Shirl the Pearl …

This post is dedicated to the memory of Shirley Dunne, also known as “Shirl the Pearl”.

Shirley was one of the founding members of our Gardening Group in 2010 – uncovering archaeological remains in the car park, hacking through the bush to locate and poison noxious weeds, shovelling and barrowing mulch, planting, pruning and watering.
And for many years she was also a valuable BHAG committee member.

Shirley was an enthusiastic gardening volunteer – in fact, so enthusiastic that most of the photos we have show her barely visible amongst the plants , but we did manage to find a few of her smiling face …

We will remember her every time we garden at the hospital …
Thanks for the memories Shirley ūüíö

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Its a jungle out there !

Shirley & Jodie digging up ferns

Barb & Shirley pruning the hibiscus

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Daniel & Shirley – killing “Big Phil” the giant philodendron

2013 BHAG Gardening Clothes Line Garden 29th April email 008

Shirley, Fenella & Barb T in the Clothesline Garden


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Barb T, Shirley, Barb M & Daniel at Morning Tea – August 2012

Jodi, Daniel, Fenella, Shirley, Barb T, Barb M, Rhonda

Fenella, Shirley and Barb T – The Time Team uncovering ancient drains and paths.


Gardener’s morning tea – Sep 2010


Hospital staff, Barb T, Fenella, Janelle, Shirley & Barb M at a Thank You BBQ

Shirley’s cooking was legendary, and when it was her turn to bake for morning tea, we could always expect something delicious and interesting …

Shirley’s Apricot Meringue Slice

Shirley’s Apple Pecan Cake

Shirley’s legendary scones


It’s all about the bees …


Thanks to a couple of timely downpours, the hospital gardens made it through Summer with only a few short watering sessions.  The frog pond is full of tadpoles, native fish and snails, several reptiles have been spotted having a quiet drink on a hot day and native birds have enjoyed a smorgasbord of nectar.

Some of our plantings flowered for the first time – like the beautiful Fruit Salad Frangipani, and the pink Pentas flowered non-stop from Spring right through to the end of Summer … they are still going!

But the real success story was the huge increase in the bee population Рnative Tetragonula carbonaria, Teddy Bear and Blue Banded bees have all been spotted in the Wellness Garden along with the usual European bees.

As time goes by, and the gardens mature, we can look forward to more first bloomers, more wildlife¬†and many more delicious morning teas …



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 Рno 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.|

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 ‚Äď and they are particularly attracted to the Pentas ‚Äď 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.


PWG – The Opening Ceremony …

After months of juggling schedules, planning, organising plaques and tweaking of the garden, the day of the Patient Wellness Garden opening ceremony finally dawned.

The morning was attended by MNCLHD senior management, Bellingen Council, the Lions Club, members of the Gumbaynggirr community, BHAG Volunteer Gardeners, the Pink Ladies Auxiliary, the Foster Family, hospital staff and numerous other community organisations and individuals who had all played a part in bringing the PWG project to its successful conclusion.

Guests watching the opening ceremonies

Guests watching the opening ceremonies

It was a morning of many ceremonies and many plaques,
commencing with a Welcome to Country in Gumbaynggirr by Dylan Kelly.

Welcome to Country

Welcome to Country

Michael Jarrett performed a Smoking Ceremony
to ward off bad spirits and to cleanse the garden.

Michael Jarrett performs the Smoking Ceremony

Michael Jarrett performs the Smoking Ceremony

The Gumbaynggirr and other women who made the arduous journey on foot from Bowraville to birth their babies at the Bellingen Hospital, were remembered on a plaque, as were the attending doctors РDoctors Hewitt and Elliott.

The birdbath memorial plaque in Gumbaynggirr

The birdbath memorial plaque in Gumbaynggirr and English

The story of their journey is illustrated on the sides of a beautiful mosaic birdbath
created by Fiona McAulay and her students at Bellingen High School.

Dedication of the birdbath

Dedication of the birdbath

A plaque commemorating the opening and the community’s involvement in the¬†construction of the garden was unveiled and dedicated to patients, their families, visitors and staff.

The Patient Wellness Garden memorial plaque

The Patient Wellness Garden memorial plaque

The Carl Foster Memorial Gazebo was officially opened by Mayor Mark Troy, accompanied by members of the late Carl Foster’s family – June, Irene, Sharon and¬†Christopher, and the Bellingen Lions Club who designed and constructed the gazebo.

The Foster Family, Lions and Mayor Mark Troy

The Foster Family, Lions and Mayor Mark Troy

Then there was the planting of the Wollemi Pine, and the unveiling of the
Doctor Hewitt Memorial plaque by Warren Grimshaw and Stewart Dowrick.
(And we mean planting, no token gestures here, shovels and buckets were required!)

Guests admired the Evocation Sculpture Garden created by students
at Bellingen Public School

Evocation Garden

The Evocation Sculpture Garden

Of course, what would an Opening Ceremony be without a fabulous morning tea!
(Catering by the Black Bear Café in Bellingen)

A most successful end to a strenuous but rewarding project,
and a relief to finally cross it off our “to do list”.

Guests at the Smoking Ceremony




Tea with the Minister …

Recently, as part of a tour of Mid-North Coast health facilities, the NSW Health Minister the Hon. Jillian Skinner visited the Bellingen Health Campus.  She toured the government funded Sub-Acute Ward and the updated Emergency Department.  The Minister also looked at the solar hot water system, new roofs and our Patient Wellness Garden all of which resulted from massive community involvement by way of fund-raising, a council grant and many working bees.

Melinda Pavey, Jillian Skinner & Kath Boman

Melinda Pavey, Jillian Skinner & Kath Boman

The Minister was greatly impressed with everything she saw, particularly the work our group has put into turning a builder’s wasteland into an attractive garden to be enjoyed by patients and staff alike.

The Minister, Shirley, Barb & Grahame Maddeford

The Minister, Shirley, Barb & Grahame Maddeford

Following the tour, a magnificent morning tea was catered by the Pink Ladies Hospital Auxiliary for the community organisations involved … the Lions Club, Rotary, BHAG Gardeners and others who had contributed time, money, plants and equipment were invited.

Additionally, about six weeks ago, we nominated Barb Moore for an award for her work in project managing the Patient Wellness Garden to its successful conclusion.  The competition was run in conjunction with Seniors Week 2016, and during the morning tea, our local member Melinda Pavey announced that Barb had won a Local Achievement Award.

Warren Grimshaw, Lester Sheather, Barb & The Minister

Warren Grimshaw, Wal Tyson, Barb & The Minister


Barb was taken by surprise, and everyone agreed that the award is well deserved!

Well done Barb …