Sowing seeds at Scottsdale

Tuesday 20 March, 2012

When Sue Connelly first visited Scottsdale in 2006 it was Bush Heritage's newest reserve. Six years later, Sue is one of a team of essential volunteers nursing the reserve back to health and ensuring its long-term protection.

Eucalyptus woodland at ScottsdaleDry schlerophyl forest at Scottsdal. Photo: Peter Saunders


It is a rare day that volunteer Sue Connelly doesn't tend the seed gardens at Scottsdale. She was "almost apologetic", recalls Regional Reserve Manager Peter Saunders, about taking a few days off over Christmas. "I think I did drop in there Christmas Day," says Sue.

“If I haven't gone to Scottsdale, I feel I haven't done my thing for the day.”

Nurturing rare species

Scottsdale, a 1328 hectare reserve protected thanks to passionate Bush Heritage supporters in 2006, features colourful heathlands, box gum woodlands and dramatic, rocky hillsides, but Sue's favourite place by far is the seed gardens near the shearing shed at the entrance to the property.

Sue Connelly at Scottsdale ReserveSue Connelly at Scottsdale. Photo: Peter Saunders

The gardens represent a variety of plants and trees found on Scottsdale and the surrounding land and in many ways, also represent the future of the reserve.

The rarer and difficult-to-collect plants are brought into an area where staff and volunteers can watch over them closely to collect the seeds. The plants are then grown in the nursery, ready for the long-term restoration of Scottsdale.

“Future generations will be able to enjoy what Scottsdale promises to become. The birds, the native flowers, even the grasses.”

Scottsdale volunteers collecting seedVolunteers collect seed from trees on the reserve. 

Sue's favourites are there - the rare groundcover Lotus australis, a pinky-white pea flower, and the dusky scurf-pea.

She also loves kangaroo grass. "When the first settlers came it grew up to their horses' bellies. We grow it here partly because it competes with weeds once it's well established."

Sue collects seeds, tends to seedlings in the nursery, chooses rare or declining species for planting and keeps records of progress in the gardens. She works alongside a huge army of volunteers who work in teams.

Each team focuses on a different task and the skills of one team complement the skills of the others. "Their work helps your work," says Sue. "Without people controlling rabbits or controlling weeds, for example, we wouldn't have plants in the garden."

Scottsdale volunteers building a new plant nurseryIn 2011 Scottsdale volunteers built a new plant nursery 

Sue's connection to Scottsdale goes back to 2006 when, as a neighbouring landholder, she was invited to celebrate the achievement of thousands of supporters, who had assisted with the purchase of the property as a Bush Heritage reserve. At the time, Sue had just bought her own property, five kilometres away, where she was working tirelessly to remove weeds.

A partnership for conservation

In 2007 Sue's property was surveyed as a part of Kosciuszko to Coast, a community partnership established to create connections between remnant woodlands and grasslands in the region. "They showed me I had rare plants and birds, like the hooded robin, and that changed the whole box and dice. I realised my property was a living, breathing thing."

In Scottsdale's early days, Sue took part in planting days, and gave talks about plants she was growing on her own property. When Sue sold her land in 2010, Peter Saunders asked if she'd like to keep on growing plants for Scottsdale and she hasn't looked back since.

"It's taking a long time to look really beautiful, and I don't know whether I'll be around to see a huge difference, but it will happen in time. Future generations will be able to enjoy what Scottsdale promises to become. The birds, the native flowers, even the grasses ... I've seen native grass on the back of a hillside turn a stunning lime green just as the sun is setting. Imagine not being able to see that."

Thanks to our supporters and volunteers!

In Autumn 2011, thousands of Bush Heritage supporters like you donated to our ‘War on Weeds' campaign. Thanks to you, while Sue and her team were tending to the native seedlings at Scottsdale, other volunteer teams had the equipment they need to battle weeds like sweet briar and serrated tussock in a recent working bee on Scottsdale. Bush Heritage also thanks these passionate workers - volunteers like Sue and her team are vital to protecting Bush Heritage reserves.

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