March 4th, 2022All things botanical
JOHN Beetham is a pretty laid-back bloke but don’t get between him and a rare tree, or a garden in need of a design hand.
John has been passionate about all things botanical since he dropped geology studies, travelled around Australia for a year and then took up a job as a technical officer in the National Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.
He first walked through the gates in 1977 and stayed for the next 10 years.
“We were at the forefront of doing garden censuses. We would map and identify everything, put it all in a big data base…we were also pressing specimens. So, it was a fairly scientific background but then I went into landscape and design.”
And while he has worked on and visited gardens around the world, John is also keen to contribute to his craft, joining a number of organisations including the Australian Garden History Society, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand, the International Dendrology Society, the National Trust (Victoria) and the Garden Plant Conservation Association of Australia. And they are all just his current memberships.
But after a lifetime on the garden tools, including 25 years at Lake House in Daylesford, John is keen to use his extensive knowledge to provide a new service offering consultation, design, plant identification, and creating conservation and master plans.
He has two sides to his business idea. The first is with real estate agents where he sees his services as a unique selling point, offering pre- or post-design for people buying properties along with existing tree identification and the conservation of old trees and plants.
“That will bring all my knowledge about design, identification and surveying to the party with the local community. Then there is a service for anyone who would like me to add more design detail to their existing gardens, designing concepts in totality, or even greenfield sites. Owners can then bring in their own people to do the work. It’s merging my technical background with the physical landscape and design.”
Mind you, there is also plenty to be done with greenfield sites which are popping up all over the shire. “I can come in at ground zero and if they have a site plan or an idea of the orientation of the house, I can start with the driveway, do perimeter plans and irrigation.
“The whole package really. Then you look to the future for trees, maybe for shade, think about climate change and biodiversity. It’s not as easy to choose the right plants as it was in the past.”
“I can come up with a scale of how much people would like to spend and that could range from say $200 to $20,000+…after careful consideration I will come up with a package and keep to that budget. I have always worked like that. Everyone deserves a wonderful garden that suits their budget. I can also provide cultural services like when to feed and prune etc.”
As he talks on the phone John says he is looking at a Chinese tulip tree in the backyard of the Hepburn home he and wife Jane share. He says today it is his favourite. Another, which he uses most in landscape and design, is a Chilean myrtle. I get the feeling there is no tree John doesn’t like.
Disclaimer: I have known John and Jane for many years and he pops around now and again offering design advice. We have a beautiful almost-walled garden of pittosporums thanks to John. I also have a magnolia, that was pretty much gone, still alive thanks to him. After a visit by John to check on our garden, I came out and found it pruned back hard and watered. I moved the pot and today it is flourishing. Miracle worker! – Donna