Drying out …

Revamping the Wollemi Garden

We’ve had a relatively “normal” dry winter, if anything can be called normal nowadays. The nights and early mornings have been consistently chilly, but the days gloriously sunny, which has given us the chance to catch up after the “big wet” summer.

We welcomed two new volunteers – Denis Brennan, a long time Bellingen resident and Craig Dempsey a recent arrival from Victoria. We put them straight to work with pruners, saws and mattocks.


The Newbies at work

We revamped the garden surrounding the Doctor Hewitt Memorial Wollemi Pine, started tidying up the large Archimedean Spiral which was looking more like an Archimedean Blob than a spiral, pruned the Dinner Plate Fig, pulled out weeds as tall as a small person, and commenced work on the Reception Garden (more on this later)

Somehow we have as many photos of morning tea as we do of us actually working …
How did that happen?

Barbara’s Garden Dedication …

In 2015, under the leadership of the late Barbara Moore, the BHAG Volunteer Gardening Group was successful in its’ application for a $5,000 grant from the Bellingen Council’s Environmental Levy Community Fund, allowing us to create the Wellness Garden in the grounds adjacent to the new Sub-Acute wing.  BHAG, the Mid North Coast Local Health District, Rotary, Lions, Coastal Claymakers, the Freemasons and many other community groups and local residents worked together to turn the grant into a project with a final in-kind value of $90,797. 

Since then, the volunteers have continued to maintain the garden which is popular with staff, patients and visitors alike and provides a beautiful outdoor setting in which to enjoy a cuppa and a treat from Mary’s Teahouse Café, which is run by Bellingen Hospital Auxiliary volunteers.

Last week, we were invited to a morning tea organised by the Hospital to celebrate the dedication of the garden to the memory of Barbara Moore. Anecdotes abounded and everyone agreed that the garden owes its existence to Barbara’s tenacity and enthusiasm.

Our first working bee was 20th July, 2010 and we have just reached an amazing milestone of a total of 3,000 hours of gardening.  That’s a lot of pruning, weeding, conversation and cake!

Barbara Moore Bellingen Bush Regenerators BRDH Rockery Bush Regeneration Car Park upgrade Clothesline Project Dinner Plate Fig Doctor Hewitt Drought Eric the Cat Ficus dammaropsis Frog Pond Hartley House Hartley House Walkway Hewitt Arboretum Landcare Lomandra Little Pal Main Carpark marcotting Memorial Trees Mosaics Mulching Native Bees News Patient Wellness Garden Shirley Dunne Shirl the Pearl Upper Carpark Wildlife Wollemi Pine

A rather unusual year …

Well, it’s been a rather unusual year.

We were able to squeeze in most of our scheduled gardening, but just when we thought that COVID was on its way out, the Delta variant arrived along with another long list of restrictions, testing and mask wearing rules which seemed to vary on a daily basis. Bellingen Shire was subjected to a “stay at home” order and we were forced to postpone our sessions for a while.

Delta was followed by Omicron and in late December COVID finally arrived in Bellingen, changing our lives again.

The sad news this year was the death of our founding member, President of the Bellinger Health Action Group, Barbara Moore. Without her guidance and enthusiasm, the Wellness Garden and many other garden projects would never have got off the ground. We miss her. Farewell Barbara Moore

One bit of good news for our volunteer gardeners was that after months of complaining about the lack of grounds maintenance at the hospital, our final threat to walk away resulted in the MNCLHD engaging a grounds maintenance contractor to address the general neglect. The team from Ground Control are doing a wonderful job of pruning and keeping weeds under control, and we are very thankful.

Winter was unusually dry and we had to water on several occasions, but La Nina has graced us with her presence again this summer, and the gardens are thriving, so too are the weeds of course.

One new project that we undertook over winter was to plant a succulent bed at the back of Hartley House. This area gets very little water, and for years had just been “growing” weeds. We had enough “pups” from elsewhere in the garden to plant out a large strip almost under the eaves.

Our first attempt at marcotting the Dinner Plate Fig planted by Doctor Hewitt in the 40’s or 50’s was partially successful and one of the surviving offspring has been planted near the entrance to the Hewitt Arboretum.  We are hoping to plant several more in the arboretum to ensure that the genetics of the original plant survive.

As always, our gardening sessions were followed by morning tea.  A delicious cake and a cuppa never fails to become a “random conversation generator”.

Still Raining …

The soggy summer came to an end, but the rain kept on coming well into autumn.

In between showers, we managed to get in a few serious pruning sessions.  Margaret brought her hedge trimmer and we gave the Westringias in the big Fibonacci spiral an overdue prune.

The staghorns and elkhorns saved and relocated by AJ Civil during the reconstruction of the hospital car parks flourished in their new location in the Dr. Hewitt Arboretum.

Of course at the end of a big pruning session comes the reward … cake, coffee and conversation.

Soggy Summer…

We were promised a wet summer. La Nina was a little late arriving but when she did, it  rained and rained and rained and just kept on raining.

The result was lots of lush growth and weeds which seemed to grow a metre overnight. Not that we were really complaining because it meant almost no watering and no plants perished this summer.  But it did mean lots of pruning!

Our gardening bees were much more comfortable this year than in Summer 2019 when the heat and smoke from nearby bushfires made things pretty uncomfortable and forced us to cancel a couple of sessions.