc.)initiative, and offered free guided tours and plant sales from propagated plants produced by the Friends of the Botanic Gardens from councils Nursery. The public were thrilled at the quality produced and the ability to take a piece of the gardens home with them at this unique event.       

The group is looking forward to sharing their passion, knowledge of history and love for Rockhampton Botanic Gardens through the operation of the information centre as ‘there is such a wonderful sense of satisfaction in helping to achieve something, as well as the camaraderie working with other volunteers’.

Stuart Elder

Curator, Rockhampton Botanic Gardens & Kershaw Gardens

Rockhampton Regional Council

T: (07) 4936 8064

E: stuart.elder@rrc.qld.gov.au

W: www.rrc.qld.gov.au

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