A Lifetime Passion

Image source: Photographer Ali Smith

Pete Goodlet shares a lifelong passion for gardening that sprouted with childhood trips to the local garden centres.

I grew up with a Dad that was a builder and a very passionate gardener. On Saturday mornings the youngest members of the family would be tidied up and bundled into the station wagon and off we would go to explore display home villages. 

Dad was always on the look out for house and garden design ideas. In the afternoon, if I was lucky Dad and I would head to our local garden centre. For me this was pure bliss. I was five when I propagated my first succulent cutting, and even though I’m still passionate about my succulents, my time in garden centres was always focused on the hothouse. The lush subtropical plants stole my heart! As a Melbourne boy I always dreamed of a subtropical garden – a dream that I have loved every minute of making a reality now that I live in beautiful Noosa.

Garden centres continue to hold their magic as a place for rare moments of blissful solitude or quality family time where you can explore a spectacular range of plants and features from all over the world. You can choose from small potted plants for mass planting to fully mature plants, some already espaliered or shaped to create an instant garden statement.

It should be obvious when you walk into these magical spaces that they have been created by people with a lifetime passion for gardens and at the family-owned Doonan Valley Garden Centre and Manawee Garden Centres, the joy and passion is palpable.

There is always something new to see, a new discovery to made. Pathways lead you through the continents and gardens of the world. You can explore dry garden options, growing your own food or creating a subtropical forest full of lush foliage and rampant colour. Not that you have to choose one over the other. Most gardens have a variety of microclimates and a good design can encompass different uses and planting styles. Make sure you add a few bird and butterfly-attracting plants to your trolley and your garden will come to life with flashes of colour and cheery chatter.

Now that I’m older, I love the peaceful solitude of exploring the local garden centres and discovering new species or finding the perfect accompaniment to my garden beds or pots. I can spend a whole day talking to the knowledgeable team on the latest additions and hand-picking new members to join the family.  

My dad loved sharing his gardening knowledge with me. My nan would give me cuttings and my grandfather would tell me to focus and mow straighter, but each in their way encouraged my passion for growing things. Garden centres are havens for creating an intergenerational love of all things green.

Kids do best when they are involved and excited about a project or idea. There are some great books out there on gardening for children. Give them a garden bed to call their own or even a self-watering pot for them to grow a few vegies and flowers in and watch their interest literally grow! Ownership of their own little patch of plants is an excellent way to get them started.

Bundle your children or grandchildren into the car and head to Manawee or Doonan Valley Garden Centre. Take time to wander, watch them as they explore and try to find where their interests might lie. You may just be playing a part in creating the next Edna Walling.

Edna Walling, 1896-1973

Edna was Australia’s most influential garden designer of her era and the first female land developer with her Bickleigh Vale development in Mooroolbark, Victoria. Her development featured minimal roads and fences, naturalised plantings and gorgeous hand-built attic style cottages. She was a strong woman who always got about in trousers. Ultimately, Bickleigh Vale attracted many likeminded lasses and became known as “Trouser Lane”. 

On a side note, my design style often breaks into flowing gardens and my old boss Rick Eckersley would often exclaim “There you go again Edna” I was immensely chuffed.

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