It has been my pleasure being involved for so many years with MCG from the planning meetings with no land, the tiny space in Bardwell Road to Middle Head and finally, to Mackie Lane.  It has been quite a journey to two prolific gardens, connections in the neighbourhood, a flourishing Facebook page (thank you Alison) and a growing membership.

I would like to thank the Committee for all the support and assistance I have had over the past 2 years. Kerry and I knew very little about the processes of holding meetings and implementing the results.  We have learned together and I’m sure she will agree it has been a steep learning curve and a worthwhile experience for both of us. Peter has been a stalwart of Mackie Lane, calmly dealing with the vagaries of the weather and the myriad details of keeping this large garden moving along. Diana has been our Treasurer for most of the time MCG has been in existence and she has ably and deftly kept our accounts in order, warned of overspending and produced immaculate accounts. I can’t mention Gill without also mentioning Chris, without whose drive and energy we would not have the garden here, nor the facilities we enjoy and appreciate. Elizabeth, one of our founder members is a superb ambassador for MCG.  She regularly shows the gardens to friends and visitors and passes on their comments.  Tina continues to use her influence and connections to spruik MCG wherever and whenever she can.

Having been involved in volunteering for decades I have always been fascinated by ‘in kind’ contributions.  Middle Head, run by a handful of dedicated gardeners, had 254 attendees to date. Mackie Lane in a similar period can book almost 800 attendees plus the watering roster. Each working bee usually lasts at least 2 hours so members contribute in kind in excess of $40,000 a year, quite a staggering amount of volunteer time. This amount does not allow for monthly meetings, planning, ordering, organising, advertising, attending events and harvesting for occasions as diverse as the Children’s Fair and the Spring BBQ. A stupendous effort and MCG should be justly proud.

Sadly, a cloud hangs over Middle Head and the possibility of losing our garden in such a idyllic spot.  After Planning Information sessions in May a Draft plan is now on exhibition.  This is to be a joint effort between NPWS and the Harbour Trust but seems not to have room for our garden. However, we will continue as long as we can with an abundance of crops. We owe a debt to Mel and Daz who over the last 6 years have provided us with the means, help and assurances necessary for this beautiful flourishing garden.  I’m sure the wildlife who have also benefitted from our existence there will miss us when we have to leave.

Mackie Lane has worn well over the 5 years it has been going.  The first beds, built on a shoestring budget and hours of labour in the heat, are now showing their age. The latest grant from Mosman Council will enable us to renew and refurbish these beds, turning them progressively into wicking beds, so much better for the plants and easier on the waterers, not to mention being far lesser wasteful of precious water. The garden continues to stun newcomers with its ability to withstand whatever Nature throws at it; we’ve battled high winds, a warm winter and powerful storms.  The laneway flourishes with herbs and flowers, the garden blooms with Spring plantings, with a rich variety from amaranth to zucchini.

In August Mosman Council’s Tim Watson suggested turning the Verge at the corner of Mackie Lane and Lang Street into an edible garden. Naturally, MCG agreed despite the difficulty presented by its having 3 mature gums and lots of grass, but which would provide an excellent entry to our garden.  We decided on a herb garden, the grass was cleared – mostly – and planting has begun. At present it holds native viola, marigolds, native rosemary, coriander and parsley.

Thanks to Gill’s suggestion we had an Open Day on Sunday 28th February.  Naturally, members rallied round and it was a spectacular success.  There were talks, food and drink, chutneys and pickles to buy, a guessing game, activities for the children and the Rotunda was a perfect retreat for parents from the sun. The garden buzzed, we had 100+ visitors and the event perfectly showcased the garden.

It was decided to celebrate the arrival of Spring with a BBQ in early October.  Produce was harvested from both gardens and a wide range of salads made to accompany barbequed food and savoury tarts.  There was a good turnout of members with the opportunity to reconnect with others and proved to be an enjoyable evening.

MCG cannot exist alone and while we have reached out to others, organisations have also extended hands to us.  After a meeting and correspondence with Bond St Montessori School, Kerry and I visited in pouring rain, and came up with a plan of action for a vegetable garden suitable for the children to enjoy.

Theo, the Activities Organiser from Bunnings Balgowlah approached with an offer of items on our wish list.  The list having been written and proffered, Theo came along to the garden with a wheelbarrow, watering cans, stakes, plants, mulch, plants and tools, much to our delight. He was equally delighted to take back with him a cake baked by Roger and some prefect carrots.  We now have a strong connection to Bunnings Balgowlah.

The pump for the water tank was duly installed by Chris and connected to the solar power, although we did have to get a replacement.  Work is proceeding on the portable toilet, along with lots of humour, and it is hoped this will make Mackie Lane more attractive to certain groups who cannot mange without such a facility.

Mosman Council continues to support us with mulch and, so far, grants each year as well as the land we occupy, managed for Ausgrid.  Natalie Edmonds and Peter Clarke came along to replace the native beehive, the first not having survived.  At the time of writing, Mackie Lane bees are enjoying a sojourn at Middle Head prior to returning to a more favourable spot.

We reciprocate to Council with flowers and foliage to the Care Café each month, and attendance at the Children’s Fair, which was a great success again, and a Neighbour Day morning tea.

Outside activities continue thanks to the Rotunda with Mosman Community College’s Botanical Art classes, Art Attack from Mosman Art Gallery, BBQs for CEFE and Silvana and her CWA colleagues and an Easter knitting workshop.  Further links to MCC and CWA city branch are likely.

We did have a delivery from Yates, some seeds and Dynamic Lifter.  The experiment to compare plants grown with/without the dynamic lifter came to nought, as after an initial frenzied request for photographs before the seedlings had barely risen above ground, all contact was lost. We did manage to gain a rare appearance in the Mosman Daily, though.

Sometimes MCG is asked to take on something out of our usual sphere. A unique opportunity arose through Mel from NPWS to help archive the photographs of Elaine Syron. Elaine was working in Kings Cross from the 1970s and the State Library of NSW is taking on her collection, all packed in, mostly, unlabelled boxes. Kerry, Elizabeth, Janice and I agreed to help and it proved to be a daunting but enjoyable task.

Honeysuckle Nursery, having protected us from much of the traffic noise, gives us a discount and was generous with a voucher for our Open Day.  The fence provides valuable space for our climbing plants.

Ausgrid own the land we work on and we thank them for their continued support with the land and the watering costs, now considerably lessened with the installation of the water tanks.

So another year comes to a successful conclusion.  I look forward to what 2017 brings and sign off with

Happy gardening,

Lilian Andrew