Student design to make Gold Coast school garden bloom

Griffith botany student Natalie McLeod's landscape design is set to transform a Benowa State School garden.

The garden of a Gold Coast primary school is set to score a complete makeover with a landscaping design created by a Griffith University botany student.

As part of their assessment during COVID-19, second-year botany students created potential garden designs for Benowa State School, aiming for their individual designs to be implemented in what was previously a relatively mundane space.

Natalie McLeod’s vision for the garden got the nod, with the aspiring ecologist and conservationist both proud and excited to see her plan come to life.

“I’m delighted to play a small part in fostering generations of student’s connection to nature and Indigenous Australian culture,” Natalie said.

“The botany course honestly changed the way I see the world.

“Now I can’t go for a walk without identifying plants and pondering over their incredible evolution, biology, and ecology.”

Her design was inspired by the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens near the school and includes native plants like grass trees, Casuarina, Billy Buttons and Banksias.

Natalie specifically chose plant species of high cultural value to the traditional custodians of the land, the Yugambeh people, as had been requested, to honour the school’s ongoing commitment to integrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into primary education.

Natalie McLeod’s garden design for Benowa State School.

Benowa State School principal Mike Josey said the garden would provide an active, tactile and ever-changing learning environment and he had been “blown away” by the designs.

“The garden in its entirety will provide ever-changing mini ecosystems attracting a range of insect, bird and wildlife to the space, making this literally a living, breathing classroom,” Mr Josey said.

“Of special significance will be the outdoor yarning circle space providing an authentic outdoor learning space, the vegetable and herb gardens tended on a regular basis, and the bug hotels – a great source of curiosity and wonder discovered through a magnifying glass.

The space that is to be landscaped.

“Generations of children will love being able to explore and play in this environment, both as part of formal and informal learning opportunities, watching the seasons come and go, and the changing landscape as the plants mature.”

Griffith Environment and ScienceEcology and Evolution discipline head Professor Catherine Pickering recently visited the school site and said Natalie’s winning design was chosen from 20 options submitted for the class.

“It was so exciting to have the chance to walk around the site and see the prominent area facing Benowa Rd,” Professor Pickering said.

“The design Natalie developed incorporates so many important principles for gardens on the Gold Coast, such as low maintenance attractive water saving gardens and using local native plants, including high conservation value and bush tucker species.

The school yard is set to be transformed.

“For students in our course this year, it was a great opportunity during lockdown to each design a garden for a local schools or community group.

“The ground works will start in a few weeks, and so we will soon see how her design comes to life.”

The project is tipped for completion in April 2021 and is supported by funding from Federal Member for Moncrieff, Angie Bell MP.