Geraldton community stalwart Stan Maley reflects on a life of gardens

Edward ScownGeraldton Guardian
Stan Maley at the completion of the demonstration garden at Maitland Park
Camera IconStan Maley at the completion of the demonstration garden at Maitland Park Credit: Facebook

Stan Maley has been a stalwart of Geraldton’s community gardening initiatives since moving here more than 20 years ago.

Now fighting cancer, the 83-year-old reflected on a life well spent in gardens big and small.

Mr Maley learned about gardening in about the hardest possible way. The owner of a broadacre grain farming operation in the 1960s, he was forced to sell after a string of poor harvests, which he put down to his youthful lack of knowledge.

He’s certainly built on that over the years, as seen in his decade of covering local gardens in his Midwest Times column Garden of Life.

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“The people of Geraldton, when you drive around the city, you don’t see many gardens out the front. They tend to focus on the backyard,” Mr Maley told the Geraldton Guardian last week.

“It’s nice to be able to look at some of the great gardens people don’t usually get to see.”

In 2015, Mr Maley hatched a plan to turn Maitland Park into a massive botanical garden, birthing the Friends of Geraldton Gardens community group.

After some early hiccups, the project is now coming along well, and the 40-strong team is just waiting for the right weather to plant the native seeds.

“The money’s available to begin the works but not finish all of them, so they’ve (FroGGs) decided to write to the grant providers, because we would rather begin our operations in April when we can harvest the seed, and plant it when its raining.”

His botanical dream has kept him busy over the past six years, but not so busy that he couldn’t cultivate all manner of fruit and veg in the Geraldton Community Garden on Fitzgerald Street.

“There’s nothing flash about it, but a lot of good produce comes out of it,” he said.

“The reward of the product isn’t what I look at though, it’s the interaction with the soil, and the joy of digging in and planting something.”

Unfortunately it has been harder for Mr Maley to get out in the garden in recent months.

He was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and, while he is out of hospital-based palliative care, daily nurses visits at home are essential to help him manage his pain.

In his words: “I’ve felt better.”

In a post to the FroGGs Facebook page, Mr Maley’s vision was described as “a great legacy”.

“He has loved Geraldton, mainly the people of Geraldton, and he has given us his heart and soul,” the group posted.

His absence is certainly felt in the many community groups he’s a part of. But his contribution to them will be regarded for many years to come.

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