Blog for Portland Botanical Gardens project 2013

Instagram #pbgproject
May 6th, 2013
Started the Portland Botanical Garden’s Art and Community Engagement Project today. There are 1250 Dahlia Plants at the Portland Botanical Gardens, which are grown for public enjoyment and to use in the wreaths and flower arrangements for ANZAC day on the 25th of April. They have been grown in the gardens since 1926. As its after Anzac day and the Dahlias have had their day in the sun, our interactive community engagement pop up event was to write some words in the Dahlia flowers, from suggestions from the Portland Community, via social media. Two Facebook community members, Emma and Jo, suggested the words “serenity” and “harmony” to be made in the last of the Dahlia flowers. Afterwards the Dahlia heads were taken down to the Portland Child and Family Complex for the children in the platypus room to touch, smell and feel.

It was surprisingly enjoyable working with the flowers in the fresh air and sunshine. Gave me a bit of an appreciation of the work done by Rachael and Wayne, the Gardeners at the Portland Botanical Gardens. In a bit of an oversight, I did spend a bit of time in a tree taking photos of the flower words, as i did not bring a ladder.

3 visitors to the gardens

3 visitors to the gardens

We managed to hijack some guests in the gardens into taking some flowers home to their loved ones. Being a bit shy and with a very infectious sense of humour, Cathy hid behind her Dahlia bunch for the photo.

9th May
What an amazing day.
This beauty was waiting amongst the Dahlias. Is she a Monarch butterfly? A non native?



The breeze was warm and filled with the smell of roses. There were bees everywhere.



The Dahlia word of the day was chosen by the Ladies at the Croquet club based in The Portland Botanical Gardens. They decided on the word Renewal.

Belinda White, owner of the Tea Tree Gallery, was the social media guest word decider and her word was Shine.

And last but not least, Rachael and Wayne, the gardeners who work at the Portland Botanical Gardens came up with the word Fresh.

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I guess its time we left the last of the Dahlias for public enjoyment so its onto words in sticks and stones and leaves and whatever else is falling down in Autumn.
So if you have a word that you would like to see made in natural materials that signifies what the gardens means to you – you can post it on my face-book page and it maybe the word that gets pulled from a hat at the end of the week.

Looking forward to next week when the gardens are visited by the Portland Child and Family Complex, Kalbari Kindergarden and Narrawong Primary School. Head Horticulturalist David Garnier will be showing the students around the gardens, sharing stories, answering questions and doing some art. And then watch out for the ladies at the Portland Croquet Club. I have a feeling they might be sharing some stories about spending time in the Gardens and playing croquet.

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23rd of May
This week students from the Glenelg Shire Council’s Portland Child and Family Complex visited the gardens and were treated to a tour by David Garnier, the head horticulturalist. They seemed to really appreciate the colour, texture and smell of the different types of leaves in the gardens, especially with the effects of Autumn. After which there was a bit of painting and sticking leaves going on to create wonderous works of art. Thanks to Child Care Workers Kristy, Kirby, and Joan and the parents who accompanied the children to the Portland Botanical Gardern, on the day. So don’t be surprised, if next time you are in the gardens, your child leads you to the camphor tree or the leaves of a bush that smells like peppermint.

May 29th
Hanging at the Croquet Club Room Windows at the Portland Botanical Gardens.

I asked Rachel Dawson, who works as a gardener at the Portland Botanical Gardens, if she had some good pics of the place. Here are some really beautiful images taken by someone who knows the hidden secrets of the gardens

June 3rd and 4th

The weather has been really kind to both The Portland Child and Family Complex and Kalbarri Kindergarten today and yesterday. Loads of enthusiastic youngsters enjoying the leaves in the garden and making awesome and extremely colourful artworks. Hello Winter.

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June 6th
Expecting Narrawong school and The Reengagement Centre at the gardens soon. Note to self – must buy pipe cleaners for secret surprise crazy art-works.

Today the Portland Croquet club, which have been using the club at the gardens for over 100 years, kindly consented to be documented, as part of the instagram project, which is part of the Portland Botanical Gardens Arts and Community Engagement Project. We would be pleased if people visiting the Portland Botanical Gardens will upload their instagram photos of the gardens to #pbgproject.

The End

Photo by Rachael Dawson

Photo by Rachael Dawson

This Project has been funded by a quick response grant from the Regional Arts Fund, which gives all Australians, wherever they live, better access to opportunities to practise and experience the arts. The Regional Arts Fund is administered in Victoria by Regional Arts Victoria.

RAF RAV inline-1

We would also like to thank Errey’s Farm Timber & Hardware, 142 Hurd St, Portland, for their product sponsorship of 4 pieces of masonite and Network Video for their material sponsorship of old video posters for this project.


  1. Pingback: Sharing… | Jo Grant

  2. The dahlia words look beautiful in the grass! Nice that you are getting so a positive response to your project. I’m glad that the garden realizes that interacting with art is a great way to interpret the site. So often, such places stick strictly with the scientific or historical interpretations.

    • Thanks again for your lovely comments. Its a really fun project. I guess we are lucky having a really responsive botanical gardens staff. The Parks and Gardens Team leader is enthusiastic and supportive. Probably like yourself, I have had a variety experiences and success with community projects, and i guess the time is right for this one.

  3. One other comment…I was surprised to see an image of a Monarch butterfly since I thought this was strictly a North American species. Their migration story is among the most amazing in all the animal kingdom. Monarchs are under threat here from a variety of sources. Do you see them often in Australia?

    • I’d love to see the swarms of them as you have in the U.S.A.You know they were all over the gardens on that warm Autumn day. Guess it was the flowers. Such a pleasure to see them fluttering in the gardens. Do you see them in your neighbourhood?

  4. Yes, I see Monarch butterflies and their mimics, the Viceroy butterflies at the Falls of the Ohio and throughout Kentucky. I was going to say frequently, but learned recently that Monarch numbers are drastically down from last year. Part of that concerns their wintering grounds in the mountain forests of Mexico where deforestation is taking down the old growth trees they gather on. Of late, genetically modified crops keep getting mentioned as possible agents responsible for the lower numbers. Some crops have genes that act as herbicides or even insecticides to discourage pests. Monarch butterflies depend on the milkweed plant to carry out their reproductive cycle which is also considered to be a weed by some. Does Australia have milkweed plants?

    • I suspect that the Monarch butterflies and milkweed are non indigenous here. But I don’t know for sure. The news of the lower numbers is quite similar to the story of bees I guess. Its all terribly frightening.

  5. Pingback: Community Engagement at the Portland Botanical Gardens | cat bailey

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