Faces of Baptcare | Meet Peter Greene – Head Gardener at our Hedley Sutton community, Camberwell

Walking into the lush gardens of our Hedley Sutton community is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s early Spring and the first peaks of colourful buds are on display beneath the green velvet canopy of the evergreens.

Within the grounds of Hedley Sutton stands Linda Mansion, a splendid example of Boom Style architecture, once home to one of Victoria’s leading retailers, WJ Craig, in the late nineteenth century, before later incarnations as the Presbyterian Babie’s Home (1928-1977) and the Canterbury Family Centre (1977-2000). Generations have enjoyed the space as a place for recreation, introspection, work and social connection.

Now home to residents of Baptcare’s retirement living and co-located aged care facility, the gardens are meticulously maintained by Head Gardener, Peter Greene. His devotion to nurturing the smallest flowering buds to the tallest blue gum trees is legendary amongst visitors and residents alike.

Read on to learn more about how Peter looks after this enchanting space – and for some handy gardening tips you won’t want to miss.

How long have your worked at Baptcare?

About six years. I love working here because the people are wonderful, the garden is wonderful! People in our community tell me how much they love the roses and flowers. I feel like they are my friends and I’m blessed to be here.

What does a typical day look like for you (if there is such a thing)?

There’s no such thing as a typical day!

I look forward to my chats with residents and visitors outdoors. I have assistance with the garden from Stewie who comes in a couple times a month for heavy pruning / trimming. So far, all the fertilising is done, mulching is done and the irrigation system is set up – there’s quite a bit of automation in place.

How do you plan and design a garden that meets the needs and preferences of all our residents?

I know our residents love colour and roses. The design of our garden evolves through all the conversations I have. Some ask me for advice about their pot plants on site. Many of our residents have come from homes with beautiful gardens, so they are delighted to see what we are doing at Hedley Sutton. One lady said to me, ‘This garden reminds me of my childhood home.’ It’s so lovely to see the residents reconnecting with happy memories. I like to make our garden an extension of their own, so that they can feel happy and at home.

Sometimes I give the residents a bunch of flowers (most recently, I gave away some gardenias) – I just love seeing the joy it brings to their faces. One of the residents here, Julia, is amazing and delightful. Always full of great suggestions on how I can improve the garden – a lovely lady. She often pulls out the weeds when she sees them!

We’ve got vegie pots out the back that our residents love. I’m fixing them up and planting more vegies.

With so many beautiful roses – tell us, how do you get rid of aphids?

Chilli oil is good, so is soap and water. We don’t use any chemicals on the garden here. Pyretheum is also good – that’s based on natural pyrethrum daisy extract. Aphids don’t like Charlie Carp (liquid fish fertiliser), either so that’s a good one to have on hand.

If you keep your garden healthy, you’re less likely to get pests. We see a lot of lady birds here too – they eat the aphids. It’s a healthy ecosystem here at Hedley Sutton.

How do you ensure the safety and accessibility of the garden for residents and staff?

We are always on watch for trip hazards and are very safety conscious. I make sure hoses aren’t left lying on the paths which would be a trip hazard. We also have to watch for plants encroaching onto paths, like carpet roses, and remain vigilant for any fallen tree branches.

We mulch up all the fallen leaves each season and re-use them. We put coffee grains on the garden because the worms love them and snails don’t like coffee. I think that’s why our gardenias are so healthy!

We are here on a very cold Spring morning (feels like temperature is 4.2 degrees Celsius). It’s rainy and windy, but in less than a week it’s forecast to be a balmy 26 degrees. What are some of the challenges of maintaining a healthy garden in Melbourne’s variable climate.

The main challenge is hot weather – even with our irrigation system. We’ve got to be sensible with our water and plan according to rainfall patterns. In terms of working in the garden, having some flexibility in how we plan our work is essential so that we can tend to the garden as needed.

What are some of the materials you use in looking after the garden?

I only use Seasol, Charlie Carp, Dynamic Lifter – all organic products. A dose of Seasol every couple of weeks makes the plants much more resistant to the hot weather. A well mulched garden is a good garden. It’s essential to retaining moisture and keeping roots cool in summer. A mulched garden also looks a lot better.

Any tips for Spring planting?

Prepare your soil and dig in some manure. Preparation of your soil determine the quality of plants. We love dahlias at Hedley Sutton so are planting them and tulips are starting to come up. We have a Café Au Lait Dahlia out the back which has been flowering all Winter, which is unusual, and one to consider.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like growing vegetables and love bees – I have five hives. It’s wonderful to be able to collect your own honey – I get 50-100kg a year.

I volunteer at Reclink which provides sport and recreation programs to disadvantaged Australians. Down at Werribee, we see a lot of people undergoing rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol and we want to be able to help them as they are turning their lives around. We have a community garden, reflexology, tai chi and many sporting programs. People get a cooked lunch every Monday and we often use the vegies we’ve grown in the garden out there. It has a real sense of community.

I’ve got a Cavoodle and am babysitting two more at the moment – they are so affectionate!

I also like reading non-fiction, especially politics and world events.

What’s something a lot of people don’t know about you?

I was previously a Registered Nurse. And a prostate cancer survivor – so I know how therapeutic the garden is. I think another reason I love working here is that I really feel the care from everyone around me – residents and staff. It’s a loving community and it’s a real pleasure to be here – I’m blessed to be here. We always have a good laugh together!

You’ve just come back from a very well-deserved vacation – what were some of your favourite spots?

I really enjoyed Ireland and the greenery there. I found out there’s more than 4,000 castles in Scotland!

Buckingham Palace Garden in London was wonderful.

In Singapore, we visited the Botanic Gardens – there was a rainforest enclosed in a massive hot house, which was wonderful to experience.

What is your motto in life?

“Maximum effort with the minimum of fuss.”

We can make problems if we want to, or we can choose to find solutions. I’m lucky to be in this Baptcare community where I get to feel the kindness, love and support of our residents every day. And for that I’m truly blessed.

Thank you Peter, for your kind devotion to our Hedley Sutton garden and for bringing so much joy to our Hedley Sutton community.

If you’d like to learn more about retirement living options at Hedley Sutton, contact us to book a tour here.

With preferential consideration for spaces in our residential aged care wing (if your health needs change in future years), Hedley Sutton allows couples with different care and support needs the opportunity to live within the same community.

Call us on 13 22 78 to learn more about how we can support you live your best life in our friendly and caring community.