Winter Jobs …


Bee on Tabebuia flower

The cooler winter months gave us the chance to complete the two biggest maintenance jobs on our list .. firstly to remove a large Royal Mantle grevillea, which, after many years gracing the steps leading to Hartley House, and providing nectar for bees, had suddenly expired.

We were surprised to discover a rock edge under the debris, it cleaned up beautifully and we planted more Westringia’s to match the bank on the other side.

The second job on our list was to remove excess crusher dust which had been spread around the Memorial Birdbath.  Barb, Fenella and Margaret shovelled, bagged and lifted the gravel dust and removed it from the site.

Throughout winter the Wellness Garden continued to flourish – there was always something flowering, AND something to do.  We weeded and trimmed the Archimedean Spirals, saved an Elkhorn (we hope) which had fallen off a tree, trimmed bromeliads,  and generally kept the garden in good order.

As always, our sessions were followed by a delicious morning tea and a chat.


Time to prune …

The cooler weather has arrived and we have started our annual prune.  As we prune, we keep an eye out for new wildlife arrivals, and we spot an Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly catterpillar on the orange tree in the Wellness Garden, and several Dwarf Tree Frogs (aka Sedge Frog) which have taken up residence in the bromeliad garden near Hartley House.
We finally get to prune the Candle Bush – which dwarfs Marlene and Daniel …

As the hospital café is due to open soon, and we don’t want the Wellness Garden to look bare, we “tip prune” the coleus, lavender and pentas.  Even the “tip prunings” dwarf Margaret !
We bag and remove all weeds from the hospital grounds. This pile came from just one garden bed.  Obviously, we need to visit this section of the garden more often …

And of course, morning tea is a great opportunity to try out a new recipe on a captive audience, taste test offerings from a local bakery, or just bring along a tried and true favourite.


The Spiral Garden …

The BHAG volunteer gardeners have been working in the hospital grounds since July 2010.  That in itself is an amazing effort, and each year brought its own challenges, but it’s probably fair to say that 2015 was the most challenging year to date.  That was the year that we created the Wellness Garden.

With the assistance of many local community organisations, plant donations by the public and an Environmental Grant from Bellingen Shire Council, we transformed the wasteland surrounding the new Sub-Acute wing into a garden to be enjoyed by patients, staff and visitors.

One section of the garden which is hidden from the public is the Spiral Garden and the Frog Pond.  They were both designed to be seen from above – from the veranda of the Sub-Acute wing.  We started with a blank canvas – bad soil, weeds and patches of crumbling remnant asphalt … then we mulched, fertilized, drew large circles and spirals and planted out with donated agaves, and propagated lomandra and ground covers.

Now two years later, in spite of last year’s extreme summer, this part of the garden has really come into its own … low maintenance, low fire-risk, and who knew that Lomandra Little Pal would look this good when viewed from above?


Winter is finally over …

After the summer from hell, the cold weather in June, July and August was a huge relief.  It enabled the volunteers to get stuck in to pruning and tidying up the gardens without wilting in the sun.

In spite of the low temperatures, there were still plenty of flowers to be found in the Wellness Garden, and everything survived on natural winter rainfall – no hoses required. The Frog Pond is gradually blending in to its surroundings, with bees and dragonflies stopping in for a quick drink, and rescued bromeliads are flowering for the first time.

The pink Tabebuia at the edge of the Doctor Hewitt Arboretum put on its usual gorgeous show, attracting native and European bees in their droves.
As usual there were plenty of baked treats to keep us going over the winter months. And now we are just waiting for the long overdue spring rains. Fingers crossed.|

Welcome Autumn relief …

It took us a few weeks to recover from February’s searing heat but the team has been hard at work over the last few months tidying up the hospital gardens and replacing plants which succumbed to the extreme weather.

The prostrate grevillea which grew near the maintenance office for many years finally curled up its toes and died, so we have replaced it with Lomandra longifolia tube-stock which Barb is a whizz at propagating.

None of the succulents suffered over summer – rather they seemed to love the heat and lack of rain, some flowering for the first time  …

Unfortunately, we had to dig up most of the Aloes, and relocate Barb’s Easter Island sculpture to protect them from damage during the construction of the new hospital Café. Barb is taking care of the Aloes until the project is complete and we can replant.

We’ve also been pruning, weeding and replanting, and we relocated bromeliads from the concrete pad below the main building – where they suffered over summer.

Of course at the end of our session there’s always our much anticipated morning tea …

In the news …

On 01 March, the Bellingen Courier-Sun published our good news story … and this year, the Volunteer Appreciation Day Morning Tea is to be held in the Patient Wellness Garden. It’s great to see the garden being used and appreciated.

Wellness Garden Survives

Amazing survival story …

Much to our relief, the Patient Wellness Garden has weathered the summer with only a small number of plants succumbing to the lack of rain and extreme heat.


Gumbaynggirr Birdbath

Bellingen Council granted us an exemption to the Level 3 water restrictions, which allowed us to water for a one hour block once a week. Coupled with a little intermittent rain, this was enough to keep the garden alive and flowering for the enjoyment of patients, visitors and hospital staff.

We erected a sun shade over the frog pond to cut down evaporation, and we now have a healthy population of native fish, water snails and what looks to be Striped Marsh frog tadpoles. The pond is also attracting European bees who stop by for a drink, and a few Damsel and Dragon flies.


Native Tetragonula, Blue Banded and Teddy Bear bees are often seen zipping around the garden – and they are particularly attracted to the Pentas – which have not stopped flowering since early Spring.

The heat and humidity seems to have encouraged a spurt of fungal growth (not the nasty infectious kind!) and although we probably can’t take full credit, it’s another indication of the increasing bio-diversity in the hospital grounds.

The worst of summer seems to be over, and as the days become cooler, we are looking forward to some light pruning, replacement of plants, and a general garden tidy up.