Archives: News

Vegepod GrowHealth – A Nature Based Therapy Program for Mental Wellbeing

Vegepod GrowHealth – A Nature Based Therapy Program for Mental Wellbeing

By Simon Holloway MAIH, Images/ Simon Holloway, Vegepod

Vegepod is proud to launch their latest program Vegepod GrowHealth, a mental wellbeing program through nature-based therapy.

After years of boots-on-the-ground installs and community projects, it became very obvious to Vegepod that many people do not have easy access to nature-based therapy in its traditional large-scale format (ie: think immersion in forests, walking along beaches or resting oneself on large and safe riverbanks); and yet Vegepods and their ‘mini eco-systems’ were enabling nature-based therapy.

Enter program co-designer, Kit Kline, who helped bring the nature-based therapy and Vegepod worlds together. Kit is an expert in mental health via nature-based therapy, an emerging field in both complementary therapies and holistic health treatment which has been incorporated into the practice of many medical and mental health professions.

According to Beyond Blue, almost half of Australians will have a condition relating to mental wellbeing in their lifetime, with 3 million adults having anxiety and/or depression in any year. Gardening is not only beneficial for working with presenting mental wellbeing issues but beneficial in preventing poor mental wellbeing. This program takes a holistic approach to working with presenting mental wellbeing problems.

The many physical, social and therapeutic benefits of being outside, getting your hands dirty and growing food is becoming increasingly recognised throughout Australia’s community groups who face complex challenges, including aged-care, housing, schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, disability hubs and more.

Vegepod GrowHealth is not only designed to guide healthcare workers in various clinical or group settings, but can also be utilised by anyone by themselves directly. Many carers and frontline workers are also finding these activities as key tools for respite and meeting the growing needs for ‘Caring for Carers’.

Vegepod GrowHealth can be freely facilitated by anyone, including:

  • Private practiceNDIS – psychosocial recovery coach
  • Psychologists, psychotherapists, counsellors and mental wellbeing clinicians
  • Social workers, occupational therapists and allied health professionals
  • Youth workers, drug and alcohol clinicians and disability support workers
  • School wellbeing counsellors, university wellbeing counsellors and outreach workers
  • Workplace wellbeing officers
  • Carers and family members

You can contact Vegepod at for a free copy of the Vegepod GrowHealth program.

The Gardening Artists of the Late 19th to the Mid-20th Century

The Gardening Artists of the Late 19th to the Mid-20th Century

By Andrea Govaert MAIH

Recently, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in cooperation with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, dedicated a beautiful exhibition to the post impressionist painter, Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) “Life & Spirit”, showing an impressive collection of the artist’s vibrant and poetic artwork, that instills a feeling of joy just by looking at it, at least in my mind.

In his ‘Notes of a Painter’ (1908), Matisse articulates his mission as an artist as follows: ‘What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every metal worker, for the business man as well as the man of letters: a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good arm chair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue’.

In other words: art as a harmonious haven that provides respite from the daily threats and hostilities of the outside world. These were plentiful at the turn of the 19th century, with world wars looming, a raging pandemic (the Spanish flu) and generally considered a period of great industrial transition and corresponding social unrest.

Against this backdrop, many (post) impressionist painters may have intuitively responded, by painting quiet domestic scenes, including their own gardens, as places of calm refuge, translating the way in which they experienced their physical gardens in comparison to the outside world. And indeed similar to the way in which we may experience our own gardens, as well as their paintings, especially now, when we find ourselves in an equally threatening environment as our late 19th century artists.

From Luxembourg Gardens [oil on canvas], by H. Matisse, 1901. Image/ -Matisse/Luembourg-Gardens.html

It is astonishing to realise how many painters, musicians, poets and scholars were active gardeners and used their gardens as a constant source of inspiration, including thoughts on art and aesthetics in relation to form, colour, balance, rhythm and proportion. It is exactly the terminology we use when we think about the key design elements of a garden.

Claude Monet

Perhaps the most well known example is Monet (1840 – 1926), who used his gardens at Giverny for ongoing horticultural experimentation. It is said that Monet ripped out flowering plants when he was dissatisfied with their colour scheme and the way in which they fitted with other flowering plants. Although this appears a little drastic, also gardeners can be dissatisfied with a plant ‘that doesn’t appear to belong’ and that in our minds somehow disturbs the balance of a garden.

Pierre Bonnard

Another impressionist painter, Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) nurtured his garden at his property in Veronnet, in the North of France by letting it deliberately run wild (‘le jardin sauvage’). This garden appears frequently in his paintings in different light and moods.

Morning in the garden at Vernonnet [oil on canvas], by P. Bonnard, 1917, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA Image/

Joaquin Sorolla

The Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla (1863 – 1923) dedicated much of his life to ‘capturing the intimate and meditative essence of a garden’, according to his great-grand daughter Blanca Pons-Sorolla, including his own at the Sorolla House in Madrid, Spain.

Courtyard of the casa Sorolla [painting], by J. Sorolla y Bastida, 1917, Alamy Image/

Henri Le Sidaner

The French ‘intimist’, Henri le Sidaner (1862 – 1939) designed and developed his own garden in Gerberoy, France in 1900, which he painted frequently in different moods, light and seasons.

From The table in the white garden [oil on canvas] by H. Le Sidaner, 1906, Image/ Alamy

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Then there are the musicians such as the Russian émigré composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873- 1943) who built villa ‘Senar’ on the shores of lake Lucerne in Switzerland in 1932, including an immense garden, where he tended to his roses and found solace for his longing for the lost gardens of his childhood. This relatively quiet period in his otherwise restless life as a forever travelling Russian émigré and celebrated pianist inspired him to create a few of his major works, among others his third symphony.

Villa Senar [photograph], by unknown, 1934, Rachmaninoff foundation Image/

Beatrix Potter

Finally, the writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943), who developed her garden at Hill Top, UK and drew inspiration from it for her many illustrations and children stories.

Hill Top Farm in the Lake District, UK, once home to children’s author Beatrix Potter [photograph], by C. Dorney, 2016, Alamy Image/

All of the above mentioned gardens have been lovingly restored, are maintained by gardeners and most are open to the public. As such they have become lasting, independent artworks, after acting as lifelong muses for their respective artists/owners.

This brings us to the historically much debated question whether gardens and garden design can be considered an art form itself, on equal footing with the art forms such as painting, music and literature they have inspired. When we consider Matisse’s mission statement on the purpose of his art, the answer would be affirmative.

Creating a garden is an act of balance, a striving towards serenity and purity, using similar design elements in addition to horticultural knowledge, thus ‘providing a good arm chair that induces relaxation from physical fatigue for businessman, man of letters and metal worker alike’.

Industry speaks: We need a green infrastructure policy

Industry speaks: We need a green infrastructure policy

In the lead up to the 2022 Federal Election, Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) is asking industry leaders to share their hopes for the future of the horticulture industry. Michael Casey, President of the Australian Institute of Horticulture, is calling for a green infrastructure policy to address two important industry issues: climate change and our next generation workforce.

For the past three decades I have educated myself in all facets of the horticultural industry from my initial TAFE studies through to Diploma, Degree and Specialist Certificate courses at a tertiary level. I have had the privilege of pursuing my passion all while growing my business (now businesses), my knowledge and industry network. Anyone who started working in the industry from the early 90’s onwards was afforded the opportunity to train and work with a range of career pathways on offer.

At the start of my career, my focus was predominately on beautifying residential and commercial properties. However, the past 10 years have seen my work far more concentrated on ‘must have’ rather than ‘nice to have’ elements. This has meant that there is now a requirement and moral obligation on my part to provide greenery into spaces as built structures both engulf more of our building envelope and as urbanisation encroaches into peri-urban and regional spaces removing much-needed biodiversity and plant life.

In instances where green spaces have been stripped of life, covered with impermeable surfaces and transformed into urban heat sinks, this is an area that is posing a larger problem. Local councils and state governments are doing a commendable job at producing strategic ‘green plans’ aimed at educating the public and relevant professionals about what needs to be addressed but we need further ‘green action’ where this is incorporated as standard (non-negotiable) requirements in building contracts. Essentially a Federal level green infrastructure approach/policy that is mandated and rolled out at state and local levels will future-proof our green environments.

As we fast head into another Federal election, we cannot ignore the significant issue that confronts us/our civilisation which is living with a changing climate. It has been known for long enough that Australia is a continent that is very susceptible to climatic change and this needs to be practically managed to a greater extent, but we continue to grow and build our cities with materials such as steel, concrete and other raw materials that simply adds to the problem rather than addressing it.

Our greening strategies are not currently mandated, nor does this look likely in the near future. Policies need to provide clear guidance that can help inform relevant authorities to ensure built environments include green spaces for social, economic and environmental benefit/gain and not for marketing purposes to sell property. These gains include greener neighbourhoods, cleaner air, a better connection to nature, calm and relaxing environments and more importantly cooler surrounds to name but a few.

We are also now confronting an issue bigger than what our industry has ever experienced previously. We have the younger population that is keeping a very close eye on what is happening, and they have the passion and drive to make a difference.

However, we do not seem to fully harness these values. As a current trainer/educator of youth, I experience this each week when I teach my students. They want change and are eager and prepared to make a difference. They need thorough and clearly defined career paths which are likely to only materialise on the back of mandating green spaces into our built environment. This will create a more secure working future within the profession. We have the interest and the future workforce in place, we now need more emphasis on training.

Given how significantly my focus has changed over a long period, I now work and partner primarily with others who are also committed to changing our built environments. I plan to continue my work in this sector by guiding and educating youth on this important area of horticulture that has the potential to break significant environmental, social and economic ground.

This Federal election without question needs to address the seriousness of climate change by mandating green inclusions onto our buildings and cities, promoting and celebrating our industry and the works of designers, consultants, nurseries and all other disciplines that are included in the formation of greening spaces.

This will ensure our dedicated students and future ‘green warriors’ have a future ahead of them and an education pathway. Most importantly, they need to be provided a future without the threat of a warming climate, deadly storm activities, food insecurity and the many other issues facing our children as they prosper.

Michael Casey MAIH RH
President – Australian Institute of Horticulture

This article was originally published by Greenlife Industry Australia in the lead up to the 2022 Federal Election.

Content Marketing For Your Horticultural Business

Content Marketing For Your Horticultural Business

By Daniel Fuller

Do you know what social media is actually for, or are you shouting messages out into the void? The secret to social media is understanding what it is: it’s social, meaning that people are interacting with each other, and it’s media, meaning it’s a form of mass communication. Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Apple Podcasts have given people like you and I access to a larger audience than the average human being has ever had access to in the history of human civilisation.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is using social media to create text, video and audio content, with the intention of creating interest around a brand, product or service. If done well, we can gain the trust and respect of people we’ve never met who can end up becoming our clients. Tragically, instead, we use this awesome power to promote our products and services until we’re blue in the face, and then we blame the algorithm because nobody likes our stuff. But we never ask ourselves if we’ve made content worth sharing.

Think about it this way. Would you walk up to somebody at a party you’d never met before and start telling them about how awesome you are? No, you wouldn’t. You’d take a moment to listen to the other person, and when you spoke, you’d try to be interesting enough to hold their attention.

The first thing you need to know about content marketing is that it’s an act of service to your audience. They have a need for quality online content and you are filling that need. Your audience are real people and don’t like ads any more than you do; as long as you keep giving the good stuff and avoid annoying them, they’ll be back again and again.

Targeting Your Audience

It’s important to be very targeted with who you’re creating content for because you want them to be the same person that is likely to use your product or service. This way it’s an easy funnel for your audience to naturally become your customer, and your calls to action fit perfectly within the context. Perhaps you’d like to target local businesses from your area, and you might even like to narrow down your niche to a specific type of business. Start by thinking about where decision makers are likely to be spending their time on social media. LinkedIn and local business podcasts might be a good way to get in front of the right people in this case.

Find local YouTube channels and podcasts that create content specifically for people in your area. Getting a million overseas followers doesn’t help a local horticultural business very much. If there’s no local business podcast for your area, you should start it and invite your ideal customers on the show as guests. Everybody wants to be on a podcast but nobody wants to start one.

Grab your ideal client’s attention by speaking directly to them in a LinkedIn video post, and don’t worry about reaching the masses because they won’t hire you. Mentioning a specific suburb and type of business in the first sentence gets a prospect’s ears pricked up because suddenly here is a professional that actually understands their needs even better than they do.

Plants Grow Here Podcast

Hosting the Plants Grow Here podcast has given me an insight into consumer behaviour because I can see when listeners turn off. I create horticultural, ecological and landscape gardening content for professionals while keeping it approachable for keen home gardeners, and when I stray from my audience’s needs, I notice it in the stats.

I’ve done a couple of episodes with a musician and horticulturist Tom Wall who uses a device to translate a plant’s electromagnetic output into music and then plays along with the plant. Tom and I speak about how amazing it is that he’s able to influence the plant’s output with his music.

I love these episodes. I know there are many listeners that also love these episodes, because more than half of the people that tuned into his episode listened through to the end. Tom has also brought a few listeners from his audience over as well. But the fact is, the stats are way down compared to previous and later episodes because this type of content isn’t what my usual listeners come to my podcast to hear.

If you regularly create content for your ideal client’s taste, you might just earn yourself a follower and some respect. You might even earn a click through to your profile, and then out of curiosity, your website. And who knows, that LinkedIn scroller, or that podcast listener may just become your next regular client.


Horticulture an Asset to Architecture

Horticulture an Asset to Architecture

By Patrick Regnault FAIH RH

Imagine an architect-designed building, beautifully crafted and resplendent in all its glory. See it sitting amongst barren grounds, maybe concrete or gravel all round, or a lawn. No tree, no shrub, no life.

Gardens enhance any buildings, they make them surge and embrace the ground on which they repose. Shrubs and trees give scale, soften or accentuate parts of the buildings. Water features, paths and hard landscapes give a sense of direction and lead the eyes and the feet to the heart of the structure. Landscaped grounds give a soul to a building, it grounds the design.

Budgeting For the Garden

This goes for large builds but also for the humble suburban house or semi. It seems however that, in general, landscaping is relegated to an afterthought. Budget is made for the structure but little to the landscaping. With budget blow out any money put aside for the landscaping is then further diminished.

Developers, builders , architects and their clients would benefit from the involvement of a horticulturist from the start and adequate budget put aside. If the budget is limited, a simpler design focusing on soft landscape and varied plant selection can do marvel. Hard landscape can be paired down to the minimal if the land gradient allows it.

At worse the landscaping is done by the builder’s labourer, unqualified, unprepared for the complexity of soil preparation and plant selection.

Soil Preparation and Plant Selection

Soil is not dirt, it is a medium that allows life to thrive, it is from its health that the grounds will become a heaven for vibrant life or a semi-arid dead zone. Soil preparation is the most important part of the garden makeover. Soil can be shaped to direct water where needed, it can give the garden forms it did not have it to start with. Soil pH and structure will dictate the plant selection. We do not always need to import fresh soil to a site if we have saved top soil from the building excavation or if the soil has not been contaminated during the built.

Plant selection is always the most difficult part, shapes, forms, colours, timing, all add a level of complexity to obtain a varied and bio-diverse garden. Understanding how plants will grow in the next decades, how their root systems will develop and their influences on structures and pipes requires practice, studies, knowledge.

Plants have an effect on surface water, they break raindrop to smaller sizes, slow the water down, hold the soil. A lot can be done by plant alone that will be effective. Vegetation’s engineering role is very much underestimated.

Garden of the Mind

Vegetation’s thermal role within and without buildings is now well researched and understood, but its psychological effects are understood in a therapeutic setting but is given less importance or even ignored in its day to day use.

In the case of the front yard, it is the transition between the hustle of the outside world and the peace of the interior. The front garden, if it exists, needs to be designed to give the brain a period of adjustment in such a way that by the time the door shuts something subtle has changed in the person demeanour, some of the preoccupations are left behind.

The garden is also viewed from inside the house. It serves to rest the eyes, and the brain, to calm the nervous system and reset the mind. The garden is a reminder of the natural world and our place within it. A garden with a large plant palette will be inhabited by a large selection of animal life which can be viewed from the inside and outside. Their presence a further prompt to our place in the web of life.

Gardens are much more than the lipstick and eye shadow, more than the shiny suit. Gardens are functional, sensual, ornamental, culinary, contemplative, artistic. Gardens associated with buildings give them a sense, a feel, an aesthetic which complement them and set them apart. When a building and the garden are planned together, as a unit the economic, physical and psychological benefits are maximised.

Let us walk back towards the building we first saw, this time it is sitting within a garden. We walk along a meandering path bordered by shrubbery, a bit further a lawn leads or eyes to the right of the building to a glass frontage whilst the left side is softened by small trees and flower beds. The building is revealed slowly, patiently, modestly, its architectural form, shape and contrast take on an other dimension. A building needs a context, the garden provides it.

Autumn in the Rose Garden

Autumn in the Rose Garden

By Stephen Eckardt MAIH Images/ Stephen Eckardt

What a year! It’s only Autumn, if it were ever the time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ that time is now! A great escape can be to take a wander through our gardens. We can look at our roses and take our mind off things for a brief while.

Roses are a magnificent addition to a garden. They are a plant that can suit many different personalities, styles and wants. This is due to their variation in flower shapes, sizes, colours and growing habits, their ability to be grown in the ground or in pots, different soil mediums and temperature zones. Their only limiting factor is lack of sunlight.

For those of you that believe roses are difficult and are hard to maintain, here are some ‘Autumn to-dos’ and also some interesting culinary recipes you can try.

Autumn brings out more intense colour and fragrance in the rose flowers. However due to the night temperatures cooling down and the day temperatures remaining warm, this can also create some fungal problems.

Here Are Some Hints to Get the Best Out of Your Roses:


It is now the ideal time to plant roses. The soils are still warm enough to encourage root growth before winter and the days are cool enough to work in. By establishing the roses now, the roots will be ready to produce spectacular growth and flower displays when Spring arrives.

Fertilising and Mulching

As the soils get cooler into Autumn, the root zone will not work as efficiently. To give the roses a boost, it is safest to use a short term organic fertilizer. I recommend products such as an ‘organic cow manure’ or ‘Organic Life’.

At the same time adding a soil improver ie ‘Active Grow’ and a sugar cane mulch, will reinvigorate tired soils. This ensures your plants are healthier, producing brilliant colour and increased yields whilst suppressing weeds and retaining moisture.

This combination works for both roses in the ground as well as roses in pots.

This is the time to ‘dead head’- light prune only. A light pruning or thinning out can be done now if desired to take some stresses off the plant and allow more valuable light in.

Sometimes leaving the Autumn hips will add to the beauty of the garden, particularly on the rugosa and many old world roses. If you do decide to leave hips on the roses take note of the different shapes and sizes they produce, it may just take your interest in the rose a little bit deeper. Images/ Stephen Eckardt

Fungal and Pest Problems

Hot days and cool nights, are a perfect breeding ground for fungal diseases, particularly blackspot and mildew. Roses are very clever, there mission in life is to produce a flower. To do this they stop supplying the older leaves with any nutrients and put all their energy into the new growth to produce a new flower. Consequently you seldom see blackspot on the new growth of a rose.

The older leaves will go yellow and drop off anyway, and are a likely target for fungal spores in Autumn conditions. (Imagine not having any ventilation in the bathroom, mould spores would appear very quickly).

Stressed plants are also susceptible to mildews which like the cool moist autumn nights. Aphids may also appear on warm days. To treat both the fungal and pest problems, horticultural sprays are recommended i.e eco-neem,eco-fungicide etc.

Curl Grubs

It is time to be on the lookout for curl grubs. If found and left alone, they will be detrimental to the rose as they eat all the fine root hairs of the rose (and other plants). However they are easy to eradicate once detected.

How do I find out if I have them?

Easy, place an old pot, paver or doormat next to the plant that you suspect may be affected by them for 24hrs. Then remove and scratch around the surface with your finger. If they are there, one or two would have come to the surface. (If you find one, there are likely to be 20 – 30 eating the roots.) Next apply water as a drench and apply preferably a liquid grub killer (i.e eco-neem).

Those little widget grub looking things! Image/ Stephen Eckardt

Now Time For Some Fun

Two easy recipes to use your rose hips and rose petals, give it a go. Do not use chemical treated roses. Use those that have been treated with horticultural sprays.

Rose Hip Tea

A beverage that can be enjoyed either hot or cold.

Step 1. Harvest and clean rose hips. Lay them out to dry, once dried remove the stalks and stems (tops and tails).
Step 2. Air dry. Somewhere dry and dark. They are ready when they have shrivelled up and feel completely dry when you pull one apart.
Step 3. Crush. Use a mortar and pestle, you want the hips to remain chunky.
Step 4. Sieve. The seeds are fine, it’s the hairs you do not want. They can be irritating to the throat.
Step 5. Storage. Store them in an airtight container until required.
Step 6. They are now ready to make tea and enjoy.



Rose Petal Sugar

The ratio of sugar to petals varies depending on how concentrated you want the rose sugar to be. If unsure, start with 1 cup sugar to ½ cup rose petals.

A great addition to rose hip tea.

Step 1. Add white granular sugar to an airtight container.
Step 2. Add fragrant red or dark pink petals. Remove the white bit from the bottom as can be bitter.
Step 3. Seal the container and leave in cupboard for about a month to absorb colour and flavour.
Step 4. Sieve. Remove the dried petals
Step 5. Enjoy.

Other Passions: George Orwell’s Roses

Other Passions: George Orwell’s Roses

By David Thompson , Engagement Manager

Author Rebecca Solnit has recently published her new book ‘Orwell’s Roses’ an interesting mix of history around Orwell’s retreat to gardening and horticulture along with views on ecology and climate change.

George Orwell

“In the spring of 1936, a writer planted roses” – so begins each chapter with a variation on this central theme. Best known for his biting, satirical novels, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell spent the longest part of his life living at this cottage in Wallington, Hertfordshire. As well as writing, he also sold basic groceries from the property to support his writing efforts.

“Orwell’s biggest passion was his gardening”, explained Rebecca.

“He was well-known as an anti-fascist but less known as a nature-lover and keen gardener. Prior to taking up residence at Wallington, Orwell had worked reporting from the northern-English industrial heartland, and moving to Wallington and its garden represented a return to nature for him”.

Even in his last days, afflicted with severe tuberculosis, Orwell and his son travelled to the remote Scottish island of Jura, where he penned Nineteen Eighty-Four between convalescing and then tilling four hectares of crops on the harsh and windswept island.

Many of those original roses are still growing at the Wallington cottage, part of British literary, and horticultural, history. At a time when the themes from Orwell’s literature are perhaps more relevant than ever, it is a timely reminder to follow Orwell’s philosophy of appreciating the small details in life.

In one of his last essays, Orwell wrote “Our job is to make life worth living on this earth, which is the only earth we have”.

‘Orwell’s Roses’ is published by Allen and Unwin by Rebecca Solnit.

The Legacy of an Industry Legend – Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH

The Legacy of an Industry Legend – Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH

By Judy Horton OAM MAIH, Images/ Stuart Pittendrigh and Judy Horton

Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH Fellow of the Institute.

At the AIH NSW Christmas party in December 2021 I had the privilege of sitting next to Stuart Pittendrigh. While we were eating dinner I asked Stuart about the progress of his magnum opus, the Barangaroo Reserve on Sydney’s foreshore. This led to Stuart generously offering to give me a tour of the now six-year-old landscape and we spent a pleasant morning walking the site, with me marvelling at the growth and establishment of the landscape.

On the way back I asked Stuart about his life story and this led me to thinking it would be a great opportunity to share this with AIH members so we could appreciate the great legacy this man has bequeathed to us all and to the city of Sydney.

Childhood and Early Career

Stuart was almost the eldest of four children. Why ‘almost’? He has a twin sister who was born half an hour before him. ‘And she never lets me forget it,’ he laughs. They spent their early years in Wattle Flat near Bathurst where his father worked as a coachmaker and signwriter for Cobb & Co. When it came time for high school education, the family moved to Sydney and Stuart enrolled at North Newtown High School. As typical of the time Stuart left school at 15, started work straight away and undertook an apprenticeship in Fitting, Machining and Welding.

But much of the groundwork was laid for his future career by his father, who fostered an interest in art and nature by regularly taking each individual child on day trips to visit art galleries, parks and Sydney bushland. With this continual exposure to art and nature, Stuart describes his as a ‘privileged background’.

Stuart flourished during his four-year apprenticeship and in 1958 was encouraged by his employer to study for a Diploma of Mechanical Engineering. His job expanded, with a large part of his role providing job estimations for clients all over the country. This gave him huge exposure to many different manufacturing operations (in the days when Australia had such things).

Career Change

He married Jan in 1963, bought land, built a house, acquired a mortgage and had two children. During these busy years he became very interested in plants and gardening. Having observed Stuart’s growing horticultural enthusiasm, Gordon Morling and Ralph Groves, owners of Five Dock Nurseries, offered him a job. Jan agreed to support his change of career on condition that they always kept £1000 in the bank. Neither has ever regretted this decision.

Five Dock gave Stuart experience in virtually all aspects of horticulture: wholesale, retail, growing plants and landscape construction (at the time Five Dock was the largest landscaper in Sydney). With his plant knowledge, artistic flair and drawing skills Stuart became more and more involved in landscape design. After he left Five Dock in 1971 he formed Stuart Pittendrigh & Associates Landscape Design (later Landscape Architects) and Horticultural Consultants and practised successfully for 17 years. During these years at Five Dock and in his own business he was continually learning. He achieved qualifications in horticulture, arboriculture, landscape design and landscape architecture.

In 1988 Stuart accepted an appointment as Managing Director of Landscan – Landscape Architecture, then became a founding director of PSB (Pittendrigh, Shinkfield and Bruce). He retired in 2008 but remained a consultant to the practice. He maintains friendly relationships with both Jon Shinkfield and Angus Bruce.

After retirement Stuart found himself still much in demand as a horticulturist, arboriculturist and landscape design expert. He lectured and mentored horticultural students and was called on to advise in many court cases. And then, in 2010, came Barangaroo.

Stuart assessing the health of a Fig Tree (Ficus Rubignosa) close to the waterfront. Image/ Stuart Pittendrigh, Judy Horton.

In six years the Barangaroo landscape has become well established. Image/ Stuart Pittendrigh, Judy Horton

Barangaroo Reserve

Barangaroo Reserve, named after the Cammeraygal woman who lived in the area at the time of white settlement, is a massive transformation of a disused shipping terminal and industrial site that fronts Sydney Harbour on the western edge of the CBD. When the Barangaroo Delivery Authority accepted the tender of US-based Peter Walker & Partners and leading Australian landscape architects Johnson Pilton Walker to design the reserve, Stuart was engaged to advise on the selection, planting and maintenance of the 75,000 plants required for the site. He took Peter Walker and his team on trips to Muogamarra Reserve and Bobbin Head north of Sydney and other natural sites where they could see – and be astonished by – the amazing diversity of the flora associations that existed in Sydney in 1788.

Since the reserve opened in 2015 Stuart has been retained to conduct monthly horticultural assessments on the plants throughout the entire Barangaroo Precinct and report back to Infrastructure NSW. His contract has just been renewed for another year so he will be continuing his regular visits and solving the small number of problems. He has been delighted with the way the plants are flourishing.

As we walked and talked, I began to learn more of this remarkable man’s take on life and landscape. Here are a few of the gems I remember:

  • It’s important to gain experience in as many fields of horticulture as possible. I regret that some – not all – landscape architects and designers sit in offices drawing on computers and never get out to learn or look at plants.
  • Integrity is importance in business. I have never had a serious bad debt or had to call upon the services of a solicitor. If I made a mistake, I admitted it and fixed it.
  • Have a business plan that works well and don’t have any prima donnas in your business.
  • Delegation is important – don’t waste time by getting bogged down in details that others in your team can do as part of their role. Don’t get involved in things that you don’t need to get involved in.
  • Books are forgotten resources. I still get my most valuable information from books. I have five Edna Walling first editions on my bookshelf and I’ve told Jan that when I croak, they’re not to be thrown out.
  • It’s vital to rely on your own observations – look at plants all the time. Know and love your plants.
  • Barangaroo is not a garden, it’s a landscape. The idea is to get it established and turn off the water. I still get a buzz every time I go there.

Stuart was the AIH Horticulturist of the Year in 2015 and had AIH fellowship conferred in 2018. His other awards, affiliations and recognitions are too numerous to list here. He has been a longtime supporter of AIH and we are honoured to have him in our association.


Overview of Stuart Pittendrigh’s Body of Work


  • Riverside Oaks, PGA National, NSW
  • Peppers Guest House, Pokolbin, NSW
  • Hunter Resort, Pokolbin, NSW
  • ‘The Ridge’ golf, equestrian and leisure facility, Cattai, NSW
  • Nan Li Lake, Hainan Island, China
  • Holiday Inn, Terrigal, NSW
  • Impiana Resort, Cherating, Malaysia


  • Thomas Holt Drive, North Ryde, NSW
  • Amway Corporation, Castle Hill, NSW
  • Australian Geographic, Terrey Hills, NSW


  • Sacred Heart, Hospice, NSW


  • Sydney Light Rail & North West Rail
  • Link, part Canberra Light rail
  • Arboricultural / Horticultural reporting and assessment for Sydney & SE Metro.


  • Fitzroy Avenue, Balmain, NSW
  • Simmon Point, Balmain, NSW
  • Blackwattle Bay Park, NSW
  • White Bay Park, Balmain, NSW
  • Fagan Park, Arcadia, NSW
  • Cordeaux Heights Estate, Unanderra, NSW
  • Barangaroo Reserve Horticultural and Arboricultural Consultant to BDA, JWP Architects & Peter Walker Partnership Landscape Architects USA and NSW State Government.
No Time To Die in Safin’s Poison Garden

No Time To Die in Safin’s Poison Garden

By David Thompson, Engagement Manager

(Warning: spoiler alert)

After more than 28 months of delays and postponed releases since its original April 2020 release date, the new Bond film ‘No Time To Die’ is finally out. And for avid Bond fans, like me, the latest film in the franchise is an absolute winner.

Of course as a horticulturist, I was taken by the famed ‘Poison Garden’ on the remote island lair of Lyutsifer Safin, this edition’s disfigured antagonist who lures Bond and Madeleine Swann and her daughter to the island factory.

The Poison Garden first appeared in ‘You Only Live Twice’ as the ‘Garden of Death’. On this remote island purposed to be somewhere between Japan and Russia, Safin has crafted a refined Japanese ‘Zen’-style garden with scenes of workers raking white stones with one-tined rakes – efficiency less their goal than the art of subserviency.

Safin’s Poison Garden. Image/ MGM Eon Productions.

There are numerous scenes in the film where references to poisonous plants are made – we see Safin commenting on Swann’s choice of Foxgloves (Digitalis spp.) as cut-flowers where he remarks ‘they can literally make your heart…stop’. Foxgloves are one of the poison garden features seen in the film along with some other regular favourites. It is from foxgloves that we have extracted digitalin and digoxin that was used in cardiac medicine and for epilepsy although its use has been discontinued as better treatments emerged.

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea.

Also in the garden, we see a spectacular Gunnera mannicata, acting as a backdrop against the white stones. Gunnera is not toxic but its massive leaves make for a superb foliage foil as the adventures take place in the garden. Gunnera likes a well-watered slightly shady spot and also features interesting cone-like flowers.

Giant Rhubarb Gunnera mannicata.

It looks like there’s also a small Oleander which , as well know well, is very toxic despite its hardiness and floral beauty. Oleander features in many Australian gardens but is a questionable choice as all parts of the plant are toxic, and even burning the wood produces toxic smoke.

There is also a scene where Safin is holding Swann hostage and serves her tea with some clearly-suspect material in it. Safin tells her that a single drop in the eye will cause blindness and not long after she throws the tea in his face and makes her escape.

My guess is it could something like Aconitum (Monkshood) which is very toxic on account of its pseudaconitine content. Aconitum has deep-green glossy leaves and bell-shaped blue flowers and is beautiful perennial, one that is not that common. You may be able to find it in rare plant nurseries. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were claims in Kyrgyzstan that Aconitum might help to cure COVID which resulted in several poisonings.

Aconitum (Monkshood).

So while others are watching Bond and Safin fight it out for the film’s final prize, the horticulturists among us are evaluating their plant choices and landscape design styles, pondering the choices that were made to add to the backstories of Bond, Safin, Swann and friends.

What’s Your Calling?

What’s Your Calling?

By Patrick Regnault FAIH RH

According to Confucius, if we choose work we love we will not have to work a single day of our life. Under this statement lies a simple truth, choose to do something you love regardless of the material reward and happiness will be found.

This may sound idealistic and simplistic, and indeed it is on the surface. The alternative is to work for money, fame, glory all of which can be taken away in an instant by one’s mistake or someone else’s decision.

To clarify the matter we need to give a definition to the following terms, Job, Work, Career and Vocation.

A job is what you have to pay bills and have money for your spare time. The priority is on time off and personal leisure times.

Work may or may not be of your choosing, it is mostly to allow you to fulfil the requirement of daily life with some extra for spare time and allocated holidays.

Career is already different, the view being an upward progression towards greater monetary reward and a desire for greater responsibilities and perhaps recognition from the peers.

Vocation is very unlike the above, it is what some people refer to as a calling. Vocation does not negate monetary rewards or social recognition but those are not the primal driving forces and the fulfilment does not require external approval. Indeed, a vocation can change and evolve but the seed from which it grows, the curiosity to explore and dedicate time to a deeper understanding of a particular discipline, stays at the core of it.


A vocation can be a choice or sometimes it is a matter of chance. We can feel our calling clearly or it may stumble upon us by chance. Our feeling of vocation may simply grow upon us as a slow realisation that what we are doing is just the right thing.


The real choice is to either follow our calling or to go on the well trodden path that we think will bring us security and stability. Following our vocation is not always the easiest path, we may get in our own way through overthinking it, having preconceived ideas, or listening to our projected fears or grandiose ideas.


When we act in accordance with our life direction, we find that the flow may not always be smooth but the current is always helping us along. We are not a horticulturist, we constantly become one. It is a constant renewal, always fresh and invigorating. The childlike wonder is always there and is infectious to the people around us.

In finding and following our vocation we transcend the limitations, real or imaginary, imposed upon us. The internal freedom cannot be contained. Perhaps Confucius could have been translated as “Find your vocation and you will not have to work a single day of your life”