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Paliame’s Proud Journey in Australian Horticulture

Paliame’s Proud Journey in Australian Horticulture

By Paliame Palisah MAIH

Paliame Palisah MAIH recently joined us at the Australian Institute of Horticulture as she studies at Macquarie University and expands her knowledge of conservation biology. Growing up in a passionate family of plantspeople and nature-lovers, Paliame has grand visions to take the best of horticultural excellence back to her native Papua New Guinea with inspiration from Australian horticulture. Paliame shares her inspiring story with us in this edition’s Member Spotlight:

I grew up in a home where my mother and sisters loved to grow plants and do gardening around the family home, and because of this I grew up loving dirt, plants, animals, and nature! As I grew older, I decided to pursue a career in Environmental Science and understand more about plants and animals, and the web of life.

In 2012 I began my undergraduate double degree in Environmental Science and Biology at the Pacific Adventist University and graduated in 2015. I was so excited to start my journey in the real world and very interested in biodiversity conservation and environmental protection in my country.

With this passion and determination, I decided to begin my journey by volunteering at Port Moresby Nature Park, which is in the Nation’s Capital City, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Port Moresby Nature Park is PNG’s leading recreational Park with 30 acres of tropical gardens and home to 350 native animals and hundreds of native and exotic plant species. The Nature Park is managed by expatriates from Australia, Michelle McGeorge, and partner Brett Smith.


Photo: Celebrating International Women’s Day at the Park, Ms McGeorge-CEO (front row, first on the left) and Ms Palisah (front row, second on the left next to Ms McGeorge).

Ms McGeorge was impressed with my work ethic and offered me two internships to take for three months each.

I completed the first Wildlife Officer internship and continued with the second internship in Horticulture. For both internships the Park organized for Australian Volunteers who are experts in their fields to train myself and 19 of my colleagues. Shelomi Doyle taught us Horticultural techniques, and Geoff Underwood taught us about handling wild animals in exhibits.

It was a great experience for me personally and professionally. Professionally I learnt techniques for caring for both plants and animals, as well as how to lead a team in my field. I personally came to find my passion and grew more love for plants and landscape gardening.


Photo: Wildlife Officer internship with my colleagues, holding a Papuan Olive Python (Ms Palisah: Fourth from the right).


Photo: During my Horticultural Internship with my colleages and Trainer Shelomi Doyle. (Ms Palisah: centre back – the one with glasses).

I successfully completed both internships and was offered to choose between working with plants or animals, and I chose to work with the Nursery and Grounds Department as a Plant Nursery Supervisor for about four years from July 2016 to November 2019.  Some of my main responsibilities included supervising and coordinating the following:

  • upkeep of the park lawns, the gardens, and playgrounds.
  • internal (e.g., gardens and animal exhibits) and external landscaping projects (corporate clients such as academic institutions, hotels, and others).
  • indoor pot plants sale and hire contracts.
  • plant production and sale to corporate clients.
  • composting facility (was also the Chair for the Sustainability Committee at the Park).
  • writing content and presenting gardening segments on PNG national television show ‘Haus & Home’ with EMTV.
  • maintaining the orchid nursery; and
  • conducting basic horticulture training for staff and disadvantaged youth.


Photo: Brett Smith (curator) presented the Horticultural Internship certificate to Ms Palisah.

As I gained more experience and exposure while working and serving corporate clients during landscaping projects in and around Port Moresby, I realised there is great potential for horticulture in Papua New Guinea, especially in ornamental horticulture.

Port Moresby is a growing city, with many new buildings and developments requiring landscaping. My clients were mostly real estate owners, property managers, engineers, landscape architects or architects. When I received a plant order/schedule, first I scheduled a meeting with them to confirm plant species, quantity, quality, measurements, and alternative plants species if their request is not available.

The interesting part of my job is to go out and source plants around Port Moresby City. I travelled to mostly informal floral markets in different suburbs and engaged with local suppliers (retailers and growers) from different ethnicities and backgrounds and made some friends as well along the way.

What I learnt from this journey is that there is a need for a proper Floral Market, in combination with structure and good governance, for the potential of an ornamental horticulture industry in Papua New Guinea.  In this way both the clients and the supplier (or the consumer and the producer) thrive in not only in doing business but by integrating the principles of socio-ecological sustainability through education and engaging effectively with both local communities and their clients either, as individuals or corporate.


Photo: This is Ms Palisah in one of the major projects she coordinated to supply plants and maintain plant care on site for Star Mountain Project- The Hilton Hotel in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

So, with this vision for impact in mind, I decided to apply for the Australia Award Scholarship in 2019 to further my studies and at the same time explore the horticulture industry in Australia. Australia is a more developed country, and Papua New Guinea looks up to Australia as a ‘big brother’ in respect to our colonial ties. My aim was to come to Australia and be motivated and inspired, build networks, and engaging in conversations in horticulture, plant conservation and sustainable urban planning, and return home to implement what I learned.

I was successful in my application to study here in Australia in January 2020, so here I am studying my Master in Conservation Biology at Macquarie University, and this is my last semester. I am looking forward to gaining as much knowledge, skill, and networking as possible before returning home (PNG) to develop the future of the ornamental horticulture industry.


Photo: This is Cohort 5 of the Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative in Canberra (Ms Palisah: In the yellow dress, second row from left). This Leadership program and the Australia Award Scholarship has moulded me to be a confident female leader in my field and I am grateful for the Australian Government and a few people who have one way or another, pushed me towards my vision.


This is my journey in horticulture, and I am ecstatic to be a member of this institute. I look forward to meeting some of you during our webinars, learning and unlearning from this group and am open to share my experience, knowledge and perspectives!

Paliame Deborah Palisah MAIH is an Australia Award Scholar and master’s student at Macquarie University, and a member of the Australian Institute of Horticulture. Photos: Port Moresby Nature Park, Paliame Deborah Palisah and Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative. LinkedIn:    Visit Port Moresby Nature Park

President’s Report October 2021

President’s Report October 2021

Dear AIH members,

A lot has been happening in the world of late and the interruption to our lives and livelihoods has been in a lot of cases very difficult to deal with. As we appear to be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, I thought it was timely to keep you up to date on what the council have been working hard on over the last month and more importantly what they are planning as the year comes to a completion.

Our council have been working extremely hard on our current constitution and bringing it into line with how the organisation now operates. I would like to personally acknowledge and highlight the hard work carried out by all members of the council and especially our councillor Jackie Warburton. The work in editing, reviewing, and discussing this new version amongst the council, past senior councillors and the relevant government departments has ensured we will move forward with a new constitution that reflects current day standards and is in line with the pathways AIH is moving.

Our recent support for Therapeutic Horticulture Australia’s (THA) conference has provided us with great exposure. I addressed the delegates on the morning of the conference where I spoke of our commitment to horticulture and our years of working alongside THA. Our exposure through their marketing campaign and on the day of the conference was fantastic and I will be thanking them on behalf of the council. We should see some memberships and further exposure come about from this day.

AIH were also very proud to this year sponsor the Landscape and Garden Award for Houses Magazine. We were provided with great exposure throughout the industry and have benefitted greatly from this. AIH has just recently thrown our support behind the 2022 Awards and have signed up again with Houses Magazine.

Early next year the Bush foods conference hosted by Australian Technology and Agricultural College will be located in Queensland and AIH will be thrilled to support this event.

The sponsoring of events for other organisations displays how our organisation is committed to promoting horticulture in and around our networks.

I also wish to welcome our newest Corporate member, Edible Garden City – Singapore,  who have been communicating a lot with myself and our Registered Horticulturist manager.

Registered Horticulturist manager Wayne Van Balen and I recently presented an hour long online session with their senior staff highlighting the benefits of being a member of AIH and what our organisation can do to promote and elevate their careers in horticulture.

While on Singapore myself and John Tan continue to discuss possibilities with promoting AIH into the Singapore landscape and Horticulture industry with our ongoing discussions with NParks and LIAS. We thank him for his work in Singapore and look forward to seeing him and our Singapore colleagues soon.

Thanks again to every council member for the works carried out over the last few months. In trying times, we have still been able to ensure we get things done for the institute to make it a better organisation for the profession and our members.

Michael Casey

What is Silica Dust? – Crystalline Silica

What is Silica Dust? – Crystalline Silica

By Anthony Jenkins MAIH

Crystalline silica is found in stone, rock, sand, gravel, and clay, products such as bricks, tiles, concrete, artificial stone benchtops and some plastic materials. When these materials are worked on, silica is released as fine dust. This dust is respirable crystalline silica (silica dust)

SafeWork NSW video

Silica dust and Cancer

Uncontrolled cutting, grinding of materials containing crystalline silica presents a serious risk to health. Silica dust is harmful when breathed in, 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, you can breathe it without knowing leading to silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease, lung cancer. It’s estimated each year 230 people develop lung cancer due to past exposure to silica dust at work. Not all exposed workers will develop cancer, risk increases with long term or repeated high-level exposure.


Image Credit:


As of 1 July 2020, all medical practitioners must notify NSW Health when they diagnose a case of silicosis in NSW. Silicosis is a scheduled medical condition under Part 4 of the NSW Public Health Act 2010

In 2011 about 587,000 Australians were exposed to silica dust whilst working. Estimated that about 5700 of these workers will develop lung cancer over the course of their life. Greatest risk are miners, construction workers, farmers, and engineers. You may be exposed to silica dust if your work involves:

  • Breaking, crushing, grinding, milling silica-containing material
  • Sand blasting
  • Moving earth / soil, excavating, quarrying
  • Sand casting
  • Brick laying
  • Paving, concreting, re-surfacing, cement rendering
  • Road construction
  • Demolition
  • Stonemasonry
  • Manufacturing concrete pavers, tiles, castings
  • Drilling, cutting, honing, grinding, chiselling, sanding silica containing materials
  • Handling, mixing, shovelling dry silica – containing materials


Effective Controls

All Australian workplaces must follow work health and safety laws, these vary slightly between states and territories, but the duty of care for employers and responsibilities of workers across Australia is similar.

  • Employers are required to ensure the health and safety of their workers at their workplace.
  • Within reason, workers must take care of their own health and safety, not negatively affect that of others and follow instruction and workplace health and safety policies

Eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards by following the risk management process and using the hierarchy of control.

  • Eliminate (remove hazard completely)
  • Substitute
  • Engineering controls (exhaust, suitably rated dust extraction vacuums in conjunction with adaptive shrouds on power tools\ water suppression – wet saws) Just wetting the material is NOT enough -select the correct equipment.
  • Administrative controls (signage, operator training, planning, health monitoring, Risk assessment / Air monitoring.
  • Personal protective equipment PPE. Fit tested Dust masks

Workers must be involved in the process to correctly identify hazards, control measures that suit the workplace and task. If suitable control measures are not in place, anyone working around silica dust has an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

Workers MUST be given information on training and control measures and how to use them, information on the possible health effects of silica dust exposure and the health surveillance requirements of both employers and staff.

Air Monitoring

Mandatory limit for silica dust exposure in Australia is 0.05mg/m3 averaged over an eight (8) hour day (except Tasmania where it’s 0.1mg/m3). 0.02mg/m3 is preferred, reduces the risk of lung cancer and silicosis. Currently there is no evidence to suggest a safe level of silica dust exposure. Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulation 50 states air monitoring (by occupational hygienist) must be conducted if there is any risk to health or there is potential of exceeding the exposure limit. Exposure levels in settings like construction sites are always changing, air sampling alone is not enough.

Breathing in this small amount of silica dust means you have exceeded the exposure limit of 0.05mg/m3


Health Surveillance

WHS Regulations state that health monitoring must be provided to workers who are continually working with silica dust and there is a significant risk to the worker’s health. Safe Work Australia’s crystalline silica health monitoring guide outlines how to monitor workers. Health monitoring can help to detect loss in lung function before permanent damage. Surveillance should be undertaken before job placement, at least every three years (yearly for high-risk jobs).

For any concerns related to control measures at your workplace, or for more information on the control of air quality contact:

  • Workplace supervisor or management (if you’re an employee)
  • Workplace health and safety representative or union representative
  • State and territory work health and safety regulators
  • Safe Work Australia

Prevent silica dust exposure by keeping the dust out of the air. If you think you have been exposed to a cancer-causing agent it’s important you speak with your doctor or to an experienced health professional on 13 11 20 or visit



Anthony Jenkins MAIH is a Horticulturist, Licenced Landscaper, Landscape Designer, Teacher Landscape Design, Horticulture & Landscape Trades – PADSTOW TAFE NSW

The Trials And Tribulations Of A Landscape Horticulturist – To Spray Or Not To Spray – That Is The Question!

The Trials And Tribulations Of A Landscape Horticulturist – To Spray Or Not To Spray – That Is The Question!

By Mick O’Brien MAIH RH, Profound Horticultural

The Author: Mick O’Brien in his element! Image/ Mick O’Brien

I remember over 20 years ago as a freshly qualified horticulturist – wide eyed and bushy tailed so to speak, I was eager, knowledgeable – and my god, I was motivated to get out there and carve out my mark. Unfortunately, back in those days, the award wage for a landscape or nursery worker position was low paid, so while I was still bushy tailed and motivated, I still had to feed my family and the reality kicked in as I dearly loved my new career path, but how can I sustain myself, and make a career?

The magic word here is – sustaining – indeed, the more I worked in the field the more I realised there was more call for herbicide and insecticide applications in programmed maintenance than the so-called sustainable approach. Back in the year 2000, I remember the teachings of the Integrated Pest Management Program strategies etched into my mind but unfortunately in the commercial landscape fields back then the solutions needed to be solved quickly and it is still a business model today in the paid contract environment.

Applying insecticides was not part of my aim and I certainly did not want a fulltime job spraying them as I was a nature lad who would always try and save any creatures and relocate them if they were in our way, but I do remember distinctly looking up at the sky while standing in the middle of a field wearing disposable overalls with a backpack spray unit loaded with chemicals on my back and spray wand in hand saying to myself – “Is this why I studied horticulture, to spray chemicals 8 hours a day?”

No chemicals needed here. Biocontrol happening in progress; ladybird beetle Harmonia conformis, feasting on Cowpea aphids on citrus! Image/ Mick O’Brien

Fast forward 20 years, my focus is on organic and sustainable solutions as much as possible including correct plant choices, initial soil building, using mulch that protects the roots, but which also accepts all irrigation applied, choosing the right plant for long term that will grow well and have a better chance to survive the environmental extremes such as drought, wind, or floods.

I do not recommend troublesome plants (plants known to be continuously needing attention in the subtropics) to most clients who neither seem to have the time or inclination to look after them.

“I can hear you thinking”, what is the difference between a sustainable horticulturist and a standard horticulturist?


Now here is a natural biocontrol agent, a spider web – totally enveloping and protecting this Cycas revoluta from the dreaded leaf destroying- Cycad blue moth- “Theclinesthes onycha” Image/ Mick O’Brien

Well in a nut shell, if one works for themselves in their own business they can offer advice and let their heart speak freely and make informed decisions based not only on the benefit of the plants health but take into consideration the importance of supporting our local endemic wildlife and offer long term solutions that may have a more subtle impact on the environment and perhaps turn down the jobs that go against your natural sustaining environmental beliefs – in comparison to my previous escapades 25 years ago, to do what you’re told and use and recommend chemicals and fertilisers to “add on sell” for your employer as first priority to boost sales.

Back home in the patch on Bribie Island, we have mostly sandy soils which have trouble holding on to moisture and much work is needed to improve our soils to become fertile and thriving with microbial life.

“Interestingly a comparison could be made to the cells in humans as we consume food. It is broken down and assimilated into our system via the gut, therefore the healthier nutritious foods we eat, the better chance of absorbing the necessary vitamins and minerals for us to function optimally, this is also regulated by acidity and our internal chemistry just like the soil food web.

Soil micro-organisms are readily available because atmospheric conditions are ideal in compost and have been broken down and assimilated with bacteria and various strands of fungi, which thrive with just the right amount of moisture and oxygen to allow soil life to replicate and flourish.

When we add this “magic breath of life” compost, to our own impoverished soils the microorganisms further decompose the organic matter to create humus, the worms also oxygenate heavy soils and incubate new soil life while providing nutrient dense castings which can be utilised by the plant roots as they tap into natural plant available minerals in the pore spaces.

The sprout of thriving life! Image/ Mick O’Brien

This is the first step in re-creating a sustainable landscape, by utilising a holistic approach to nourishing your soil and in turn creating balance and harmony in your garden, but it does not stop there.

We need to continue a program of organic principles with the intention of attracting as many earth worms to your patch as possible.

On the other side of the fence, the more chemical fertilisers and fungicides added to our soils can contribute to reduced earthworm activity and hence reduced fertility”. It pretty much hits the nail on the head for Sustainable gardening practices indeed!


Speaking of hitting the nail on the head! – I hereby name this new species: Yucca elephantipes- ‘Thieving Barstidious’- indeed!  My hat was stolen! Image/ Mick O’Brien



Spanish Moss – It’s Not Spanish And It’s Not A Moss But It Is A Biosecurity Concern..

Spanish Moss – It’s Not Spanish And It’s Not A Moss But It Is A Biosecurity Concern..

By Gregory Lewis MAIH, Images © Gregory Lewis

Some plants attract attention because of their spectacular flowers or tasty fruit but in the case of Spanish moss we have a plant that attracts attention by literally ‘hanging around’. Read on to find out why I am not a fan of Spanish moss (well not when it’s hanging in the wrong place!).

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides – also known as Old Man’s Beard) is considered attractive and desirable by a lot of people, however, there is another side to this plant that is potentially unattractive and undesirable.

Worst case scenario showing Spanish moss throughout the canopy of the same tree. Image/ © Gregory Lewis

Tillandsia usneoides is native to South America but has become naturalised in other places like the southern states of the USA. It is a member of the BROMELIACEAE family and being an Epiphyte it derives its nutritional requirements primarily from the atmosphere whilst attaching itself to the host plant via minute scales on it leaves.

It is typically used in the landscape as a plant of interest and contrast and as part of Bromeliad and Tropical plant displays. Being an old favourite of home gardeners you will often find the plant hanging off the side fence or other structure along the side of a house or attached to a piece of wood or bark. If ever there was a plant that requires minimal to no maintenance this is it! So why am I not a fan?

Well, let’s put that statement into context and that context relates purely to its impacts on trees – not how it grows in glasshouses, conservatories, shade houses or side passageways – just on our beautiful and magnificent trees!

The ease with which Spanish moss can spread is a concern. Strong winds can disseminate this plant in areas containing high numbers of mature trees that are in close proximity to one another with this type of vegetative dispersal accounting for the significant increase in its appearance amongst local tree populations. Other dispersal agents include birds and small mammals with small nesting birds having discovered how abundant and convenient the leaf strands are for nest building.

The other concern is the potentially disastrous effects caused by its continual ‘smothering and shading’. It does this by the accumulation of its long leaf strands effectively ‘overwhelming’ the host plant and inhibiting the penetration of light upon the foliage of the tree. This leads to a major reduction in photosynthesis thereby reducing the ability of the tree to convert light energy into sugars hence threatening the critical energy source needed for respiration. Stressed trees are therefore more susceptible to attack by pathogens and pests leading to an observable (and measurable) decline in the overall health and vigour of the tree.

Spanish moss inhibiting light reaching the foliage of a Norway Spruce (Picea abies). Image/ © Gregory Lewis

From personal experience trying to remove or control this plant is difficult, very difficult. Unlike other ‘garden escapees’ and woody invasive plants that can be effectively removed or controlled ‘at ground level’ (with the appropriate control method) Spanish moss being an ‘air-plant’ does its thing way above our heads! Some of the low hanging material can be removed (with time and patience) from the ground by way of a telescopic pruning pole with applicable attachment but the rest is left with no reasonable, sustainable or safe way to remove it whilst working at ground level.

Spanish moss established on a mature Turpentine tree (Syncarpia glomulifera) near the entrance to the E2 Environmental Conservation Zone Wahroonga. Image/ © Gregory Lewis

Therein lies the major concern with the spread of this plant. Once it has escaped from gardens into urban bushland and reserves it is for the most part ‘untouchable’.

A check of the NSW DPI Weed Wise website reveals that it is a listed weed where it gets a mention for being problematic on Lord Howe Island with an additional link to the National Herbarium of NSW (PlantNET).

A further check of the two LGAs that encompass where I live reveals neither Council has Spanish Moss on their respective weed lists, but refer back to the NSW DPI Weed Wise for more complete information. Both of these municipalities contain large areas of bushland and endangered ecological communities.

Eliminating or minimising the biosecurity risk of this plant will be achieved through continued consultation and co-operation by the major stakeholders’ at all managerial and operational levels.

Fortunately there are many experienced, dedicated and caring people who work within Bush Regeneration, Amenity Horticulture and Arboriculture. They have the necessary observational, practical and technical skills to reasonably reduce or eliminate this plant when it threatens parts of our urban landscapes and bushland environments by growing outside of its natural distribution. They deserve our on-going support and encouragement.







Gregory Lewis MAIH is a Horticulturist with over 40 years ‘hands-on’ experience within the horticultural industry in general and horticultural maintenance in particular.



Career Focus – Landscape Designer

Career Focus – Landscape Designer

By Gopika Sambantham, SFA Landscape Design. Images/ Gopika Sambantham.

Contemplating about becoming a landscape designer? Then read on to find out more about the profession. If you are already in the landscape field as an apprentice studying horticulture, construction or have a design background or someone who loves gardening, plants, and nature then this career path will fulfill your desire if you are committed. Also, if you believe you have artistic flair and interest then becoming a designer might be a career path worth pursuing.

Who is a Landscape Designer?

A Landscape Designer and Landscape Architect have similar roles. They both provide professional help to solve site-specific landscape problems, consider surrounding climatic conditions and progress local council approvals. They assist in achieving a dream outdoor space that fits into client’s lifestyle. Having knowledge of the local flora and fauna plays advantage to this role in this era of climate change.

Services Provided by Landscape Designers

A landscape designer is knowledgeable in design principles, the latest landscape products, plants, landscape styles, construction, council approvals and permit. They work with clients to achieve their vision for their garden/outdoor space.

Landscape designers provide consultation services, design and documentation, plant selection and approvals of documentation applications for CDC (Complying Development Certificate), and DA (Development Application) for existing & new built homes and commercial spaces.

How Can They Help?

They serve the community by maximizing the client’s budget and saving time in doing the right thing from the start of the project. In other words, Landscape Designers provide a blueprint for a client’s vision of their outdoor space.

Employment Opportunities

Self-Employment If you have a passion for design and an interest in gardening but have to juggle parental and carers responsibilities then this career will suit you.

Horticultural Business Some nurseries offer design services to entice customers to buy more from them.

Landscape Contractors Who have license and take on big projects might need help with designing. This can be in-house or freelance opportunities.

Architectural Design Firms Big planning firms will need landscape architects/designers to prepare local council approval drawings, commercial landscaping, and design for affluent clients.

Urban and Town Planner Also seek landscape Architects/designers for streetscaping, playscape and civil landscaping. Developers and Builders To prepare council drawings and individual client’s residential landscaping.

Government A highly-experienced landscape architect/designer is sought out for government projects by local, state, and federal government.



Career Progress and Earnings

“All big things start with small beginnings”
(unknown quote)

Landscape designers who can obtain part time or full time employment should earn a professional salary. An established landscape designer/consultant may charge from anything low to particularly high for the design work. Career progression depends on being able to bring your creativity, unique design flair and exceptionally good knowledge about the industry.

How to Stand Out

To stand out from the competition, be extraordinarily good and knowledgeable in a specific landscape style, for example, tropical gardens, contemporary gardens for residential designs and children’s playgrounds, parks, and therapeutic gardening for commercial spaces.

If you are working for someone learn to upskill yourself in a specific landscape style.

“Best of luck wherever you are at your life journey.”

As a professionally trained Architect, I tend to turn to nature to get inspired for designs. Gardening is my interest, so inclination towards designing outdoor space appeals to me more than any other design aspect. As an Architect one day, I would love to design a space that balances outer and inner space impeccably, zero carbon footprint and a lifestyle changer.

Signing out – A Real Dreamer,

Gopika S


Gopika Sambantham is a Landscape Designer at SFA Landscape Design. Low maintenance garden design specialist. Provider of time saving and efficient landscape/garden design that promotes quality of life.

Scholarships Are Now Available For Women in the Horticulture Industry

Scholarships Are Now Available For Women in the Horticulture Industry

Women & Leadership Australia, in partnership with Hort Innovation for the fifth and final year, are pleased to launch leadership development scholarships for women in the horticulture industry.

Valued up to 83% of the standard program fee, these scholarships enable more women within the horticulture sector to access powerful and effective leadership development opportunities, and support gender equity across the sector. The funding is available to women working in both levy and non-levy paying organisations.

Women & Leadership Australia supports emerging, middle, and senior women leaders across all sectors and industries. Our career-defining leadership programs bring together a focus on applied learning with the latest in leadership theory and practice. We believe that advancing gender equity, especially in leadership, is central to creating a more fair and inclusive society.

Limited places are available. Expressions of interest close Friday 8 October 2021 unless allocated prior.

For further information, please visit the scholarship webpage.

Calling All Green Thumbs and Helping Hands

Calling All Green Thumbs and Helping Hands

By Meredith Kirton MAIH RH

Have you ever pondered about gardening for the elderly?  It’s something that research has shown is beneficial not only for the people gardening, but also great for the wellbeing and enablement of the clients that receive the help.

Group of volunteers at Easy Care Gardening. Image credit: Easy Care Gardening Inc.

Gardening for our most frail and vulnerable members of the community is what Easy Care Gardening Inc. is all about. They’ve been doing it for over three decades in the Hornsby Shire, Ku-ring-gai Council, The City of Ryde and Hunters Hill Council. These areas are often bordered by bush, so keeping environmental weeds like privet, lantana and camphor laurel under control has extra importance for our environment. Their teams of volunteers compiles hundreds of regulars, but is supplemented with enormous effort by some corporate teams joining their crews. The extra peoplepower allows them to tackle gardens that have become jungles, with many hands truly making light work.

Easy Care Gardening Inc. is SO proud of their volunteer community who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID pandemic to help garden for their neighbours. “We want to put our hands together and give them all a round of applause – and if we could, a big hug!” says Meredith Kirton MAIH RH, who is helping with some marketing for the charity.

This vital service helps over a thousand households stay living independently at home.  The friendly volunteers weed, rake, tidy and trim their way through mountains of unruly gardens, keeping environmental weeds in check and helping to make the gardens of our most vulnerable citizens safer places for them to enjoy their outdoors.  In the process they make friends, make a difference, and it’s great for their health and wellbeing.

The organization started over three decades ago, and one of Easy Care Gardening’s newest members Tim Kenning says “I like helping out people who need us.  As an arborist in a past life (working at Ku-ring-gai Council) I enjoy the healthy lifestyle gardening offers, as well as learning from the other volunteers and clients.  We brighten the days of others, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.

Larissa Hansen Easy Care Gardening Coordinator and Costa Georgiadis MAIH RH. Image Credit: Easy Care Gardening Inc.

The majority of clients who come to Easy Care Gardening feel that they are unable to cope at home as their garden is overgrown and paths have become slippery and dangerous. The amazing volunteers chip away at the jungle, returning it to an area they can actually utilise safely.  In most cases they cannot afford expensive commercial rates for gardening so without this important service, these people are at risk of premature or unnecessary institutionalisation.

The qualified coordinators work with the team leaders to ensure that the work is carried out in a timely and proper manner, but it’s SO much more than gardening. “The clients are really in need and you see at the end of a short stint what a difference working as a team has made to their lives.  They are so incredibly grateful,” says Larissa Hansen, Coordinator “At the middle of the session we break and have a cuppa together with the client too, which is wonderful for them to have that social interaction.”

Judy Horton OAM MAIH. Image credit: Easy Care Gardening Inc.

With National Volunteers Week just behind us, it’s a timely reminder that you are all invited to put your hand up and help out – and Easy Care Gardening are calling on our professional community to get them dirty in the garden with them too.  Perhaps your staff would love to experience the joy of volunteering as a corporate ‘giving back’ day, or you just want to come along and help for a few hours a month – they can accommodate volunteers any way and anytime!

Life’s Diverse Connections Are Wattle Bring You Success

Life’s Diverse Connections Are Wattle Bring You Success

Karen Smith MAIH, Winner of the Golden Wattle Award 2020.

In this edition’s Member Spotlight, we chat with Karen Smith MAIH, editor of the renowned horticultural industry magazine, Hort Journal, and our annual Golden Wattle awardee 2020, in recognition of her services to Australian horticulture.

Karen’s passion and experience as a horticulturist shines through every month when we receive the Hort Journal in the post or in our inboxes. With a horticultural career spanning decades and a positive approach to life and work, Karen is an inspiration to horticulturists across Australia.

Networking and people create opportunity

Almost thirty years ago after a career in the travel industry, Karen decided to study horticulture and began her career in a retail nursery before joining  Yates offering consumers help with the endless task of support and advice and the occasional complaint. Karen’s enthusiasm and drive to help would-be gardeners find success meant that her role grew in size and scope.

“It was very much a role that centred around helping gardeners succeed and to feel confident they could reach a successful result with seeds, plant protection products and fertilisers”, says Karen.

Around that time, Yates established its home garden care franchises to take advice and care services out to Australian gardeners. It was then that Karen started as a technical trainer, offering the franchisees support and advice on best-practice horticulture and effective safe use of Yates’ product range.

Rendezvous in Business

Karen is a natural and enthusiastic networker and she partnered with a group of women to form the women’s networking organisation, Rendezvous in Business. Designed to create and foster opportunities for women to succeed in their businesses with like-minded advice and support, the organisation raised more than $70,000 in charitable donations for cancer research over six years.

Karen has been the NSW technical trainer for Yates since 2004, nearly sixteen years. It is a role that combines her love and knowledge of horticulture with travel across Australia.

“I help gardeners choose the products that will help them get a good result in the garden. But many customers aren’t sure about differences between herbicides and fungicides, for example, so it really helps them to understand the right product for the right use”, Karen explains.

The role sees Karen travel extensively which complements her work as the editor of the Hort Journal Australia magazine and allows her to explore her interests in regional gardens and places.

“I love meeting people and hearing their stories – that’s really what gives me energy!” Karen says.

Networking into a magazine opportunity

Hort Journal Australia started life in 2008 with the need for a technical but accessible horticultural industry publication that offered more than consumer gardening.

“The advertisers and the readers needed a magazine that brought them new products, a blend of technical, business and people-oriented stories in a format that was enjoyable to read”, Karen says.

When Judy Horton (MAIH, Retired) suggested the role of editor to a new industry magazine was opening up  Karen  (successfully)  jumped at the opportunity.  Karen approached the role with the view that connecting ideas and people would serve the publication well.

Twelve years later Hort Journal is the go-to publication covering everything from new pests, green life and urban greening updates, scientific and technical content and practical advice for horticultural business owners, supported by longstanding and committed advertising.

Love for plants and industry

Karen’s interests and experiences have all worked together around a deep love for plants and horticulture.  Karen sees the value of joining organisations because she genuinely believes that being involved projects you to another level. She has been an active in many associations over the years including a committee member of the Hort Media Association NSW, A selector for the Australian Open Gardens, and currently President of the interior Plantscape Association.

“These associations connect you with other like-minded people and opportunities arise from them”, Karen says.“I am privileged to work in a beautiful industry that has shown its colours during the pandemic of 2020 as people flocked to their gardens for solace and for access to somewhere they can find peace and life”.

“From my early days in the nursery to working at Yates and running my own business, all of these experiences have helped me come to appreciate the joy and the beauty of horticulture in Australia.”

“We are a fortunate industry where people are turning to us for inspiration and for that positive sense of wellbeing we all get along plants and nature”.


The Australian Institute of Horticulture commends Karen on her Golden Wattle Award and we are proud to count Karen as a supportive, generous and committed member.

Destination Horticulture: Kew Gardens

Destination Horticulture: Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is world-famous as the premier destination for horticulture, with a history stretching back centuries and a collection that is absolutely priceless.

Kew Gardens is, like many historic venues, under real pressure as visitor numbers dwindle in the UK under the pressure of COVID-19.

That’s why offering virtual tours can bring you to amazing places like Kew Gardens without leaving home. Our Destination: Horticultures series aims to take you to beautiful places that are otherwise off-limits for some time.

See Virtual Tour



Temperate House

Visit the incredible glasshouse that houses tropical specimens in cool climate London.
The Temperate House, opened in 1862, and is a show house for the largest plants in Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.




Image Credit: Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons


Princess of Wales Conservatory

In the Princess of Wales Conservatory, you can walk through 10 climates – wander from the tropics to the desert.






Arboretum Nursery

Trees start their life here in the brand new state-of-the-art Arboretum Nursery.