Garden gathering

By Benalla Ensign

Keen gardeners and horticultural experts from across Australia will visit Benalla this April for the biennial conference of the Australian Association of Friends of Botanic Gardens.

The event, hosted by the Friends of the Benalla Botanical Gardens, takes place from Friday, April 20, to Sunday, April 22.

Members of the friends have been volunteering in the Benalla gardens since 1985.

The group has provided momentum for much of the improvements made to the gardens during this time, including more recently the upgrade of the children’s play space, known to many as the ‘‘Rocket Park’’.

‘‘The Benalla Friends has a strong reputation in the gardening community and it is a great honour to have been asked to host the conference,’’ Benalla Friends’ president Robyn Saunders said this week.

‘‘We expect around 70 Friends members from around Australia will visit Benalla over the conference weekend.

‘‘Under the theme ‘Cultivating Friends’, delegates will enjoy presentations by nationally-renowned horticultural experts and participate in a dedicated forum to share their experiences of volunteering in botanic gardens.’’

Speakers include Adelaide Botanic Garden director Lucy Sutherland; Royal Botanic Garden Cranbourne director Chris Russell; and Heritage Victoria heritage officer (horticulture) John Hawker.

Tours will also be part of the conference, and will include the Benalla Botanical Gardens, Winton Wetlands, Belvedere private garden and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden at Benalla P-12 College.

‘‘You do not have to be a member of a friends group to come along,’’ Ms Saunders said.

‘‘Anyone with an interest in gardening and horticulture is most welcome to attend.

‘‘The event is being organised entirely by local volunteers. Any profits we make will be spent in the Benalla Botanical Gardens to continue our commitment to supporting this vital public space for our town.’’

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