Myall Park Botanic Garden is privately owned by the company Myall Park Botanic Garden Ltd, under the leadership of the Board of honorary Directors. The Garden has been run by the Directors since 1992.
The collection was established in the early 1940s by Mr David Gordon (1899-2001). It was developed during the wool boom years when Mr Gordon sent collectors across Australia to source plant propagation material, with a focus on arid and semi-arid species. Herbarium specimens were also made from the plant material collected, so correct identification could be made.
An area of 132 hectares was fenced in the early 1950s to prevent access by sheep, cattle and horses. To help establish the growing collection, much of the 132ha was cleared and a watering system using galvanised pipe was installed in the 1950s. By this time the managed area had grown to over 90ha and required a network of tracks, high tanks to store water and scores of above-ground sprinkler units. This extensive water system was quite unique.
A nursery was built which included a glass hot house, hardening bays, a potting shed, and a seed storage area. Seed storage consisted of a wall of silky oak drawers and a cataloguing system which recorded the seeds’ provenance (its locale, collector and date of collection) and whether distributed to other institutions. (source of seed, date, supplier, usage). Handwritten records were kept of propagation, survival rates and planting locations.
Two horticulturists were employed to manage the planting and collection elements of the garden, including: Mr Alf Gray (1949-1952 – born in Australia of English parents) and Mr Len Miller (1952-1954 – born in England). They were both schooled in the traditional ways of European gardening.
During the late 1950s many grevilleas were planted in close proximity and the resultant hybrids were nurtured. Three proved to be survivors: Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’, G. ‘Sandra Gordon’ and G. ‘Merinda Gordon’. Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ was the first plant registered by the Australian Plant Cultivar Registration Authority and its parents are G. banksii and G. bipinnatifida, the former from Eastern Australia and the latter from Western Australia.
The Garden waned during the 1960s as Mr Gordon was very ill and by the 1980s funds were very limited as wool declined in value. Over this period, nurseryman Mr Reg Carter kept the nursery in operation and continued to propagate seed, cuttings and grafts.
Dorothy Gordon (1928-1985), botanical artist and wife of Mr Gordon was a constant companion, communicator and hostess, and provided the moral support to Dave’s gardening.
1988 to 2013
Dorothy’s death was devastating to Dave. Friends and family were approached to assist with the management of the Garden in 1988. This committee prospered and an incorporated company limited by guarantee was formed in 1992. In the same year the Garden was heritage listed on the Register of National Estates. In 1994, 132ha was excised from the surrounding grazing property and gifted to the company. This privately owned area is accessed by a public road linking to Myall Park Road.
The Board of Directors has further developed the Garden and encouraged greater public access. Focus has been upon improving infrastructure as well as increasing the worth of the collections for both scientific and lay persons by interpretation and signage, and recording and cross referencing the databases for the living collection, herbarium, and seed bank. The focus of education, research and interpretation has expanded from the existing and introduced flora to encompass the resulting biodiversity of the Garden.
With the assistance of a Bicentennial grant and the Meandarra Arts Council, a book, ‘Australian Wildflower Paintings by Dorothy Gordon’ was published (with the assistance of a Bicentennial grant and Meandarra Arts Council). Subsequently in 1995 an art gallery to house the original watercolour paintings was opened within the Garden. This building also houses the botanical library, Garden archives, the Garden Office and Gift Shop. Over the years many art works have been commissioned and these are located throughout the Garden.
Financial support has many origins with tourism, accommodation, and Friends’ memberships providing the major regular income. In addition, government and non-government grants are accessed where possible and the Western Downs Regional Council is most supportive in all aspects of the Garden’s progress. Sponsors frequently contribute with donations both ‘in kind’ and monetary. Tax deductibility status was granted to the Company in 1997. Unfortunately, no royalties were received from the sale of Gordon grevillea hybrids as plant material was sold before registration.
2010 was the beginning of a new era of leadership for the Garden. Director numbers were reduced and membership to the divisional committees increased. This new approach provided opportunities for those with particular interests to be involved only in these areas. Most of the work carried out at the Garden is by volunteers, from the Directors to the many people who may travel hundreds of kilometres to offer days of continuous work in the Garden proper and in the important preservation areas such as the herbarium and the seed bank. Some visitors arrive for a night’s stop over and stay additional nights to offer valuable hours of assistance. Our extensive records of fauna species observed over time are often enhanced by visitors’ observations.
Dave and Dorothy Gordon produced three new hybrid grevilleas. They named them after their daughters: Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’, G. ‘Sandra Gordon’ and G. ‘Merinda Gordon’. The first two have become best sellers in the Australian nursery industry.
Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ was the first plant registered by the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority and its parents are G. banksii and G. bipinnatifida. Because Mr Gordon had donated plant material to friends and nurseries, plant varietal rights could not be pursued and as a result, the Gordon family and Myall Park Botanic Garden have not benefited monetarily from nursery industry plant sales of Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ or from the other two hybrids.
The Directors selected a chance seedling in 2006 and named it Grevillea ‘Dorothy Gordon’. It is a tall open bush, with soft green leaves and pink purple spike flowers. It is thought that the parents are Grevillea sessilis and G. paradoxa as they were the only species grown near by. Grevillea ‘Dorothy Gordon’ is now registered with the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority and the Garden receives royalties from all of these plants that are sold.