If Mark Seebeck had a dollar for every plant he’s nurtured, he’d be a very wealthy man.
Mark is Hamilton City Council’s Municipal Nursery Manager, and in an average year his team of seven staff produce a staggering half a million plants.
They have, as the cliché goes, the greenest of thumbs.
The Council’s Municipal Nursery is tucked away off Cobham Dr, near Hamilton Gardens: it’s hidden behind tall fences, and unless you were looking for it, you wouldn’t know it was there. It’s been at the site since the 1950s, and the first glasshouse – which is still standing – was built in 1958.
Mark has been in his management role for two years, but it’s not his first stint at the Municipal Nursery. He spent nine years learning his trade at the Nursery while in his 20s, “went away, learned some things, and came back”.
And back to those half a million plants. Mark says the plants produced at the nursery comprise specimens used across the city – from revegetation and gully planting projects, to traffic islands, ornamentals parks and lakesides, and street trees.
“Nursery work is very seasonal,” Mark says. “We have a couple of fixed dispatch times when we send the plants out.
“At this time of year, we’re at the end of the cycle and we’re sending all the native specimens out. Once we’re done with this, we’ll be into the start of the season when the seedlings are germinated.”
Because the seed stock is important, one of Mark’s team is specifically tasked with collecting native species seeds from sites across the city: “Over the last three to four months, she’s been out collecting the seeds, and they’re now in trays growing into little seedlings.”
In coming weeks, the tens of thousands of bedding plants used in the city’s traffic islands will be prepared: “That’s 2,500 trays of plants, so it’s quite a labour-intensive job – a real production line,” he says.
“When I started back here two years ago, I joked winter would be our quietest time – well, it’s not!” he says.
Nursery work faces additional challenges as the climate and weather patterns change. Mark says February – dry and hot – presents a real challenge for the nursery team, with temperatures climbing to 42 degrees in some parts of the site. Conversely, frosted nights are needed to “harden the plants up” and make sure they can endure the conditions they’ll go into.
Mark says his team has a strong sense of pride in their work, and to enhance that he sends them to check out some of the sites where their plants grow, to appreciate the value of their contribution to the city and its environment.
“We’re probably quiet little achievers,” he grins.