Deb Nette is a Teacher in Horticulture Programs at Melbourne Polytechnic, Fairfield. She has been in the horticulture industry since she completed a Trade Certificate in Nursery 40 years ago.

What subjects do you teach?

Propagation, Revegetation, Botany, Diagnose Plant Health Problems, Managing Plant Cultural Practices and Recommending Plants. I teach the Diploma of Horticulture students, Diploma of Applied Horticulture, Certificate lV in Horticulture and Certificate lll to the Apprentice streams.

How long have you been teaching?

About 10 years. Before that I ran my own gardening business. I did garden design, had a maintenance business, worked in plant nurseries, worked for design companies, I worked for local government – worked in pretty well everywhere in horticulture.

How did the teaching work come up?

Well, I hurt my back and had to stop working. I couldn’t do gardening or landscaping. I did some work with the DEPI going to primary schools with my dog teaching responsible pet ownership. Then I ended up back in a retail nursery. Then I was a consultant with Bulleen Art and Garden for a while. Then started to teach.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy working with enthusiastic gardeners – all the students we have, they are here because they want to be.  We have plants in common, we love plants.

Do you garden yourself at home?

Yes. I have a lovely big garden in Fairfield. It’s not as beautiful as it used to be because I’m working fulltime and have other hobbies – it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. But it’s a pretty good garden.

One of your hobbies is bike riding. I hear you recently went riding in Europe?

We went riding through Italy. One day we rode into Switzerland and were riding back across the Swiss Italian border. Cadel Evans pulled up next to us at traffic lights and we started talking to him and rode with him for about an hour.

What are your biggest challenges in teaching?

The biggest challenge in teaching is ensuring I deliver training to students in a professional and wholistic manner. I have a motto “If one of my students is not happy I’m not doing my job properly”

We have students of many ages and backgrounds, ensuring that we recognise their training needs is really important.

Do you have any concerns about the future of horticulture education?

No. We’ve seen a huge resurgence in the interest in people wanting to be educated in horticulture in the last three to four years. Our enrollments have practically tripled.  Many more mature people are wanting to get into horticulture, which makes me happy.

What do you think is the most important change we can make in gardening for the environment?

Good gardening practices and environmentally friendly gardening practices complement each other.

I think we need to remember that if we understand basic plant health needs we can incorporate respect for the environment in all of our gardening pursuits.

Why is it important to be a GGP?

For me, I need to maintain currency and know what is best practice in the industry so I can deliver that information to my students. But, most of us work in isolation – we might work in our own garden business, we might work in a nursery on our own, we might work on our own l crew on a maintenance job…. We don’t get out and talk to people, we don’t have time. Unless we have opportunities like Green Gardening Professionals, you don’t find out what’s going on. It’s really important that we network through groups like GGP.

What was your favourite GGP peer evening?

I liked the native grass man Dr Ian Chivers, the Evolution of Plants (Dr Greg Moore) and Soils (Dr Peter May). I like them all.

Deb is married to arborist Graeme Hughes.