Helping Hands – who are we?
Many hands make light work, or in this case the equivalent of several volunteers working together for half a day every second Wednesday on particular areas of the Melbourne Gardens, at E Gate Lodge and Eastern Lodge. These are well defined areas that benefit from regular and focused attention from the Helping Hands group of FRBG Volunteers. We enjoy the opportunity for hands-on gardening under the supervision of Gardens’ curators Therese Turner (Coordinator, Horticulture) and Don Henderson (Curator, Perennial Border).
Some general knowledge of gardening is useful, but not essential as our day’s work is set by the curators who assist, train and guide us. This may include selection of plants from the Nursery, planting, trimming, watering (strictly as required), raking, other general maintenance, and re-shaping of beds from time to time. We deliver weeds, excess fig leaves (that prevent rain reaching the soil) and prunings to the Green Waste Depot and frequently assist in the collecting of mulch and spreading it around the garden beds.
Helping Hands has been in existence since August 2007 when the idea of Irwin Newman (former Friends’ President) came into being. At E Gate Lodge we initially had eight or nine volunteers working fortnightly but now we work monthly with a smaller number who have been involved since the early days.
In 2008 at E Gate Lodge we commenced the daunting task of cleaning out unwanted plants and removing an aged Banksia Rose from a carport; worked with Andrew Laidlaw as he developed a plan for the front and back areas, relocated mature plants from other areas (Doryanthes sp.), and assisted in planting a new lawn area with lawn plugs.
The rewards of such volunteering are many such as a different garden environment where we improve our horticultural skills and learn from the significant experience of the Botanic Gardens’ staff. Equally importantly, we have access to the extensive plant and garden knowledge of our curators from whom we are continually learning. To Therese and Don we extend our grateful thanks for nurturing our skills, for without their guiding hands the experience would not be nearly so attractive.
There are also unanticipated events such as when staff working in E Gate Lodge alerted us that a turtle had laid eggs in our newly plugged lawn area. The specific area was roped off and left undisturbed for several months. When raking the weeds from the developing lawn we saw what looked like pieces of orange plastic; imagine our surprise when we discovered that these were orange stripes on the underside of three baby longnecked turtles, each not much bigger than a fifty cent piece! These were delivered and released, untouched by human hands, to the Nymphaea Lake. More recently, as I was trimming a hedge, I was literally face to face with a ringtailed possum whose slumbers I’d obviously disturbed! It soon scampered up the nearest tree fern.
We are always looking for more ‘hands’, so why not enquire about us at the Friends’ Office? You would be joining a convivial group and could enjoy the stimulation of working with qualified horticulturists and professional gardeners.
top 3 images right: Members of Helping Hands performing an assortment of tasks to keep the gardens around E Gate Lodge in peak condition.
Photos supplied by Rosemary Cotter.
Next 3 images: a more mature E Gate Lodge garden, the Plant Craft Cottage Garden, La Trobe's Cottage garden
The Helping Hands volunteers are members of the Friends who meet for half a day every second Wednesday to work (under supervision of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne Horticultural staff) in the gardens of E Gate Lodge (pictured right) and Eastern Lodge at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. Members of the Friends also help in the Plant Craft Cottage garden on Tuesdays and in Gate Lodge garden.
Volunteer gardening opportunities are available in La Trobe's Cottage garden. Please contact Sandi Pullman if you are interested in working in this garden on email@example.com. Membership of the National Trust is required to work in La Trobe's Cottage garden.
If you are interested in joining the Helping Hands or any of the Friends' volunteer committees please download the Volunteer form (above) or contact the Friends' office on (03) 9650 6398. Volunteers do need to be a member of the Friends so join now to get involved.