Thank you Fiona LUdbrook for sharing another wonderful blog with us.
Permaculture Designer and director of Pets and Plants

Gardening is often a life-long joy and passion, but even those of us who have been gardening since we were mere nippers have much to gain by becoming a member of, or, even starting a garden club in our local area. If you are a novice gardener, you will find the support of fellow gardeners most useful!

Fiona’s previous backyard garden in Pascoe Vale

I belong to three garden clubs, as well as our local renewable energy group. Each is unique, but all have helped me, not only along the way to furthering my own interests and knowledge, but are a fabulous way to cultivate wonderful friendships and build community around a common interest.
When I moved back to Ballarat, after an absence of 30 or more years I joined The Ballarat Permaculture Guild. Within weeks I enrolled to do one of their excellent Permaculture Design courses and by the end of the year saw me with a new qualification, but many new and lasting friendships.

The Permaculture Guild offers such things as “permabitzes”, where, after undertaking two weekends of work to help fellow “permies” in their garden, you are able to have as many as forty others turn up to indeed have “many hands make light work”, in your own garden. They also offer a reference library, workshops in many aspects of permaculture, as well as a plethora of social functions and opportunities to expand members’ knowledge and networks. Their facebook page is a 24/7 problem solving, help and affirmation line, with an enormous brains’ trust of active members.

garden club
Introduction to Permaculture garden visit

Wicking bed design, permaculture garden visit. Permaculture Guild wicking bed displays.

I have cultivated and collected succulents since my grandmother started me off in my childhood, so it made sense that I also joined the Ballarat Cactus and Succulent Society. Here I met with the most amazing group of dedicated cacti and succulent lovers whose passions and expertise far exceeded my own. Soon I found myself among the ranks of a national ‘Succulention’ held in Melbourne and jointly organised by the Melbourne and Ballarat Clubs, drawing attendees from all over Australia and some of the world’s most highly regarded experts and hybridists as speakers. Those few days were an enormous learning curve, as my opportunities to learn hit a level as good or better than on offer through academic study and practical work in horticulture. My club membership opened the doors of Nairobi’s Botanical Gardens and their staff dedicated to collecting, recording the many species and displaying Kenya’s high altitude succulents. The Ballarat Cactus and Succulent Society meets monthly, offering expert speakers, access to buying rare plants at reasonable prices or sometimes even free to members, as well as opportunities to sell and profit from plants you propagate yourself. It too has a library and also extends its activities to bus trips to display gardens, garden shows and nurseries as well as social events and garden visits for club members.

Bill Morrison, Secretary of The Ballarat Cactus and Succulent Society, on a trip to the Melbourne Cactus and Succulent Society’s annual show and sale.

Melbourne Cactus and Succulent Society’s Spring Show and sale!

​Dr Emily Wabuylele and Agnes Lusweti of Museum of Kenya’s Nairobi Botanic Gardens
Dr Emily Wabuylele and Agnes Lusweti of Museum of Kenya’s Nairobi Botanic Gardens. Custodians and experts in succulent species of Kenya!

Finally, Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens is another incredible local garden club. Not only does it support the historic Ballarat Botanical Gardens, it offers a whole swag of specialist areas for members to participate in, such as the propagation group, “Growing Friends”, Kids Club, a research and history branch and garden guides group. Members get discounts on all plants purchased from their nursery. It too offers bus trips to other gardens, opportunities for members to open their own gardens to the public, an annual dinner with an invariable amazing speaker on a garden related topic and the chance to attend conferences of the Botanic Gardens Society of Australasia. It has regular morning teas and luncheons for its members and Botanical Gardens staff. I participated regularly at ‘Growing Friends’ until work commitments and time clashes made attendance near impossible. These days my participation is much less active but my support for their work has never diminished!

Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. ‘Growing Friends

I cannot emphasise strongly enough the benefits anyone can gain from joining a garden group with whom you share a common interest. A simple online search should reveal those already operating in your area. Make contact. I guarantee it is something you will never regret; your own garden and knowledge base will grow, alongside a strengthened sense of community, access to extraordinary levels of expertise and resources, as well as many new friendships!

ballarat dahlia club
Ballarat Dahlia Club exhibits at the Ballarat Begonia Festival.

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