Released on: 06 May 2015 – Port Macquarie Hastings Council
Amy Bertha York may not be a household name, but the spectacular gardens she lovingly created from foreshore wasteland in the 1960s were renowned amongst local and tourists.
Fifty-five years later, a small, but dedicated, band of volunteers known as Friends of Mrs York are celebrating months of hard work to bring the gardens overlooking Town Beach back to life.
Supported by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, volunteers have cleared the headland and planted more than 150 native plants such as Native Lasiandra and Swamp Lilies.
Mayor Peter Besseling congratulated volunteers on their dedication to re-creating the garden as a legacy to its founder.
“What we see here today is a credit to all the green-thumbed volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and have provided a beautiful area for us all to enjoy,” he said.
Mrs York’s grand-daughter Glenys Pearson was on hand to mark the occasion, commenting that the “family is so pleased to be involved with this project”.
“It is very gratifying to know how much Grandma’s endeavour was appreciated and that it was such a special place for so many people,” she said.
Volunteer supervisor Carol Smallman said the Friends of Mrs York’s Garden formed in October 2014 following a Facebook conversation.
“Many remarked on how beautiful Mrs York’s Garden used to be and how wonderful it would be to re-generate a garden as a legacy to a remarkable lady,” Mrs Smallman explained.
As stage one of the gardens nears completion, Mrs Smallman said the group welcomed more volunteers and donations towards future work.
“We are still in need of a trailer for our water tank and would love to be able to provide some undercover seating,” she said.
Cr Besseling said the new-look gardens have taken the spirit of the original Mrs Yorks Gardens and reinvented it in a modern way by showcasing locally-occurring plants that demonstrate how our native plants can create a garden with fruit, flowers and foliage that attract, and provide habitat for, birds, insects and other animals.
“It’s been Council’s pleasure to work with the Friends of Mrs Yorks Garden by preparing the site, removing weeds, undertaking brush cutting and providing advice on appropriate plants,” he said.
“We look forward to continuing to support the volunteers and watching the project unfold.
“The work they have undertaken so far is very impressive – and the perfect backdrop to Town Beach, which will be enjoyed by everyone who passes by.”
About Mrs Yorks Garden
Once a tangled mess of lantana and kikuyu, Mrs Yorks Gardens was an overwhelming success story, despite the fears of many that the salt-laden winds and poor soil would make the keen gardeners’ vision impossible.
Officially dedicated by the Mayor in 1968, work started on the gardens shortly after Mrs York and her astronomer husband Albert settled in Stewart Street in 1959.
Extending from Town Beach to Allman Hill, the area was transformed with terraced garden beds and walkways, a gazebo, seats, a pond and a windmill-powered waterfall.
Once a dense rainforest area (much like Sea Acres National Park), the gardens boasted a wide variety of European and native plants and colourful flowers with striking foliage.
At the time, Mrs York said her greatest pleasure was “when sick or troubled people find solace in the garden”.
Many visitors to the gardens even sent Mrs York seeds or cuttings of their own favourite plants and flowers, ensuring the gardens became akin to a national horticultural display. At one point, there were even trees from Florida and plants which contained fragments of local history, such as a clump of sugar cane which came from a plant originally sown by a native Jamaican convict named James Wallace.