Archives: News

Walk & Talk at the Riverdene Nursery 7 July 2019

Walk & Talk at the Riverdene Nursery 7 July 2019


By Tom Lantry FAIH, AIH convener for Central Coast & Hunter regions.


After a general introduction of Noel Jupp OAM and Tom Lantry FAIH, Noel began to tell us about the family driven Riverdene Nursery and was joined by his daughter who looks after propagation. Noel showed that they have developed a system where they use old video cases to hold their plant tags. (It certainly keeps them neat and tidy, and easy to find.)


Group during introduction.

Group during introduction.


Noel then proceeded to demonstrate his potting machine, and all the other machinery they use at the nursery. All machinery built themselves. They also make their own potting mix. The majority of plants use common mix, but some require alteration.



Noel explaining potting machine.

Noel explaining potting machine.

When asked about special growing pots to prevent roots tangling, Noel spoke about how pots were introduced after he saw them advertised in a USA nursery magazine. He contacted the manufacturer to find out if they had a similar pot, and the manufacturer followed up and introduced the pots. Noel also said even though pots were 10 to 15% dearer, they produced a better plant with less transplant shock. As we walked around the nursey, he showed us when removing plants from pots; the roots were growing down groves and not around the pot.



Pot root development.

Pot root development.

Staking larger plants, he demonstrated how the spaghetti tube was used. This also allowed for some stretching. In propagation, every second sprinkler was adjusted slightly above the one next to it so that even watering was applied. When using cuttings, jiffy plugs of coco fibre were used so staff can easily see when cuttings take root. A heating mat under the liner was shown to advance rooting of cuttings.


Cuttings in Jiffy plugs.

Cuttings in Jiffy plugs.


Noel explaining procedure.

Noel explaining procedure.


We were shown where pine bark fines and fly ash was stored in separate bins prior to addition of fertiliser. A discussion took place about fly ash, and Noel raised that the latest information is that it may need replacing with sand due to the latest information/concerns about heavy metals in the fly ash. In a discussion about plant variety rights in Australia 18 to 20 cents per plant overseas 4c per plant, but when you have over 1,000,000 plants being sold then it’s still a handy sum. Riverdene keeps track of sales as plants are not allowed to be sold without their labels.

Noel is also involved with the propagation of old citrus varieties and spoke of where he has found old varieties. Some species do not like budding, so they must be propagated by cuttings. Several questions were asked about grass trees propagation and growth rates. Noel said that seeds germinate readily and if given room in pots they develop quickly. So get them out of tubes into 200 mm pots quickly.


Noel at the riverbank.

Noel at the riverbank.


Penny Kater MAIH.

Penny Kater MAIH.

We were then taken to the revegetated river banks which, once they started to attract birds and many other species not planted appeared. Naturally, with the now thick plantings erosion of bank is greatly improved. Before leaving, one of the group members moved a vote of thanks to Noel for the opportunity and open discussion. Tom then spoke to the group about an opportunity to visit a community arboretum just up the road, so we then headed off to the arboretum. After the visit to the Arboretum, several had lunch in town. Overall the visit and networking were worthwhile.

New education platform answers the needs of a changing world

New education platform answers the needs of a changing world

Private education veteran and sponsor of the Australian Institute of Horticulture, ACS Distance Education,  has released its answer to the changing needs of the education market: a monthly subscription of $29.95 buys you unlimited access to a range of micro courses across a huge range of disciplines.

“Learnhowto” has everything from horticulture, agriculture, and business to environment and science covered… and most things in between!

Developed in response to a range of needs (professional development, ‘dip your toe in’, and personal interest), the courses have been developed by highly qualified education specialists who boast years of relevant industry experience. More courses are added each month.

It also has the corporate sector covered: businesses can pay a fee to offer all their employees’ professional development.

It is quick and easy to join, you can study when and where you like, cancel at any time, and even awards a ‘badge’ upon completion of every micro course. Each course takes 3-4 hour each or less to complete, and you are awarded a badge upon completion.

To visit, go to

What are “micro-credentials”, and why were they developed?

Micro-credentials are the new wave of education.

Fewer people are enrolling in degrees, diplomas, certificates and apprenticeships. Mainstream education is struggling to respond to the new landscape with most are simply doing more of what they’ve always been doing.

In reality though, these changes require a more profound response toward a pathway that allows each person to curate their own learning ‘playlist’. To help develop their ‘personal capital’ that will enable them to evolve and sustain a career/s across their lifetime in a fast-changing world.

Blended learning and micro-credentials provides an opportunity to customise learning and economise by taking into account demand, gathering shorter term, project-specific skills, specialist training, regional differences, minimise repeat or irrelevant learning, circumstances.

They are looking to increase their personal capital and differentiate themselves through blended learning and micro-credentials.

What is changing:

  1. Employers are increasingly more concerned about the passion and capability of an employee to do a job and are more likely to engage someone based on attitude and competence than on qualifications alone.
  2. Less qualified people today are often more job secure and earn more than the highest qualified people.
  3. Enrolments in micro credentialed courses are growing extremely fast, as enrolments in longer, mainstream qualifications are in steady decline.
  4. Though the job market is changing, corporations still want to attract the best staff and are increasingly offering career coaching, mentoring and professional development in salary packages.
  5. Many corporations are improving service to their clients by customising services which require agile, flexible employees who can pick up necessary skills ‘on the fly’.
  6. Soft Skills such as communication, problem-solving, and awareness have been identified as key areas many employers prioritise in their staff. More and more graduates are seeking out opportunities to develop non-technical skills

To find out more about the Learn How To range of micro-credentials, and how it all works, take a look:

For all horticulture courses please visit

President’s Report July 2019

President’s Report July 2019

Dear Councillors and Members,


Welcome to the middle of the year and the countdown to our 2019 Conference and Awards night to be held in Perth, Western Australia.


The National Council have now received all the nominations for the upcoming awards and I send out a big thank you to all that sent through their nominations as there have been some fantastic projects and colleagues nominated. I must say the large amount of nominations that came in this year was great to see. Our Conference Convenor Neville Passmore has been working hard to ensure that this year’s conference will not disappoint.


The line up can be seen on the AIH webpage as can the online booking form so ensure you make the most of the discount offered for the conference early bird tickets. The wildflower and garden tour is open for all AIH members and the public so please make the most of booking early as numbers are limited. It will be held on Sunday 22nd September following the awards and can be seen on the website.


Therapeutic Horticulture Australia is also having their annual conference on the 20th September and this will be full of accomplished presenters discussing innovation, practice and research in the field of therapeutic horticulture. Please ensure you take a look at the THA website for more details or you can book online at our Trybooking site.


I would like to acknowledge the hard work of our membership team who have been working hard over the last 2 months ensuring all members have their current memberships processed and replying to messages of both support and inquiries from prospective members. We have had a great number of new members join in recent months and I welcome them to the AIH on behalf of the National Council and myself. To all renewing members please ensure you head to the website of ACS Distance Education to receive your $30 eBook voucher. Thanks again to John Mason FAIH for this kind gift to our members.


The continuing workshops and ‘walk and talks’ around the country are bringing both fantastic and insightful topics and sites for our members but more importantly, they are attracting large amounts of participants ensuring that members can network with like-minded industry colleagues. The appointment of Wayne Van Balen as our Registered Horticulturist Manager will also ensure that these events be run around the country and with the best topics and presenters we can find. For all RH members, we will be starting our auditing of members CPD points so please ensure your records are up to date.


Thank you again to all members and if there is anything myself or the National Council can help you with then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.


Michael Casey

Hort Journal: Therapeutic Horticulture – Digging Deep Into Student Wellbeing

Hort Journal: Therapeutic Horticulture – Digging Deep Into Student Wellbeing


By Michael Casey MAIH RH and Dr Kate Neale AAIH


This article first appeared in the June 2019 of Hort Journal – visit for the full edition.


A residential project at the home of a school principal six years ago began a dialogue regarding how the therapeutic benefits his new outdoor space was having a positive impact on his wellbeing. He wanted to know whether a garden could be recreated within his school to deliver the same benefits for his students. Located on the outskirts of Melbourne, the senior high school sits within a multi-cultural and diverse residential community, with many students from different cultural backgrounds and religions. The principal recognised the importance of ensuring students at the school, many of whom were newly settled in Australia, quickly felt safe and settled in their new environment. He required something that would not only assist students to cope with their new environment but help assist their family as well.


The program allows Year 11 and 12 students to enrol in an outdoor project management or horticulture program whilst working towards their VCE studies. Projects within the program vary in size and scope but have previously included the design and construction of landscaped areas or construction and maintenance of food gardens. The program utilises students’ own skills and interests whilst working alongside an industry professional or team of trained tradesmen to build their capacity to build or manage a specific project. Objectives include: improved graduate employability; student cohesion and increased school spirit; building student esteem and potential; building confidence and encouraging student voice.



‘Naturing Education’ facilitator, Michael Casey in the food garden with students studying their Certificate 2 Horticulture.

‘Naturing Education’ facilitator, Michael Casey in the food garden with students studying their Certificate 2 Horticulture.



The Theory Behind Wellbeing

There is also overwhelming evidence emerging that active student participation within their own education is a predictor of student wellbeing. Research led by Professor Anne Graham, Centre from Children and Young People at Southern Cross University explored student wellbeing through active participation and found students working together through dynamic, reciprocal and meaningful interactions with others, including teachers and school staff, had a positive impact on their wellbeing.


Seeds of Wellbeing

Unsure or fearful of how ideas would be received, students were initially reserved in sharing ideas and expertise in group brainstorming sessions. The collaborative nature and shared power structures within the group, however, enabled and encouraged ideas in a supportive and action-based environment. The program structure enabled students to either vocalise ideas or express them through their physical contribution outside. Students quickly responded to this by engaging in the opportunity to lead aspects of, or co-manage the projects alongside, and with the safety net, of experienced professional facilitators to guide them.


Being in the garden offered an opportunity for teachers and students to converse in a manner that built rapport. This strengthened relationships, developed mutual respect for each other’s perspectives and enabled both to feel more comfortable discussing matters that may not have been raised in a classroom setting. This also enabled the cohort to develop individual and shared problem-solving, resilience and team-building skills as inevitable challenges arose within the project or school environment.



A small section of the food garden showing beds have been prepped by the students for future mass plantings of leafy greens.

A small section of the food garden showing beds have been prepped by the students for future mass plantings of leafy greens.


As the research continues, students’ own perspectives will be privileged in understanding what other benefits of active participation in greenspaces impact upon their wellbeing and ways this can be enhanced further.



Michael Casey is Director at MJC Horticulture Pty Ltd a Design, Consultation, Construction and Management company operating in and around Melbourne. He is currently President of the Australian Institute of Horticulture and National Councillor with Therapeutic Horticulture Australia. Michael can be contacted via:

Dr Kate Neale is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Children and Young People specialises in the therapeutic benefits of gardening on children and people with disability. Her email is:





President’s Report June 2019

President’s Report June 2019

Dear Councillors and Members,


I have enjoyed the last month both working alongside the National Council and fellow members in various activities that are either associated with AIH or the broader industry. This has included working with the hard-working conference team, led by Neville Passmore, as they put together a fantastic program of speakers and topics. The conference will be highlighting the role of horticulturists in a changing world and environment. My role on the national council with Therapeutic Horticulture Australia (THA) has allowed me to work with their President, Steven Wells, and their conference team as we all put the THA conference together, which has a growing line-up of fantastic speakers.


On another front, my chats with Interior Plantscape Association President, Karen Smith, has seen the two of us work on some very exciting ideas that we will both release very soon. The more we chat to our colleagues and friends in the industry, the more we open our eyes to the many professions that this great field of work we are in associates us with. The word collaboration gets used a lot, but I’m actually seeing it play out more and more as it now becomes a fundamental way in which we network within our professional community.


My recent trip to Singapore was a wonderful one that allowed myself, Vice president, Alan Burnell, Singapore Convenor, John Tan, and AIH member, Dr Kate Neale, to attend the opening of the first Singapore Horticultural Show. This show highlighted everything great in horticulture and was targeted at professionals, families, students and anyone with an interest in horticulture. The amount of educational demonstrations held during this event made an outing to this show a must for people wanting to understand more about our profession. Myself, Alan, John and Kate would also like to acknowledge and thank NParks for their kind invitation to speak on behalf of the AIH on various topics from our professional fields.


At the time of compiling this newsletter, the AIH award nominations have closed and the national council will be busy discussing the various projects, members and associated colleagues who have nominated themselves or have been nominated. The awards night, which will be held in Perth following the conference will be a fantastic night to both highlight some of the wonderful work in horticulture as well as a worthy networking event. Tickets will be on sale very shortly for both our AIH conference and awards night as well as the Therapeutic Horticulture conference.


AIH workshops continue to be presented around the country with some fantastic events facilitated by our convenors and horticultural experts. These events are always being added to the calendar and can be viewed online. The Walk ‘N’ Talks will also continue with some new ones being added to the Victorian calendar very shortly. Thanks to our Registered Horticulturist Manager, Wayne Van Balen and all the regional convenors. I am looking forward to some great events over the next few months.


And on a final note, you will have received your annual renewals for membership. The national council thanks you for your ongoing support as a member and we look forward to assisting and promoting you and the industry throughout the next 12 months and beyond. A big thank you goes out to John Mason from ACS Distance Education for their kind donation of a $30 voucher that goes to all members on renewal of their membership. Let’s all get behind them as a valued sponsor.


Michael Casey

The Urban Tree Puzzle

The Urban Tree Puzzle

Urban Greening Efforts In Australia A Puzzle With Pieces Missing

Delegates at the Urban Tree Puzzle forum hosted by the Australian Institute of Horticulture at Botanica Nurseries in western Sydney learned how successful urban greening with trees requires all parts of the puzzle to work together when presenters Ross Clark of Impact Trees and Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH showcased best-practices in tree selection and establishment.


The ‘puzzle’ refers to the idea that tree establishment will only work in the long term if the following elements all work together:

  1. Planning: of the site, soil, species and logistics
  2. Species: ensuring that the species are suitable and resilient
  3. Provision: of high-quality trees and careful transportation
  4. Stock: specifically AS2303:2018 compliant stock
  5. Planting: ensuring the soil and root pruning methods are adequate
  6. Establishment and Maintenance: including post-planting watering and care
  7. Communication: across all elements and stakeholders


In many cases, major tree planting and greening efforts are getting most of these elements wrong and this means that the chances of long-term success are much lower than they could be. From poor quality stock, to the wrong species for the position, to a lack of post-planting care and watering, many trees are failing and this costs millions of dollars in lost opportunity and lost value, according to the speakers.


Ross Clark provided a highly-comprehensive presentation on the way that all parts of the Urban Tree Puzzle absolutely must fit together. To ignore or get wrong any single part often leads to the kinds of failures now being experienced across Australia as newly-planted or even established trees fail. Often, tree failure is blamed on storms or droughts where in reality, the real causes were apparent in the trees’ establishment and due to poor root development, poor root establishment or a failure to provide sufficient and thorough watering.


“There is no value in second-rate trees” said Ross. “You either use trees that have been grown to the Tree Stock Standard AS2303:2018 or you don’t plant at all. Second-rate trees have less than no value because the potential for failure is so high and you are likely to incur an opportunity cost by using bad tree stock”.


Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH is highly-regarded in the industry and consulted on the Barangaroo project that features more than 75,000 native trees and plants. Stuart spent weeks researching the plants that existed at the time of white settlement in 1788 and chose iconic native species, nearly all of which were endemic to Sydney Harbour with the added exceptions of Spotted gum, Gymea Lily, Sydney Blue Gum, Water Gum and  Callistemon citrinus “Anzac”.


Stuart outlined the enormous success of the effort that went into the Barangaroo ‘puzzle’, and perhaps the best evidence of its commercial success is that fact that less than one percent of trees failed when normally fifteen percent would be expected to fail. This is testament to the value of planning and the result is a vital and beautifully-planned precinct that matches the astonishing Sydney Harbour forefront.


This leaves you with one simple question: in your next landscape or urban greening project, will you make the effort to ensure that every part of the tree puzzle is properly planned?


Or will you simply hope for the best and pray that your energy and investment doesn’t keel over when the wind blows?




Tree Stock Standard Summary Guide

Tree Stock Standard Reference Card

Check your trees for compliance within the range accepted by AS2303:2018


Photo Gallery

Take a photographic tour through the workshop and share in the learnings from the AIH Urban Tree Puzzle…

It is with thanks to our Gold Sponsors Botanica Nurseries and General Manager David Hanna that the Urban Tree Puzzle was made possible. With gratitude.


Chris Poulton FAIH RH welcomed the delegates to the inaugural Urban Tree Puzzle event. The event aimed to build on recent outreach events around AS2303:2018 and its release in December 2018. It is with thanks to Chris and his tireless efforts that the Urban Tree Puzzle event could be made possible.


The event attracted a large group of professionals, members of the AIH and guests to learn from the experts on successfully establishing trees.


Ross Clark has been in tree production for decades and brought his charismatic expertise and knowledge to the event. Ross started by explaining the missed opportunity in current tree planting, and the challenges faced by time-poor developers in completing successful tree planting projects.


Ross presented each of the seven parts of the Urban Tree Puzzle where each individual part must work together to achieve successful tree establishment.


Ross further explained the absolute importance as an industry of pulling demand for AS2303:2018-compliant stock through the supply chain. As selectors and buyers, it is essential that every purchasing decision demands compliant stock in order to raise the quality of all trees sold into industry.


Ross built on the efforts by Western Sydney University in promoting the Tree Stock Guide (available at as a handy reference guide to using the AS2303:2018 standard in the field.


Stuart Pittendrigh FAIH RH presented a compelling overview of his work at the stunning Barangaroo site in Sydney. With his wide knowledge of trees and tree establishment honed over decades of experience, Stuart showed the sheer logistical challenge that it took to make Barangaroo such a beautiful venue.


Stuart also provided advice on successfully managing complex sites such as sloping landscapes with a combination of soft and hard landscaping and retaining techniques that provide depth and drainage needed to provide successful tree establishment.


General Manager of Botanica Nurseries, David Hanna, shared his thanks to Chris and the AIH team and guests for providing a highly-valuable workshop.


Ross then took guests on an outdoor tree assessment session, starting with four sizes of Tristaniopsis ‘Laurina’ trees.


Outwardly, all four appeared to be fairly good trees but a close inspection started to reveal some hidden issues…


This is the rootball from the smallest tree out of a six-inch pot. It certainly looked like a straight, upright tree with a good root to shoot balance. However, pulling out the soil shows clearly that the tree retains its tube-shaped rootball, indicating that it spent too long in the tube and the roots have grown downwards from the lower part of the tube rootball. This tree will continue to grow with these defects evident at a young age.


The next size tree was in an eight-inch pot and appeared quite good. However removing the soil showed that the rootball had curled around and not through the soil, creating a void directly under the stem-root junction. This is a problematic defect that will create stability and establishment issues.


This rootball is clearly far too long in the pot and has fully circled and bound the roots into a tight ball that requires significant remediation. Roots like these would continue to circle even with significant root pruning.


It proved difficult to loosen these roots, demonstrating how tightly-bound the rootball had become.


Ross showed the practice of using a handsaw to remove the outer spiraled roots, peeling away matted roots like carpet. This then forces new tip growth that grows outward and aims to remove the circled root growth.

Interview With Writer, Planthunter Editor & AIH Award Winner, Georgina Reid

Interview With Writer, Planthunter Editor & AIH Award Winner, Georgina Reid

How did the Planthunter evolve?

GR: I launched The Planthunter in 2013 after a decade of working as a landscape designer in Sydney. Prior to studying landscape design, I completed a degree in journalism at university. The publication arose as a result of many years of working with and thinking about ideas of connection between people and plants, I realised I had a lot of questions and thoughts around the importance of this relationship.

I was keen to write more about people and plants. but the ideas I wanted to explore didn’t fit into existing publications. So I decided to start my own. The focus of The Planthunter has always been about highlighting the importance and value of the natural world, using the subject of plants and the setting of the garden as a framework, as an entry point to larger conversations.

The Planthunter is a purposefully small operation. I am the editor, and I write around half of the content on the site, whilst being supported by various talented writers and photographers. Each month we explore different content themes. These help to frame the stories and provoke new and interesting perspectives.

Can you make some suggestions to horticulture students/younger AIH members for when they go into the workforce?

GR: Horticulture is a wonderful industry. It’s the best. There’s a real passion to be found within people working with plants. It’s incredibly nourishing work.

One of the biggest issues in getting younger people involved in the industry is money. Whilst it’s very rewarding work, it’s not easy to make a living, particularly when just starting out. I was speaking with a manager from a large wholesale nursery recently and he told me they have a very hard time recruiting young apprentices because of competition with other trades that are paid better. Money is an indicator of how much something is valued, and it’s fairly clear that our society doesn’t value plant people enough, though in my eyes, there are few more important things to be doing than stewarding our natural environment.

What are your burning issues for horticulture and the field in general?

GR: Horticulture provides an infrastructure for caring for the world around us. I think that in the future landscape architects and horticulturists will be increasingly valued as people who can help heal, grow and sustain landscapes in the face of increasing challenges relating to climate change and environmental degradation. I would love to see the horticulture industry positioning itself as a valuable and important solution to the challenges ahead.


Can you tell us about your new book?

GR: The Planthunter: Truth, Beauty, Chaos and Plants is a combination of the five years I’ve spent exploring ideas and connections between people, places and plants in The Planthunter. I guess the book is a refinement of my ideas around the importance of the garden as a place of dialogue between humans and nature. It, too, was important to capture the immersive nature of The Planthunter website and imagery, and for it to be a stand-alone object.



The book is essentially about what it means to garden. It comes down to two words: care and action. The gardener not only cares but commits to act, on behalf of the natural world. The gardener cares in a way that is really important. Overall, the book is a re-imagining of gardening – to me, it’s not simply as a set of tasks but a framework for engaging with the world, grounded in care and action.



The Planthunter digital platform is too a garden. It’s about growth and care and integrity. Nothing I do is about anything other than this. The Planthunter is driven by message, not ego.



President’s Report May 2019

President’s Report May 2019

Dear Councillors and Members,


What a great first quarter to 2019 with so many events and networking opportunities as well as new initiatives being continually added to the many benefits of being an AIH member.


Promoting Horticulture

In the last 3 months, the Institute has represented members and promoted horticulture at the Perth Garden Festival, Melbourne International Garden Show, Plant Collectors Fair, Brisbane Garden and Plant Expo and the Singapore Horticulture Show just to name a few.


‘Walk and Talks’

Our ‘Walk and Talks’ are extremely popular and providing members, friends and colleagues an opportunity to catch up with likeminded people while walking around a beautiful garden.


Taxonomy Workshop in All States Around Australia

Our workshops are held around Australia with great success and I thank all the convenors for their hard work in both organising and running these events. Very shortly we will be running our popular Taxonomy workshop in all states around Australia so please look out for news of these dates and locations.


Singapore Horticulture Show 

I have recently returned from Singapore where I attended the Singapore Horticulture Show alongside fellow members Alan Burnell MAIH (Vice President) and Dr Kate Neale AAIH where we all presented talks on the main stage at the Horticulture show alongside AIH Singapore Convenor John Tan MAIH. A big thanks goes to John for making this happen and for NParks for hosting us over the opening weekend. The show was a great success and one that should be placed in your calendars if you ever wish to visit Singapore.


Membership Renewal Notices for 2019/20

By now you will be receiving your membership renewal notices and you may notice that Australian Distance Education has kindly donated a $30 voucher to be used at their online bookstore. This promotion is for full membership renewals and is a very generous offer from John Mason and his team. I would like to thank John personally on behalf of all renewing AIH members and direct our members to John’s business if they are interested in any online courses. Thanks John.

New Connections

AIH are continuing to make great connections with other horticultural companies and we hope to be able to offer our members some great incentives and deals with these new contacts.


Award Nominations

The Council are now starting to receive nominations for the upcoming awards night to be held in Perth. Let’s continue to send through nominations for jobs of our own or colleagues or maybe nominate someone who has excelled in horticulture in other ways.


AIH Conference

The upcoming conference is taking shape and I have been lucky enough to see the current line-up for the speakers at the event and am quite excited about what will be showcased on the day. Our National Council led by Neville Passmore are working hard on this event and I thank them all for their work to date. Check out the website for more details and look out for emails detailing the line-up and other announcements.


New AIH Quarterly Journal

And last of all our new AIH quarterly journal will be out soon and is full of horticultural stories, interviews and other relevant information. A big thanks to our Communications Manager, Tempe Macgowan, for her hard work.


I look forward to our National Council releasing more information over the next month regarding new events, networking opportunities and other horticultural news.


Michael Casey

Hort Journal: What Role Do Horticulturists Play in Responding to the Biggest Issues We Face?

Hort Journal: What Role Do Horticulturists Play in Responding to the Biggest Issues We Face?

By Michael Casey MAIH RH

This article first appeared in the April 2019 of Hort Journal – visit for the full edition.

Environmental issues are urgent concerns

Environmental issues such as climate change, urban heat impacts, soil loss, and degradation and water security risks are now urgent concerns for all societies. The expansions and densities of urban environments are presenting newly required skill sets and challenges in landscape design and implementation and with the materials that will now need to be available. These changes in built-up environments deliver a handful of environmental and physical issues such as minimised areas for which plants can grow, stored heat in buildings and roads and altered microclimates, to name a few.


Food Security & Urban Farming

Food security will remain an issue with the expansion of cities and the urban sprawl taking up valuable agricultural land. Our reliance on outdated farming methods and increased food miles will also open up opportunities for farmers to embrace urban farming, but to what extent remains. Therefore, the question regarding the role of Horticulturists and to what extent they can assist in these areas of environmental decline and change are starting to be identified and still in many cases, not yet discussed.


Image Credit: ReGen village vertical farming system via EFFEKT Architects


Opportunities For Horticultural Experts, Architects and City Planners

The Anthropocene is a new geological era in which human activity is the dominant influence on our climate, the environment, food and agriculture systems and even with history being written into the landscape. These challenges present opportunities for ornamental and production horticulturists presently and in the future. As our cities continue to grow it will require the participation of professionals in all fields to design and deliver these complex projects.

Architects have a wonderful ability to adapt to this change through their designs and visions for our cities. Town planners can lay out cities and suburbs allowing for all the infrastructure required to keep its inhabitants moving around seamlessly. But there are large vacant positions that need to be filled by horticultural experts who understand these landscapes and environments and can apply their knowledge of plants, design and management to help complete the new vision of our cities and address the challenges that this, and the changing climate brings. The greening of these buildings, suburbs and cities is not easy and each project is different for a number of reasons, but the fundamental skill required is the knowledge of plants and their capacity to be grown and to survive.


Image Credit: Vo Trong Nghia Architects


Living Building Challenge

In Victoria, Frasers Property group are developing the old Burwood Brickworks, located east of Melbourne, into a new residential, commercial and retail development (mini suburb) that is aiming to achieve the Living Building Challenge, which is regarded as the world’s most rigorous building framework. It is set to deliver manicured gardens and landscaped open spaces, tree-lined pedestrian greenways, interiorscapes throughout the shopping and dining precincts and a rooftop urban farm that will deliver a true ‘paddock to plate’ service. All while delivering the most sustainable and liveable community promoting long term health and well-being to its thousands of visitors and residents.


Burwood Brickworks Retail Centre

Image Credit:  The Fifth Estate


Assuming the above-mentioned example will become the normal process of building and developing our suburbs and cities into the future, then a new set of skills will be required to achieve these design considerations not only to plan and build but to also maintain and continue the survival of urban green spaces. Horticulturists from all sectors whether it be production, ornamental, design, construction, arboriculture can all provide the expertise/links to achieving overall green success in the urban built environment.


AIH Conference 2019

This coming September Australian Institute of Horticulture will be hosting the biennial conference in Perth titled “Horticulturists and Humanity: responding to the biggest challenges we face”. This conference will be a one-day event exploring and discussing themes such as cooling cities, urban foodscapes, soil health, plant sciences and how we as horticulturists can play a role in responding to these issues.


See AIH Conference for more details.


Michael Casey
Australian Institute of Horticulture

How Bette Midler Rescued New York’s Parks and Gardens

How Bette Midler Rescued New York’s Parks and Gardens

Bette Midler moved back to New York after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Once there, she was concerned about the amount of garbage in the parks. She started cleaning Fort Tryon Park and in 1995 she founded the New York Restoration Project, dedicated to cleaning and restoring green spaces in New York’s five boroughs.


The organisation has so far helped plant 1 million trees, replenish 80 acres of parkland and protect 110 community gardens. Bette and volunteers have picked up 5 million pounds (2.3 million kgs) of trash from public spaces.



Image credit: James White for Variety


“It’s astonishing to see what a little care and attention can do,” Midler says. “How it can change the neighborhood. How it can change people’s lives. It’s very rewarding.”




Image credit: New York Restoration Project

Image credit: New York Restoration Project