Ally Styger, one of our youngest GGP members, works on a few special gardens in some of Melbourne’s upmarket suburbs.


Ally Styger, 30, has been working as a gardener for four years. She was mentored by former SGA board member Jane Dennithorne and tends to a dozen or so gardens in Melbourne’s south east – Hawthorn, South Yarra, Toorak and Glen Iris.

What is your favourite garden?

My favourite garden to work in is in Toorak – one of Jane’s old gardens. It has a very old house with two huge Liquidambars that take up the whole front yard and there are beautiful plants at the base and along the driveway. It’s semi-formal with box hedging, but there’s no formality in the garden bed, there’s just lots of different plants in there.

What gardening work do you do?

All sorts – pruning, planting, digging, mulching….Plant selection. No lawn care or mowing.

How many days a week do you work?

It started off slowly but now I work about four days a week. It offers good flexibility. I have enough clients to keep me busy: some weekly, fortnightly, monthly. All regular. Some people ring me up two to three times a year and I give them a hand.

Where did your interest in gardening come from?

My parents were interested in gardening and my Mum’s a very good gardener. She has a big block in North Balwyn which is completely planted out and shielded from the neighbours … full of trees, screening plants and a fernery.

Did you study horticulture?

I studied Parks and Gardens at Melbourne Polytechnic in Fairfield. While I was studying I was working one day a week for some friend’s parents and Jane got in touch with me. She’s friends with my aunt and uncle and she was moving to the country and was looking for someone to take over quite a few of her gardens. We have a great relationship. I call on her quite often for advice on things like the history of a property and plants.

How do you find working on your own?

I find it challenging working on my own from time to time, but I get to listen to a lot of podcasts and through that I get to listen to a lot of stories, learn, catch up on the news.

I mostly work independently, but sometimes work with the client in their garden which can be quite enjoyable. They teach me how to do things. I mean there are so many different theories on pruning, winter planting and feeding I get to experience lots of different ideas by working with people in their gardens.

What do you love most about your job?

I rent with friends and have lots of pot plants. I get to experience a lot of plants that I love in other people’s gardens that I don’t have the opportunity to grow myself. For example, I enjoy the scent of the daphnes in the gardens that I work in – it’s probably my favourite flower scent.

Do you find being involved with SGA useful?

The GGP talks are amazing, listening to experts in their field…..I use books and the internet a lot but actually listening to them speak and go into extra detail and being able to ask questions is great. The variety of speakers is also excellent.

Do you have a favourite speaker?

The talk tonight (14/8/2018) – Chris England of Merrywood Plants – was great. It got me inspired. I would like to work on an espalier.

Does being a GGP help with networking?

Definitely. I wouldn’t have much contact with other gardeners if it wasn’t for these evenings. Even if I don’t work with them, it’s nice to know they are out there, nice to build relationships with other gardeners and bounce off their energy.

Are there good opportunities for young people in horticulture?

It’s a huge industry. It’s really easy to get work. I find it quite easy to go to people’s houses and tend to their gardens. There’s a lot of work out there.

How do you see the future of horticulture?

There are positives and negatives… One negative, for example, is that most of my friends my age have very little or no interest in gardening. Many friends are amazed that I know things about plants.

My mother’s generation – they just all knew the basics. Go to a lot of friends’ houses and their backyards – grass is long, hardly ever mowed. I really appreciate a mowed lawn and tidy garden even if it’s just a rental.

I loved studying because then I was in contact with a whole lot of people my age who loved plants.