Dirty Nails Survey: Wendy Reid

Wendy Reid is my mum. She’s a short, blonde, plant loving powerhouse and a brilliant gardener (even though she’d never admit to such a thing, her hands speak the truth). Wendy has dedicated much of her life to nurturing – tending to her children, her husband, rescued farm animals and plants and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to call her my mum. She’s never not there, and I am so incredibly grateful. So, as the earliest instigator and supporter of my love of plants, gardening and nature, it’s about time you heard some more about this very special woman, my mum Wendy.

Can you please tell us a little about your life with plants? As a child my father would grow tomatoes every year and mum would plant annuals (she hated the cold in Orange). My Mother-in-law was a very good gardener too. I guess I didn’t really stand a chance. Deep down I have always loved the outdoors and all that goes with it.

Georgina: Understatement – Mum would live in the garden if she could! 

When I got married to my husband Peter I moved to a farm at Molong. Babies and farm work occupied me for many years. In 1995, when the kids were a bit older, I began studying a diploma of horticulture at TAFE, followed by bush regeneration. This opened up a whole new world for me and led to me starting a native plant propagation nursery, growing thousands of plants for revegetation projects within our area. It was very satisfying.

Georgina: Another understatement – whilst working on the farm alongside my dad, raising us kids and contributing to our local community, Mum grew and planted thousands of trees for Landcare groups as well as planting tens of thousands of trees on our own property. We spent our school holidays either burr chopping or tree planting, neither of which were particularly appealing to three teenage kids. It took a few years to fully appreciate her drive and commitment to giving back to the land that sustained us.

I continued to grow native plants after we moved to Orange around a decade ago, mostly selling at our local farmer’s market. I loved educating people about native plants and their application in the garden. I’ve recently stopped growing plants as we’re now spending more time travelling. So, instead of growing them I photograph them! I love capturing them within their natural environment. I also enjoy bushwalking and landscape photography. Give me the red dirt, sunsets and landscape of Central Australia any day, although I could be swayed to visit Western Australia again too!

What’s getting under your fingernails right now? Its very cold in Orange at present.  On our 7-acre rural block there is little or no activity in the garden apart from picking up sticks and monitoring frost damage, pipes etc.

What story would your hands tell us about you? I am embarrassed by my hands. I think they come from my mother’s European side of the family. Everyone says they are worker’s hands, which they are. They’re definitely not pretty and dainty.

Georgina: I love my mum’s hands. They’re hands that one minute could be helping a ewe give birth to a lamb, and the next delicately transplanting a eucalyptus seedling from a punnet to a pot. They’re unpretentious, capable and incredibly nurturing hands.

How do you feel about dirt? I love dirt, compost, mulch, worms.

There’s nothing better than the smell of a healthy soil.”

What are you growing right now? Spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic and various herbs.

Gloves or no gloves when working in the garden? I mostly wear gloves in the garden now. Except when I need the feel of little plants and roots.

What did you learn from your mother-in-law about gardening? My mother-in-law, Olga Reid, was an amazing vegetable gardener and provider. She always managed to have some ‘pretties’ to admire within the garden too.

Being on a farm at Molong, central NSW, water was always an issue. Keeping the soil well built up with organic matter, mulching and well weeded was extremely important to her.

Tell us something about gardening we can’t find in a reference bookMany native plants can be planted deeper than the original soil level. More roots form, assisting their survival.

If you were a plant, what would you be? Why? I think I’d be a white trunked gum. They are so majestic, stand out in a crowd and have an ethereal look.

Georgina: Yep, Queen of the Bush. That’s my mum.

Do you have a remedy for gardener’s hands? if so please shareI wish I did. I do put clear nail polish on splits near my fingernails as it prevents them getting too deep. Hand cream, hand cream and more hand cream!