PLANTMAN: Former nurseryman and landscape gardener John Turnbull is the Tweed Shire Council Bushland Officer.
PLANTMAN: Former nurseryman and landscape gardener John Turnbull is the Tweed Shire Council Bushland Officer.

Best to go bush with native specialist

FORMER nurseryman and landscape gardener John Turnbull has been passionate about native flora since his school and Boy Scout days.

The 64-year-old is currently the Tweed Shire Council Bushland Officer and his latest project is a new online guide to help home gardeners and professional landscapers, particularly in the Byron and Tweed Shires, to choose the right native species for their gardens and projects.

"It allows users to make better informed plant selection choices that can benefit their local bushland," he said of the new webguide.

"Choosing local native plants prevents the introduction of species that will invade and degrade our natural environment and reduce it capacity to support our unique native fauna and flora; much of my budget is spent on controlling escaped garden plants so any reduction in these introductions is beneficial."

The guide was funded by the NSW Government's Environmental Trust Education Grant Program of 2015 with the support of Brunswick Valley Landcare Inc., Tweed Landcare Inc., local garden clubs and other support groups.

According to John it's aimed at complementing the existing hard-copy "My Local Native Garden" booklet, which is available for a gold coin donation from Council offices.

After a lifetime working with them, John believes native plants can only enhance a garden and is keen to encourage home gardeners to plant more of them.

"Locally occurring native plants have an inherent beauty and come in a wide range of forms and habits; many have beautiful flowers or foliage flushes," he said.

"Planted in the areas where they occur naturally they are easy and quick to establish and once established will require less inputs to sustain them in relation to watering and fertiliser. 

"They also provide nesting, shelter and feeding resources for many local native fauna species."

John is obviously passionate about native flora and has worked with plants in all sorts of forms over the years including working as ecologist mapping native vegetation for Local Government Areas in both NSW and Queensland, a nurseryman and landscape gardener.

"I have a Nursery Trade certificate that I began at Burnley Horticultural College in Melbourne and finished at Wollongbar TAFE where I also gained a Certificate of Horticulture both in the early-mid 80's before completing a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Protected Area Management) from University of Queensland," he said.

His current job Tweed Shire Bushland Officer sees him work within the Natural Resource Management Unit and manage Tweed Council's bushland estate (2.000+ha).

"On ground this translates into ensuring that we manage the bushfire risk posed by our bushland to life, property and the environment and management of invasive weed species, many of which are escaped garden plants (Council also manages for insect pests and vertebrate pests but not my role)," John said.

While the guide is easy to use and available online at

Council will hold some short training courses in how to use the guide. To register your interest in attending one of these sessions, phone John at the Council on (02) 6670 2400.

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