Bendigo man marks 70 years gardening

KEN Maes said there has not been a day since he was 10 years old that he hasn’t pulled up a weed or watered a plant.

The 85-year-old Bendigo green thumb celebrated 70 years of gardening with a flower-planting ceremony at Goldmines Hotel on Saturday.

“Gardening is born in you,” Mr Maes said. 

“Whatever you plant, you get a reward, whether it’s flowers or fruits. It’s soul-enriching.”

Mr Maes got the gardening bug as a 10-year-old in 1938 growing vegetables for his family, before leaving school at 14 to become a gardener with the Bendigo Council.

He worked for 50 years as a gardener until retirement but has continued to volunteer for the past 20 years, most recently at Goldmines.

He has worked at Bendigo landmarks such as Ravenswood Homestead, the Bendigo Racecourse and Hunter House.

But he said decorating the city for the Mayoral Ball every year was his favourite professional memory. 

“I was an avid dancer too, so I was a debutante-partner 13 times,” he said.

Mr Maes has assisted Goldmines owner Rick Walduck to develop the beer garden, which was just named by Tourism Victoria’s website Pieces of Victoria as one of Victoria’s finest beer gardens.

Mr Walduck described the garden as “a jungle” when he first took over two years ago.

He said Mr Maes had been influential in turning the garden into what it is today.

“He has been really helpful and given background, structure and history,” Mr Walduck said.

Mr Maes agreed he had plenty of expertise to offer.

“I am the best rose trimmer you will ever get,” he said.

“Also, there is hardly a tree I cannot name.”

Saturday’s celebration also marked 140 years since the second Goldmines Hotel was built on the Marong Road site.

Mr Walduck is constructing a Goldmines Hotel museum and is requesting anyone who has any photos or memorabilia from Goldmines Hotel to call the pub on 5442 2433.

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