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By Jesse Graham

A Lilydale man with a passion for gardening is hoping to jump-start a community garden in town, with a small patch of sunflowers coming into bloom over summer.
Late last year, Lilydale man Paul Dempsey planted sunflowers along the path that connects Lilydale Lake to the station precinct end part of town, adjacent to Taco Bill.
He told the Mail on 8 February that the sunflowers, now standing about two metres tall, are the beginnings of a plan to form a community garden in the area.
“This is an ideal site, because it’s central to Lilydale, visible, accessible and most valuable for encouraging confidence in community garden,” Mr Dempsey said.
“I’ve planted fruit trees in there for the long term, thinking it’s … important to grow as much food as possible as close to community as possible.
“I thought they would inspire people … which has been the case – people love the sunflowers, the bees love them.”
He said the sunflowers had already started discussions, with people expressing support for the garden.
Mr Dempsey said the next step would be forming an incorporated group and speaking to council to make the garden official.
The end goal, he said, would be a group holding seasonal working bees, cultivating different kinds of edible plants to beautify the space and provide food for people after fresh, local produce.
“Up in Daylesford, most people came along (to working bees) and just talked … occasionally, people came along with a lot of energy and wanted to do a lot of work,” he said.
“It’s great to have a place where people can harness that good energy.”
Yarra Ranges Council’s parks and environment manager David Harper said Mr Dempsey had approval to carry out “minimal planting to brighten up the garden area”.
“We are sure that the people who use the path will continue to appreciate the colour the sunflowers provide,” he said.
“This sort of detailed maintenance and planting work can only be achieved through volunteer time and commitment – community gardens require a contingent of volunteer community members to maintain them in order for them to be successful.”
“The location is important to ensure the community is engaged in a space and is a big consideration for council when reviewing the requests.”
As for the sunflowers, Mr Dempsey said after cockatoos have eaten the seeds, he will use the plants as mulch to grow more plants – and a few more sunflowers.
Anyone with interested in supporting the garden project can email paul.dempsey@hotmail.com

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