Plants and personal growth: How gardening is helping the community

The global gardening craze sparked by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months hasn’t come as a surprise to horticulturist Larraine Doglione.

After more than 40 years working in the industry, the manager of the Salvation Army’s Watch Them Grow nursery at Riverview has seen firsthand how gardening can help people through tough times.

“For me, it’s always been a grounding thing,” Ms Doglione said.

“If I get stressed, I get out and play with the dirt and it fixes things. It relaxes you.”

Thousands of potted plants, fruit trees, succulents and flowers line the benches at the Watch Them Grow nursery, while several large shade-cloth covered domes house dozens of species of tropical plants, from ferns to bromeliads.

Established in 2009, the social enterprise provides plants to the Salvation Army Family Stores at West Ipswich and Bundamba and is staffed mostly by volunteers, people on Return to Work programs and Work for the Dole participants.

But while some volunteers have stayed home in recent weeks and Salvos stores have been closed due to COVID-19, customers have flocked to the Riverview nursery to stock up on plants and tackle garden projects while spending more time at home.

“It’s been a little hectic. We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people coming to the nursery,” Ms Doglione said.

“I think people know that they can get very good quality for the price here, and the money we generate here and down at the garden centre all goes back into the community, so you can grow your garden and support the community at the same time.”

Ms Doglione said the volunteers love the peaceful environment at the nursery.

“It’s a great environment and we’ve got good people here. Even though some of them are dealing with a few issues, they get in and work and really enjoy it,” she said.

“Being outdoors and working with their hands, I think they find a peace. You can hardly get mad at a plant.

“There’s also lessons in gardening. You learn it’s just as easy to grow a good plant as a bad plant, you just need to know when to do it.”

When it comes to knowing what to plant and when to plant it, Ms Doglione said she was always happy to offer advice to gardeners, from the inexperienced to the green thumbs.

“It really depends on what you want to achieve with your garden and what’s in your head,” Ms Doglione said.

“I love colour, but that doesn’t just mean colourful flowers, you can also use different shades of green and the shapes of leaves to give an effect.

“Undulation is also very important – you want it to have layers, you don’t want to put the same plant all together in a bed or it will look flat.”

The Salvation Army farm and Watch it Grow nursery is at 29 Riverview Road, Riverview. It is usually open for wholesale orders (over $100) but is currently open from 7 am – 3pm Monday to Saturday for all customers.

You can also buy plants from the Watch them Grow nursery at the Bundamba Salvation Army Family store on Coal St, or the West Ipswich Salvation Army store on Brisbane St.

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