Meet Keith and Maureene Smith28 August 2019 Robin Powell
Cancer fundraisers and plant propagators
Interview and pictures: Robin Powell
When did you start doing the plant sale?
Seven years after we retired we moved into this place because it offered us a bigger garden and we really enjoyed gardening. We opened the garden for Australia's Open Garden Scheme in 2011 and had a very small plant stall. We found we liked selling plants better than opening the garden. If you are asking people to pay to see your garden, it has be immaculate and that's not very us. So the plant sale grew and become the Huge Plant Sale. All of the proceeds from the sale are donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
How much money have you raised so far?
We’re at $97,500! The average plant now sells for $7, up from $5 when we started. We like to value-add. People give us ceramic pots or hanging baskets or we find them at op shops and we plant into those and can sell them for a bit more.
You do two sales a year, in autumn and spring. How do you decide when to run the sale?
School holidays. Grandchildren are an essential part of the labour force, so it’s usually the last Sunday of the school holidays, as long as the October long weekend or Easter don’t interfere.
Your backyard is now a nursery for hundreds of different plants. What is it about propagating Keith?
I like the challenge. I’ve watched other people my age retire and just wither because they don’t do anything. And I’m not a golfer!
Tell us a bit about your process.
I use hormone powder on the cuttings, and pot them into 100 percent small particle perlite, which I find works best (and which we also sell at the sale). Most then go into the mist house which keeps them at a constant humidity and then when it’s time to pot them on, we do that into our own potting mix. My granddaughter has helped set up shade houses, constructed from shade cloth strung over gazebo frames from Aldi. I find climate change means plants need more shade. Watering is the big job. It can take two hours a day to water all the pots in the December and January.
Do plants rule your life Maureene?
Keith is a bit obsessed.We propagated a few plants, sold a few and then it became his life. He gets up in the morning and it’s about propagating. It’s wonderful.
The next Huge Plant Sale is on October 13, 10am-3pm, at 45 Parklands Avenue, Lane Cove North. More information at www.thepropagatinggardener.com.au