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Plant demand grows for Alpine Nursery

Posted 18 March 2020

There is a lot of important rehabilitation and revegetation work that goes on at ski resorts outside of the snow season and a little-known entity of the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board delivers this service.

That operation is the Victorian Alps Nursery which the MHARMB took over in 2005 to oversee the propagation and supply of alpine and subalpine plants to all major Victorian ski resorts and in addition, Perisher Valley NSW.

“Along with our core work of growing plants for the alpine ski fields and National Parks, we also provide plants for bushfire recovery, peatland bog restoration, threatened species habitat and we grow lowland plants found in the Ovens Valley,” Nursery Manager Rebecca Read said.

“As the only supplier of local provenance indigenous plants to Victorian alpine areas and Ovens Valley we grow up to 200 different species. 

“Additionally, we have the only seed bank for use in conservation for Victoria’s alpine region and it is also the only seedbank I’m aware of for lowland species in surrounding areas of the North East.”

Demand by alpine resorts

Plants grown for resort management boards and ski companies are used in the revegetation of ski runs, soil and snow stabilisation, rehabilitation of native wildlife habitat and recovery following infrastructure works. It is currently the busiest time of the year for the team at the Vic Alps Nursery having recently delivered plants to its Victorian and NSW resorts.

“We delivered about 10,000 plants between Perisher, Mt Buller and Falls Creek this February,” Rebecca said.

“Perisher are working on three ski runs with degraded areas and fill-in planting for a new run/chairlift that was built last year, as well as planting following water weed removal. 

“NSW National Parks also ordered plants for village beautification works and plants to extend habitat for the endangered Guthega Skink.

“Falls Creek were supplied plants for an alpine bog within the village to help slow water flow and recover from weed infestation. 

“They are also planting other areas within the village that require slope stabilisation after weed control works.

“Mt Buller RMB is managing a five-year project to revegetate Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat so for this we grow a selection of possum food plants, plants that produce berries and seeds high in oils and fats.”

Growing alpine flora

At Hotham the MHARMB used 2,000 plants in late November for a project on the Eastern side of the summit just above ‘The Cross’ corner on the Great Alpine Road. Recent years have seen about 40,000 plants put in along Swindlers Valley following major pipeline works and nearly 30,000 on the Snake Gully ski run after a landslip.

With this season’s alpine flora now delivered, propagation will begin with respective species being sourced from specific areas or provenance where plantings are to occur. 

This means plants being grown from Mt Hotham material can only be planted at Mt Hotham. 

“Autumn is the time we take cuttings to start propagating many of our alpine plant species for the following year,” Rebecca said.

“Most alpine plants take a minimum of one year to grow while slower growing species take up to two years to grow just to a size of 15cm. 

“In winter we pot up certain alpine species and deliver our lowland plants, mainly for Landcare and local government authority projects and then come spring we begin seed sowing. 

“Along with delivering alpine plants at this time of year, we propagate all our lowland plants early on in summer.” 

More big projects ahead

With contracts for growing, supplying and even planting now coming from many directions including the North East Catchment Management Authority, it doesn’t look like work at the Vic Alps Nursery will be slowing down anytime soon. 

“The next major project we are preparing for is to supply plants for the Mt Buller Water Storage Project, which we are currently collecting seeds for,” Rebecca said.

“Resort Management have had a 100 megalitre storage dam constructed at the summit of Mt Buller, five times the size of Hotham’s Loch Dam. 

“The construction footprint covers 6.17 hectares which also includes spoil sites where rock and other materials were stored during construction.  All of these areas require rehabilitation. 

“It is a large-scale revegetation project, and a site that poses many more challenges than typical lowland revegetation. 

“It is a 10-year project, and with at least 15,000 plants required per year for the first five years, we will be busier than ever.”

Victorian Alps Nursery also supply seedlings to the general public, by appointment only. To enquire please contact Rebecca Read on 0408 151 130.

We delivered about 10,000 plants between Perisher, Mt Buller and Falls Creek this February.

Rebecca Read, Nursery Manager