More Marcotting …

The Dinner Plate fig (Ficus dammaropsis) is a native of the highlands of New Guinea and is notoriously hard to propagate as it doesn’t set seed unless pollinated by a highly specialized species of wasp.  Marcotting will sometimes work, but many cuttings will die when planted out.


Now that’s a leaf!

There is a rare specimen in the grounds of the Bellingen Hospital.  It was planted by Doctor George Hewitt in the 30-40’s.  Worried that the fig was getting a bit old and woody, the volunteers decided to try and “clone” it using the marcotting method.
See our previous post

But, last summer was the harshest in Bellingen for many, many years.  Drought, bushfires, hot winds and smoky days were the norm.  So we were not particularly surprised when only one marcot took.  Move forward twelve months, and this one cutting has miraculously survived winter and now resides in volunteer Fenella’s garden, where it is being afforded five-star treatment until it acclimatises.


Five Star treatment


New leaves on Clone #1

Emboldened by the arrival of La Niña and a damp Spring, we have decided to try again, and this year we hope to clone at least two or three new figs to ensure that the genetics of the original fig planted by Doctor Hewitt are preserved forever.


Marcotting bundle

Memorial Trees return …

Almost twelve months ago, with the threat of a tough summer and hospital car park extensions looming, we decided to dig up the two memorial trees located near the edge of Hartley House car park and put them into pots for safe-keeping.

Today, they returned … to a sheltered spot at the edge of the Dr. Hewitt Arboretum.

Holes were dug, and filled with water, then the trees were planted in a combination of soil and native potting soil, lightly fertilized, watered again and then topped with mulch from our stockpile.

Read about the trees here:   Aunty Lillian’s Lilly Pilly  and Violet’s Leopard Tree

Thanks to Marlene & Les Howes for nurturing the trees for nearly a year.

Fenella & Marlene filling the holes with water



Mulching Mondays …

First it was drought, and then bushfires.  Then February brought wonderful drought breaking rain and just as we were about to get back into gardening, COVID-19 struck. We were starting to think that we would never resume gardening, but now we’re back and there’s been a lot of activity in the grounds in our absence.

The garden survived, and several plants put on a spectacular flower show – thanks no doubt to the February rain.  The Shishi Gashiri camellia bed near the Emergency Department was a standout performer.

The massive upgrade and extension of hospital parking facilities is well underway, with the Hartley House carpark completed, and the Main Carpark cleared and levelled, revealing a panoramic view of the mountains.

The construction company has been very helpful – removing weed trees, saving and relocating Staghorn and Elkhorn ferns from the now defunct roundabout into the Hewitt Arboretum and providing us with a huge pile of mulch for use in the gardens.

Our first Mulching Monday saw us barrow and spread 24 loads of mulch on to the Wellness Garden.  This coming Monday we will weed and mulch other problem spots in the garden ready for planting in the spring.

We have to undergo a health check on arrival at the hospital, and socially distance, but other than that we are back to normal fortnightly working bees, followed by morning tea and a chat.

Saved by El Niña …

Things were looking pretty dire.  No rain and Level 4 water restrictions meant that only the hardiest of our plantings were still looking good.  For the record – geraniums, pentas, camellias, westringias, succulents, lomandras and some plants in the shade were coping fairly well, but anything else was looking decidedly stressed.

Then just in the nick of time last weekend, we had some rain.  180 millimetres plus, which was more than we could have reasonably hoped for considering how dry the previous two summers have been.

Wellness Garden only the strong survive!

Plants in the shade doing well

Barb & Margaret planting another drought resistant teapot

In December, we celebrated the five year anniversary of the creation of the Wellness Garden with a morning tea in the Col Foster Gazebo.  Kim Cheney from Bellingen Bush Regenerators outlined the work recently completed at the arboretum.  Landcare and Kim’s team received a grant from the  Bellingen Shire Council Environmental Levy to remove vine weeds including Cats Claw Creeper from the adjacent rainforest.

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You can download and print a copy of the Rainforest Species List here …
Landcare Rainforest Species List

A copy of the Landcare and Bellingen Bush Regenerators report can be found here
BLI ELCF Hosp Arboretum Report Dec 19

We cut back our working bees due to the heat and lack of water but we are hoping that La Niña will bring us more tropical downpours over the next two months


OMG, it’s been 5 years …

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been five years since we commenced the Wellness Garden project.  In November 2014 we received the news that we had been successful in our application for a $5,000 grant from the Bellingen Council’s Environmental Levy Community Fund.  The grant was to fund planting and landscaping the hospital grounds adjacent to the new Sub-Acute Wing.  Keen as mustard, we commenced work immediately …

After forty-four working bees involving volunteer gardeners, local businesses, Lions and Rotary,  that $5,000 grant resulted in a project valued at $90,597.00.
See the amazing statistics here … Wellness Garden statistics

Barb & Gloria Malone with ceramics donated by Coastal Claymakers

Barbara Moore was the project manager and it was due to her energy and determination that the project was completed on time and on budget.  Without her dedication it is doubtful that we could have successfully completed the project.
Read about her big finish here … Barb’s Big Finish

Five years on, our team is still weeding, planting and maintaining the gardens at the hospital.  We’d love a few more volunteers, so please contact us if you would like to help – we garden alternate Mondays for about one and a half hours, followed by morning tea and a chat.