Kentucky Tree Nursery

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Chris and Maria Eveleigh have called the small village of Kentucky home since 1976, and the origins of their nursery stem back to the early ’80s. Helping landholders repropagate their land with native species is a passion for the Eveleighs, who have seen over one million native trees and shrubs planted during the past few decades …

Hi Chris. What brought you and Maria to beautiful Kentucky?

Maria and I came to Kentucky in 1976. We purchased a 40 hectare soldier settler block with an original soldier
settler house and began our life together here in Kentucky. At the time for us, the property was affordable, the climate was reliable, and the soil was fertile. Our thoughts turned to sheep and cattle, and we purchased a few head relevant to our small farm. In addition, we joined a wonderful, vibrant community.

What are the origins of Kentucky Tree Nursery – when/why was it established?

It became obvious to us that it was difficult to make a living off 40 hectares of cleared orchard land and thus, a few casual jobs were needed to get by. 

In the early 1980s, the landholder mantra at the time was dieback of the existing remaining native vegetation on New England Tablelands farms. One local landholder had for some time started replanting to provide shade and shelter for livestock and pasture. A movement was started, which caught on, and Landcare was born. In fact, this was the origins of one of the first Landcare groups in the New England, namely the Harnham Landcare Group. 

There became an opportunity to help plant trees at that time and also to start propagating trees to plant back on farms. In essence, this was the start of The Kentucky Tree Nursery. A most important part of the origins of our nursery is Maria.

Maria was very much (and still is) a gardening enthusiast and in the early years, set about to plant and thus protect our home environment. Starting from a bare and exposed home garden area, her success with moderating conditions were legendary. 

There have been many open garden functions that Maria has been involved with. Whilst raising our three children, tending her own garden, time was also devoted to the nursery. Testament to her skills, we now have three very successful and independent young families with six grandchildren.

The emphasis with your business is providing large numbers of native plants that provide substantial environmental benefits, at a cost-effective price. Who are your typical types of customers?

Our main nursery customers are New England Tablelands landholders. They see the important need to plant trees and shrubs back on to their properties for shade and shelter and to improve their environment. It goes without saying that planting back trees on exposed land can only improve the value of your asset.

How do you also cater for home gardeners – people who may want fewer plants for smaller areas?

We have, for many years, taken our plants to Farmers Markets and various special local events. This has been a wonderful opportunity for us to make our plants available to the home gardener, socialise and support very important community organisations.  

What are the main species of plants you grow/sell?

We are a native nursery supplying trees and shrubs that grow naturally on the New England Tablelands and Slopes. 

They include the local Eucalypts, Acacia, Callistemon, Hakea, Leptospermum.

This is a tough question … but if you had to estimate roughly how many seedlings you’d produced and seen planted over the years, what do you reckon the number would be?

Each season is different. We rely on orders every year, and we are governed by the prevailing climate and thus landholders’ preparation for the tree planting. 

We have definitely produced and seen planted over a million trees and shrubs. It is a great joy to us to see the efforts of dedicated landholders and home gardeners that take pleasure in planting and growing our plants.

Tell us a bit about your nursery operation and how it works ..

Our nursery operation can be described as “Team Chris and Maria”. From time to time we have wonderful people come to operate the nursery while we have a break. All our plants are grown in our nursery from seed. Each season’s crop of trees and shrubs are sown in December and January. Such is the potential growth of native plants, a crop can be ready for sale mid-autumn. 

From then on, the nursery can supply plants throughout the year. Seed is collected by us from the local area, or purchased from reputable suppliers such as CSIRO Australian Tree Seed Centre or from the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services native seed storage facility. NTLLS has become an excellent supplier of native tree and shrub seed to the local native nurseries.

How important is to you both to live a sustainable life and protect our native environment?

Over the many years Kentucky Tree Nursery has operated, we have been indebted to Southern New England Landcare, Glen Innes Natural Resources Advisory Committee, Gwydir and Macintyre Management Committee Landcare and Northern Tablelands Local Land Services. These organisations as a base, have encouraged landholders to be very mindful of improving their environment, whilst operating profitably and sustainably. 

While working very hard in our nursery, we have been the beneficiary of these very important agencies. We attempt to live by the aims of these organisations and give back as much as we can, to make landholder projects we are involved in successful.

What are some projects you have planned for the nursery for the rest of this year?

This year there will be a good number of landholder tree/shrub plantings under preparation. Autumn and winter is an excellent time of the year to cultivate and fallow sites to be ready for a spring planting. Success of tree planting on farm is very much dependent on preparation well in advance of planting. 

Whilst this ground work is being done, plants in our nursery are slowing down in growth and hardening up, to be ready to plant when required. Overall, for all involved, it is a very satisfying and important activity.

Where can we contact you?

Kentucky Tree Nursery can be contacted 
(02) 6778 7342, 0457 787 342, or

Please contact us prior to a nursery visit, located at 24 Plug Street, Kentucky NSW.  

Thanks Chris.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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