News & Events

Danny’s gardening glory

May 22, 2018

Danny Wychowanko found his own personal Botanic Gardens when he started as a volunteer gardener at Rushall Park, OCAV’s village in North Fitzroy. He couldn’t believe his luck when he wandered through the gates 15 months ago. He still can’t.

Danny, 63, came to Rushall Park as a volunteer under unusual circumstances. He had completed a Certificate Two in Horticultural Studies at Kangan TAFE and was receiving Newstart allowance while he looked for work. He was told he would lose the allowance unless he took a factory job. That’s until he found out that he could work as a volunteer in the community in return for a benefit.

“I was tickled pink when I first came for an interview and saw Rushall Park in all its glory and I am still overjoyed that I can work here,” he said. “As soon as I got to the front gate on the first day I though, yep, this is my place. It’s like my own little botanic gardens.”

Danny works two days a week alongside head gardener Marika Pedrioliand assistant gardener Rhys Corr. Their work is determined by the seasons and the weather, but could involve weeding, mowing lawns, pruning the 1150 plus roses, mulching, planting or composting. He enjoys working outside, doesn’t mind the cold weather and loves the trees and flowers that come to life at different times of the year.

It’s hard for him to name favourites, but when pushed, he says the huge 100 year old peppercorn tree at the Rushall Station corner of the village, with a beehive in its hollow, is one of his favourites. But according to Danny nothing surpasses the beauty of the crepe myrtle in Grice Ave, with its smooth grey bark trunk and its pink flowers in full glory. “There’s always something on show in this garden, any season of the year.”

In the 15 months since he began, Danny has learned a lot from the Rushall Park gardeners that he has been able to use in the garden around his Brunswick home. He grows a variety of plants, but is especially keen on hedges.

“It’s nice to be able to learn new things and put the knowledge to good use. When we come to an area that needs work, it’s great to look back at the end of the day, or after a few hours, and see what a difference your work has made and think how good it looks,” he said.

It’s not just the gardens and coworkers that keep Danny happy at work; he loves the residents and is heartened by the gratitude they show for the work done in the gardens.

“I looked after my Mum until she died at 90 and I really enjoy being around the older people here who are very friendly. I do what I can and they appreciate it,” Danny said.

“My Dad who used to spend a lot of time in the garden when I was a young fella and I used to wonder why he was wasting his time. Now I get it, I know why he loved it to much.”

“People often say well done for making a contribution to the Rushall Park village. But Rushall Park has given so much to me.”

“Our home has always been a place where family and friends are welcome.  Our cottage at Rushall Park is no different and the community of friends here is important to us and that’s why their work is part of my art box,” Jennifer Barden said.

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