Mass tree planting, nature corridors and exotic hard to find herbs and veg are just some of the Armidale Tree Group’s services. FOCUS goes bush with Alicia Cooper to find out what this retail business of 34 years is doing around the area …
What’s your role at the Tree Group?
I’m the general manager of the Armidale Tree Group. I’ve been in this role for about a year now.
Tell us about how you ended up here …
I grew up on an isolated bush property north of Nundle. I do love the bush, hence probably why I’m in this job. I ended up in Armidale because I’d done bush walking here with an outdoor recreation group, so I’d met some people here and thought it would be a great place to live.
I started out as a volunteer here, and worked as a casual tree planter with our Environmental Services. When a position for the retail coordinator became available, I moved into that role and then when our previous general manager left, I was offered the job!
What do you do?
We do so much. Our main business is the Environmental Services, which we have been doing for the last 34 years. Contract tree planting, revegetation services, weed control, and we provide this to both the public and businesses. A lot of people don’t actually know we grow our own herbs and veg on site here. We like growing some of the rarer, harder to find herbs and veg, just to spice up the veggie patch a little! We also really pride ourselves on providing the knowledge to locals about the conditions in the area. As we have a rather tricky climate, cold winters and dry, hot summers and our clay soils, we know what plants are going to work and where they should be planted.
Do you only sell native plants?
It is 99% native; we have a really small amount of exotics on offer. There is a misconception that native plants are unattractive. We find, that’s because they aren’t being cared for properly. Sometimes people tend to think that you just pop a native in, and it will flourish. They need just as much love and care as anything else in the garden, and they will reward you with their beauty.
Current projects the Tree Group are working on are …
We’re working on the “Every Tree Counts” project. We’re aiming to raise funds and build partnerships to address landscape-scale issues. Our big focus is the Saumarez Creek Wildlife Corridor, which will link the eastern and western sides of the New England Tablelands. It will follow Saumarez Creek right down to the Dangarsleigh Falls. We are talking with landholders who are willing to be part of the project. This project will allow flora and fauna to move across the landscape and towards the cooler eastern climates. It’s quite a fractured region, so this will act like a green highway. It will also allow us to step away from relying on government grants.
Wow, that seems like a huge undertaking. How long do you expect this job will take?
Well, the more funds we raise and the more landholders get involved, the more we can do. This is a long-term project. We are donating an in-kind contribution for every tree that goes in, and we have some great support from locals and Tree Group clients. We are hoping that businesses will be getting involved.
How many staff do you currently employ?
Three permanent staff and three casuals who work in the retail section. Then we have a pool of casual people we call on for tree planting. We also have some great volunteers, and we’re always happy to take on a few more in the busy spring period.
What do you love about your job?
I love my team. I really like the people I work with. I think a lot of people don’t get to have that. Everybody gets along, and that’s fantastic. Other than that, I love what I do. I get a heap of job satisfaction doing this and seeing the results come through in the future.
Why should we shop with you, rather than at the big chains?
Firstly, I think our prices are competitive. Secondly, I have customers coming in here upset they bought a plant from the big chains and it died. We won’t sell you something that’s not suitable for our climate. We take the time to ask questions about your particular site. We want to make sure that you are going to get great advice and the right plants for your specific environment.
Do you have everything any other nursery would have?
For sure! We have all the potting mixes, fertilisers and garden care products. Not only do we have the retail nursery, we also have a wholesale nursery too, that provides large numbers of trees and shrubs for farmers, businesses etc. Say if you needed 5,000 plants for a screening belt or a nature corridor, we can accommodate that too. Not only do we sell wholesale, but we’ll also plant them as well! We can do it all, from growing, planting, watering, maintaining and the weed control. So basically, we can cater to any size, from your small backyard to your massive property!
Any final words?
We are a not-for profit organisation and we wouldn’t have survived this long without the support of the locals. So a huge thanks to you, the community!