The Visionary Behind the Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens: Resident Ray Steward

Ray Steward

Born with a green thumb and a heart of gold, Ray Steward was always destined to share his passion for gardening and allow others to bask in the beauty of nature.

“When I was just a boy, I longed to be a sheep farmer, but that quickly changed when I got involved with the vegetable and flower garden at my high school,” says Ray.

“I had discovered a love for gardening, and when I left school, I went on to study horticulture at university in Sydney.”

Ray landed his first job at the Sydney Botanical Gardens while he was studying and ended up staying there for 11 years, dabbling in development and management before packing his bags and heading off to Adelaide to become the field supervisor for t he local botanic gardens.

Then it was time to relocate again, this time to the humble town of Albury for five years. “I was in charge of all the parks there. It was a smaller job than what I had finished up doing in Brisbane,” says Ray. It wasn’t until 1970 when Ray was appointed to be Manager of the Parks Department for the Brisbane City Council that he decided to stay put and get started on a new project, and that was when the curation of the city’s second botanical garden finally commenced.

“The site was originally covered in weeds and rubbish, it was nothing special,” says Ray. But once the lake at the back of the gardens was built and the first curator was appointed, the slopes of Mt Coot-Tha were well and truly on their way to becoming the gorgeous gardens we know and love today.

Although Ray is now retired and has put down the gardening tools, he is still surrounded by many work-related mementos and botanical artworks displayed in his Taigum home, showing just how committed he was to his field of work.

Ray’s top three tips to maintain a garden:

  1. Always use plenty of mulch
  2. Select the right plants for the right place
  3. Australian plants are the way to go

You can read more about the beginnings of the Botanical Gardens HERE

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