After serving some years in the Royal Australian Navy, I found myself at a bit of a loose end, as they say! One of my many interests had always been gardening, in particular the concepts and challenges of building a garden.
As time passed with many jobs in between (including work in Prawn and Tuna fishing), I found myself in New Zealand managing a mixed fruit orchard.
Upon my return to South Australia some years later I was able to purchase a retail Nursery (“anyone can sell pot plant”, or so I thought), only to realize that I lacked the skills to run and maintain a successful horticulture business. Plants need more than water and a guess at fertilizer, right?! I was growing punnet and advanced plants for a large chain of stores as well as for my own retail outlet. This expanded into garden design and landscape construction. I also developed, what I believe to have been the first plant hire business in South Australia. At that time my son’s intolerance to wheat /barley pollen worsened which prompted a move away from the lower Eyre Peninsula to (of all places) the desert! Woomera was to be our home for the next few years.
It was there that I decided to study for a Diploma of Horticulture through the A.C.S. There were only a small number of tutors in those days, but all were very helpful to a mature age student, and I recall asking (what I know now as) ridiculously simple questions, which were answered with patience and deplume, accurately and in a timely fashion. I believe that this was the turning point of my “second” career.
In 1987 I gained the position of Parks Superintendant with the Port Augusta City Council, with the understanding that I would complete my Diploma of Horticulture with A.C.S - which I completed in 1991.
The Superintendent position exposed me to a large number of challenges - including lobbying State and Federal Governments and Western Mining Corporation for funding for the Botanic Gardens. I have also been an invited speaker at RAPIR and IFPRA Conferences in Hong Kong and New Zealand. I designed playgrounds for people (little and mature) with disabilities and these designs are now being used in other parks systems.
Post Port Augusta, I found myself living in Airlie Beach Queensland, engaged as a Landscape Designer for a local company working on such projects as revamping some of the City of Mackay’s Parklands, Hotel developments, Housing estates and mining companies to set up their “out of the way” towns in central Queensland, just to name a few.
I was then asked by an acquaintance (Professor of Botany, Tokyo University) if I would be interested in working in China as a Landscape Architect. Whilst I was not formally qualified for this level of position, I jumped at the chance anyway.
After only one year, the lure of good money lead me to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to work as a Senior Landscape Project Manager for a company based in Hong Kong. This position entailed meetings and liaison with clients (as in Royal Family), contractors, project management and designers in our HK office for planning redesigns. Sadly, the inevitable happened, and Dubai collapsed. The Hong Kong company is to this day still owed the money for the work that they carried out in Dubai.
In early 2009 I returned to China to take up employment with the previous company as Senior Horticultural Engineer and Landscape Architect. As my Mandarin improves, the challenges become less and less, so designing and advising on plant species is the easy part of the job!
After leaving school at just 16 years, it is true to say that I only gained enough confidence to take on further study once I had completed my A.C.S. Diploma.
The support and confidence that the team at A.C.S. gave me has gone a long way to helping me gain further positions and advancement in this fantastic field. My extended gratitude goes to one and all.
I am now as a very mature student considering further study - perhaps a Masters in Horticulture. Then I will write my book, “Xerophytes I have met”.
Keep up the good work and thank you very much.