We like this one article only because we're suckers for a good grass story plus Marg resonates with not only us at Oasis Lawns but probably plenty of frustrated gardeners with her advice i.e. just get out there and weed. Story of our lives most weekends.
It is adjacent to the Yarra River and Yarra Bend Park.
Aside from the stunning and peaceful gardens, the convent is home to studios and offices for small businesses, a radio station, four eateries, an open air cinema, food and craft markets, two galleries, an extensive program of events and venues for rehearsals, performances, classes, workshops and conferences.
Marg Allen and Joanne (Jo) Beescher are two part time gardeners who oversee all the maintenance of the grounds at the convent.
They also have eight regular volunteers that come in every week or month to help out, in addition to groups of corporate volunteers.
Marg says a lot of the big companies like Deloitte and PwC give their staff a day or two a year to do volunteer work somewhere and a lot of the staff choose to go to the convent, which is a huge help.
Marg started her working life as a public servant in the science and environment department before deciding she wanted a change about 12 years ago. She went and did horticulture and that is how she ended up in gardening and maintenance.
Nowadays, Jo is a semi-retired professional gardener, who used to work full time managing a private garden in Mt Macedon. She has a degree in horticulture from Burnley TAFE as well as a turf management diploma.
Both Marg and Jo started off at the convent as volunteers, before taking on their more permanent roles.
The garden space at Abbotsford Convent is about four hectares of the almost seven hectares of property.
Aside from Marg, Jo and the volunteers' tireless efforts at the garden, there are a variety of contractors that come and go.
They also have contractor arborists who remove branches that look diseased or may be a safety issue.
Some of the biggest challenges that Marg and Jo face are keeping up with weeding and watering.
“Keeping on top of the weeding is a challenge,” laughs Jo. “Because we are close to the Yarra River and paddocks, we get a lot of weeds blowing in and birds distributing things. So, weeds can get away from us if we don’t keep on top of things.”
Marg adds, “Watering is another challenge, not all of the garden is under automatic irrigation and when you’re only working part time, especially over summer it can be hard to keep up in the drying climate.”
“The turf is a mixture of species,” says Jo. “In summer can be a bit of a problem because the main lawn area is very heavily used."
“In the hot weather we get dry, dusty areas and a lot of compaction, so we are trying to get the grass to spread further across instead of just in big patches."
“The watering system is adequate but a bit patchy. Our tanks only have about 10 weeks of supply, so if we don’t have a lot of rain we basically run out of water."
“It is a challenge to keep the lawns looking green and we mainly need to do that so the grass doesn’t die off and end up with big dusty patches for when we have events like weddings here.”
Aside from weddings, Marg says the convent holds a lot of other events on the lawns.
The gardens wouldn’t look they way they do if it wasn’t for Marg’s leadership.
“Marg is a champion! She has to coordinate everyone’s demands and different interests, but also keep the garden going with a very minimal budget.
“The budget is tiny compared to where I came from in a private garden. We only really have wheelbarrows and rakes and everything is done by hand,” laughs Jo.
Top gardening tips from professional gardeners Marg and Jo: