DEDICATED: Joan Cordell strives to raise the profile of the Noosa Botanic Gardens.
DEDICATED: Joan Cordell strives to raise the profile of the Noosa Botanic Gardens. Geoff Potter

Gardens a gem for Noosa

JOAN Cordell is president of the Friends of the Noosa Botanic Gardens and her passion is as fierce as her commitment to give the gardens a higher profile.

A beautiful garden available to everyone is an asset to a community. How can we appreciate it?

To visit is to love it.

Go on your own for quiet enjoyment, or pack a picnic, go as a family or with friends.

And you can even take the dog.

Tell us briefly about the history of the Noosa Botanic Gardens.

Imagine an abandoned banana farm, resumed by council and used virtually as an unofficial local tip.

Take the inspired vision of local identity (the late) Ida Duncan OAM, who lived within view of the eyesore. Add a substantial State Government grant, a great deal of support from the local community with offers of everything from paving bricks to plants; a band of committed hard-working volunteers to transform the terrain under the direction of Noosa Council's Bob Bickley - and voila - an amazing transformation. The gardens opened to the public in 1990 and this was followed by the completion of our unique amphitheatre in 1997.

How many hectares do the gardens cover?

Eight hectares of subtropical plantings including lake foreshore and ponds, rainforest walk, shade house with orchids and foliage plants and a zen garden.

How many plant species are there in the gardens?

Approx 1500 species of which 70% are native; with 40% endemic to our region. The gardens feature many superb specimens and are haven to quite a number of rare plants.

What about spaces for quiet reflection in the gardens?

There are many secluded oases with seats or picnic benches, and several weather shelters.

And the bird life?

More than 100 bird species call the gardens home from time to time during the year, along with other wildlife including kangaroos, gliders, possums, echidnas, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Visit the gardens at different times of the day and you'll discover which residents are out and about.

How do the Noosa Botanic Gardens compare to some of the great gardens of the world?

If the measure of a "great garden" is thought of as one which sees you draw in your breath and wonder at its sheer beauty and serenity - then Noosa has a jewel of a garden.

Do you receive funding for the gardens?

Administration and maintenance is in the hands of Noosa Council.

One of the tasks of the Friends of NBG is to identify projects for which we can apply for grants or funding from various governmental bodies and/or community organisations or for which we can seek corporate sponsorship.

What about the man/woman power involved to maintain the gardens?

Gardens supervisor Jacky Kelk is a local legend, having been at the gardens since their inception.

Jacky is not only a mine of botanic knowledge, but she is extremely capable in the practical management of the gardens, and along with one other permanent member of staff directs a small team including an arborist and mowing subcontractors, and various voluntary assistants from the community.

How many volunteers do you have and what do they do?

Friends of the Noosa Botanical Gardens offer a variety of supporting skills. First, our garden maintenance team of (usually) 10-15 volunteers each Thursday works in the gardens to a practical program of tasks ranging from weeding and deadheading to planting and propagation.

By contributing close to 3000 hours in the past year, this has been a force for noticeably improved presentation at the gardens.

Secondly, our objectives include development of education and cultural programs which make use of the gardens as a superb resource - everything from say regular Jazz in the Gardens, the progress of our Stone Sculpture Walk, an Explorer Trail for Children - to fundamental Botanic Workshops, such as Planting for Wildlife at

Cooroy Library this past week. So, friends come in various categories.

Those who physically work in the gardens, those who assist with other parts of our development programs - and the very important group - who say I don't have time or ability to do anything but by becoming a friend I want you to know I really care about the gardens.

You want to recruit more volunteers…what for?

To accomplish all of the above.

We need enthusiasts willing to "take charge" or offer practical advice in a variety of areas but above all, we want a direct acknowledgement from as many people who live in our community as possible that becoming a Friend of Noosa Botanic Gardens simply means "yes, I want to see this treasure flourish".

And then in turn this support clearly endorses our quest for more funding.

It's rare for public gardens in Australia to have an amphitheatre, correct?

Yes, certainly one of this Greek-inspired design and size.

And again we thank both the late Ida Duncan for the original concept which she brought home from a European visit, and (local artist) Bill McKay for completing the plans.

Tell us about the amphitheatre.

It is always an unexpected wonder for first-time visitors and the lakeside setting will take your breath away.

Would you like to see it used more?

Definitely. But to do that we also must look at various improvements to make it more practical as a performance venue and this is currently being researched including for example, wet weather protection for musicians and better dressing room facilities.

Would you like to see Noosa locals use the gardens more?

I have every confidence that will happen as locals come to know more of the gardens through coverage such as this.

Also Great South East featured the Friends on their program on Channel 7 recently. . Media exposure such as this which the Friends are encouraging will dramatically increase both local and visitor traffic.

What about visitors, how do you plan to tell them about the beauty of the gardens and get them up to Cooroy?

Our link with Tourism Noosa is a priority this year.

Obviously community groups such as yours are invaluable to the community, what are your thoughts on that?

Volunteering is actually a two-way street.

The rewards of participating in support of something you truly value always outstrip the time and effort of contributing.


For more information, to join as a Friend and to receive the newsletter, visit: www.noosabotanicgardens-

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