City of Ballarat farewells Parks and Nursery Curator Peter Marquand

Retiring Curator Peter Marquand and Mayor Cr Daniel Moloney

After more than 30 years of growing Ballarat’s gardens, Peter Marquand has retired from the best office in the municipality. 

The City of Ballarat’s Parks and Nursery Curator was farewelled by City of Ballarat colleagues and Mayor Cr Daniel Moloney at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, where he was thanked for his tremendous 32-year contribution to the community’s Ballarat and Buninyong gardens. 

Peter started as a gardener with the former Shire of Buninyong in 1990. After amalgamation, Peter worked as the Sturt Street gardener before moving to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. 

For the past 17 years, Peter has overseen the operation of the three heritage-listed Ballarat Botanical Gardens, Eureka Stockade Gardens and Buninyong Botanic Gardens. 

Peter has loved working in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens’ 40 hectares of leafy gardens and avenues, which are renowned as one of Australia’s most attractive cool climate gardens. 

The gardens also have a remarkable history – featuring a significant collection of late 19th Century statues. 

“In Ballarat and Buninyong, the gardens were done at a time, post gold rush, of significant wealth in the city,” Peter said. 

“As a result, we have many significant trees in the gardens and an amazing collection of statues that were the generous gifts of those who wanted to give back to the city where they made their wealth. 

“I love the gardens’ connection to the community. At Begonia Festival time, it’s great to get people coming into the gardens and appreciating it, maybe for the first time. 

“It’s also nice to catch up with people who have been to the gardens many times or came with their grandparents and now they are bringing their grandkids.” 

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens, which celebrated 160 years in 2017, is home to a team of about 16 staff, including six apprentices, from qualified horticulturalists to administration and education staff. 

Peter has been integral to the City of Ballarat’s successful horticultural apprentice program, which operates in partnership with Federation University. The succession plan features six apprentices and now has two vacancies for budding green thumbs. 

“It is a fantastic feeling when we get to recruit someone starting out in the horticultural journey and often see them gain employment with us after the completion of their apprenticeship,” he said. 

Peter said one of his biggest challenges was the drought and its impact on the gardens in 2006 and 2007. 

“We were trucking water into the tanks located near the Craft Cottage. This water was used to try and keep the gardens going. Due to the lack of water and lack of flowers, we relied on using images of flowers on tomato stakes during the Begonia Festival.” 

The impact of last year’s October storm in which the Ballarat Botanical Gardens sustained widespread damage, was also “devastating” for the gardens and staff. 

“We were all really shocked by the damage and I can still recall how quiet everyone was as we were walking around. There was a real sense of loss in the community as well.” 

Peter said there have also been many exciting times, including when the team won the 2018 Ballarat Heritage Award for Excellence in Heritage Skills.  

This award recognised the skills of generations of gardeners at the Botanical Gardens, which has been cultivating and curating rare tuberous begonias since the late 1800s. 

“Of the more than 200 begonias in our tuberous collection, 140 were imported from United Kingdom nursery Blackmore and Langdons,” Peter said. 

“It is a significant collection that is important both locally and internationally.” 

In honour of Peter’s service and contribution to the City of Ballarat’s Gardens, the City of Ballarat has named a Begonia after Peter – bred by the Ballarat Nursery staff. 

City of Ballarat Mayor, Cr Daniel Moloney thanked Peter for his dedication and contribution to Ballarat’s remarkable gardens. 

“Peter’s knowledge, wealth of experience and the passion he has brought to the role is incredible,” he said. 

“The gardens, and subsequently our community and visitors, are all the better for having Peter involved in their care. Ballarat is truly a remarkable garden city.” 

Peter officially retired on Friday 30 September to spend more time with his family and in his own Ballarat garden. 

“I love gardening - I’ve loved it since I was a little kid. I probably started growing things when I was about five so it’s been a life-long love.” 

Does Peter have any gardening advice for the community? 

“Buy plants that are appropriate to the climate. Buy something that will survive the frost and don’t plant your tomatoes too early.” 

Recruitment will shortly begin for a new City of Ballarat Parks and Nursery Curator.