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8 Mar 2018

Seven extraordinary women that inspire us

In celebration of International Women's Day, we would like to introduce you to seven brilliant women from our world class team of horticulturists and landscape architects. With the help of their leadership, expertise and ambition Sydney's vital green spaces get better and better. Learn more about their important contributions to the Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands.

Anika Croft, Horticulturist

Anika's father was also a Horticulturist and gave her an early admiration and insight into the world of plants. She weaved it into her life in varying aspects as a young adult by growing food and medicinal based crops. It wasn’t until a friend introduced her to permaculture six years ago that she decided to create a career in this field.
She has been working at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney for the past four years starting as an apprentice. Now she is a Horticulturist in the Middle Gardens Precinct where she is currently in the process of curating the begonia beds. You may have enjoyed some of the projects and displays that Anika worked on including;

  • The first display at The Calyx Sweet Addiction, 
  • ​the construction and planting of the number "200" for the Garden's 200th birthday 
  • Spring Walk and Rose Garden mass planting,
  • annual flower bed lawn displays,
  • the Ian Potter’s Children’s Wild Play Garden at Centennial Park
  • Herb Garden annual pruning
  • and the  Pioneer Garden display Barrangal dyara “Skin and Bones.”

Kayte Wilkie, Senior Horticulturist

In 2003, Kayte started her career in horticulture as a fresh-faced apprentice and worked alongside many experts who helped her become the well-rounded horticulturist that she is today. After successfully completing a 4-year apprenticeship, she decided to expand her experience and started her own garden maintenance business and furthering her studies. She now holds certificates in Parks and Gardens Landscape Construction as well a diploma in Landscape Design. 

You can see Kayte's had work and expertise across the Garden including;  

  • the Succulent Garden where she learnt and challenged herself about a new plant collection,
  • The Spring Walk implementing the annual spring bulb display,
  • Lion Gate Lodge where she finessed her style in a high profile curated garden,
  • the Sydney Nursery and Glasshouses where she learnt the requirements needed to maintain tropical plants,
  • and Government House where she learnt what it takes to maintain a Victorian style garden. 

Madeline Arnott-Bryce, Senior Horticulturalist

Madeline has worked across residential and estate gardens, heritage garden dwellings, restoration of native and endemic species and internationally recognised golf courses in Sydney. She is very passionate about sustainable land management, rehabilitation of native plant species and the power of horticultural innovation.

Madeline’s role as a Senior Horticulturalist at Centennial Parklands involves the management of time, resources and scheduling for the horticulture team. Her current projects and expertise include;

  • Procurement of Centennial Parklands Rose Garden species,
  • Redesign of Randwick Gate entry,
  • Ornamental Gardens - soil amendments and remediation plan,
  • Propagation of on-site vegetation - exotic and native,
  • Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrubland Project,
  • Integrated Pest Management,
  • and the Ian Potter Children’s Wildplay Garden  

Yvonne Vale, Horticulture Landscape & Exhibitions Designer

Over the span of her career, Yvonne's motivation has been to contribute to creating more liveable and humanised spaces full of interest, textures, colours and shapes. One of her strengths is her ability to analyse the opportunities, constraints and parameters of a project, and formulate solutions using her ability to think outside the box. 

Yvonne has been involved in the design of a range of projects including:

  • the PlantClinic, Woolloomoloo and South Africa precincts at Royal Botanic Garden Sydney,
  • Exciting new projects that will be unveiled at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Sydney,
  • Entry, Building Colour palette and Xanthorrea Garden at the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan,
  • Celebration Steps, Discovery Centre and Rose Garden Precinct at Centennial Park, and Kippax Lake at Moore Park

Sophie Vella, Plant Mapping and Records Officer

Sophie works as part of the team who manage the botanical database that stores the data of the living collections. She assists in managing the living collection data by undertaking the stocktake of each plant across all three Gardens, as well as recording their GPS coordinates and helping to produce maps with this data. 

Providing accurate data, research and interpretation of the plant species in the garden gives Sophie satisfaction that her work is helping visitors to the Gardens to learn about and appreciate the plants around them. She is currently involved in a significant project, transitioning the living collection data to a new database. This involves the migration of 277,451 plant accession records and rolling out training to over 50 staff.  She is also working on researching and analysing the gardens’ Protea collection with the purpose to have it listed as a National Collection.
Sophie’s favourite part of her job is being able to interact with, and learn about, a vast variety of interesting plants. She feels lucky she works in a role where she can appreciate the beauty of nature every day.

Marion Whitehead, Horticultural Apprentice

Marion has always had an affinity for plants and loved studying plant science at university, but now she is working with plants in a much more practical way at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah. Being an apprentice means that she is constantly learning new and varied skills as well as the passionate people in the Garden. 

She is currently working with the turf team learning everything there is to know about grass and installing new turf at the entrance of the Garden over the next three months. You can see other projects that Marion has worked across the Garden including;

  • Planting and irrigation of the dahlia beds in the formal garden,
  • maintenance of both the Breen Children’s Garden and Jungle Lodge
  • and pruning proteas throughout the South African Rock Garden.

Elizabeth Docking, Community Greening officer

Elizabeth considers herself fortunate to be employed in a position that allows her to be an advocate for the areas in life that she is most passionate: gardening, education, community building and assisting others to reach their potential. A testament to how fulfilling she finds this role is reaching a 10 year milestone in the position this month.

She works with a range of people, many coming from a position of disadvantage. Her greatest thrill is to see people blossom in a garden environment and some of her career highlights over the past 10 years with Community Greening include;

  • Speaking at BGANZ conference with a Community Greening member,
  • having clients she has nominated win local and state awards, including for their volunteer work,
  • working with Bidwill Community Garden over 10 years and having their story told at an international horticulture education conference,
  • working with Mission Australia’s Benjamin Short Grove in Orange, a facility for vulnerable people.
  • working with community members on displays for the Flower Show, judged by the Mayor of Orange.


Ambitious leaders

This is just a snapshot of the brilliant women that work hard every day to maintain the beauty and significance of the Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands across Marketing, Strategy, Development, Planning, Corporate Governance, Education and much more. Another aspect of our organisation that embraces women in leadership roles can be seen in our Science department. You can read more about the important conservation and research they do on our Women in Science blog here. 

It's important that we #PressforProgress throughout the year, not just on International Women's Day. We encourage all visitors and staff to take part in the campaign by forging positive visibility of women. To find out other ways women are supporting each other this year visit the official website here. 

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