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Meet Barb Field

Date posted: 30 July 2015

We asked passionate Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide Garden Guide, Barb Field, to answer some questions about her 25 years of taking guided walks at Adelaide Botanic Garden, and this is what she sent back. For more information on free and informative guided walks (363 days a year!) with one of the Friends' many brilliant Garden Guides, click the '"Visitor information" link under your Garden of choice in the menu above, or visit the Friends' website.

How did you start as a Garden Guide?

I joined the Friends in 1989 and shortly after, in its Gazette, I read an article about Garden Guide training. As I was doing a Certificate of Horticulture course at the time, I thought the training would complement it, and so applied to begin in 1990. I had no idea that I'd still be an active guide 25 years later! The Guides are an eclectic and diverse group of people, whose company I always appreciate because we're connected by our mutual interest of showing off the Gardens.

How has the role changed over the years?

Being a guide has been my consuming activity with the Friends and I have no idea of the number of people I've shown around the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens and Government House. I've seen many changes to the Guides' roles - for example, when I commenced guiding there were only regular walks three days per week! I've enjoyed the innovation and research in devising new walks on specific subjects. Over the years I've been the Booking Officer and in the busy months of spring and autumn it became quite challenging at times to fulfil our walk commitments from a base of guides around half the number we have now. I also spent many years organising Guides' fifth Wednesday outings - occasions when we have an opportunity to socialise with other Guides while participating in enjoyable visits or activities designed to further our knowledge in plant-related topics. I've also done publicity for the Guides, which is really quite intense!

Tell us about your vast postcard collection.

When at a Guides Conference in Brisbane in the mid 90s, I was fortunate to meet a Melbourne guide who enthused me to collect postcards featuring Adelaide Botanic Garden, as she did of Melbourne. Over time I've amassed hundreds, but the passion continues for the many elusive cards that I know must be out there. I've also come across a large number of photos since, both of which (postcards and images) get used on my walks from time to time. I'm delighted that Tony Kanellos [Curator of Santos Museum of Economic Botany] chose to do the exhibition, Postcards from the Edge of the City, featuring many from my collection.

What are your favourite parts of Adelaide Botanic Garden? Favourite plants?

It's impossible to say which part of the Garden I like most because there are so many areas that have beauty and meaning to me, but I do find myself often taking visitors into the Australian Forest. Aside from external noises, it's hard to believe among the tall shady trees and soft sawdust paths that we're not outside of the city. In choosing one favourite plant, there are so many I'm drawn to for various reasons that it's similarly hard to name just one. However we're so lucky to have two magnificent specimens of Australian Red Cedar (Toona ciliate) at opposite ends of the garden and I use every opportunity to point out the huge tree near the North Terrace end. We're unlikely to see such glory growing wild these days because they were so heavily logged from forests in eastern Australia.

Fondest memories from the Garden?

My memories of the Garden go back to my childhood where I recall being taken often to picnic and play in the sandpit near the Sunken Garden. I can still recall my anxiety at the fearsome hissing and metallic clanking sounds being emitted from the other side of the wall in what was then the M.T.T. [Municipal Tramways Trust] tram depot! One of my most memorable "walks" occurred some years ago when I was booked to take a morning history walk. It was before the age of the helpful mobile phone and, though the weather was turning nasty, the two women (who were friends) coming from different suburbs were unable to contact each other, having already embarked on their journeys. So three of us simply had to be there. By the time the appointed starting time came, the heavy rain was almost horizontal and our legs had become saturated! But at least I was armed with my trusty photos and postcards! The women readily agreed with my suggestion for a "virtual" walk and talk in the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, accompanied by hot cups of coffee and, in my case, a glass of wine! It was most successful.

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