Life?s turns bring rewarding career

FOR those greenfingers in the nursery business, the advent of spring, through bloomin' September, is a case of making hay while the sun shines.

Ian and Crystal Gale, proprietors of the High Street Nursery in North Rockhampton, started making their hay later in life.

Ian admits he has undergone a complete biological makeover.

Far from taciturn, he sees the irony in going from underground coal miner for a quarter of a century to a nurseryman.

"I tell my customers I spent 25 years of my life digging fossil fuel to ruin the environment and now by nurturing plants I am spending the rest of my life trying to make up and help the environment,'' he chuckled.

From underground mining around Kiama in southern New South Wales, Ian, Crystal and their young sons, Chris and Stuart, relocated to Harrow Creek mines near Dysart in 1978.

The back-breaking work led to other health problems that took their toll.

Eventually he was awarded one of the last of the "old min- ers' pensions'' but in the main his first 12 months in Rockhampton were fairly idle.

"I sent Crystal house hunting and told her to find the house she wanted. Within our means of course,'' Ian related.

Not only did Crystal find the house but it brought with it a life-saving lifestyle change for Ian ? a rainforest garden.

"It was in Mills Avenue backing on to Frenchman's Creek. The elderly couple who had created it found it beyond them in their older years and they reluctantly sold out,'' Ian said.

The Mills Avenue garden was of "champion competition status'' and Ian and Crystal became its guardians in 1988.

Just like the palms and natives he was growing, Ian ferti- lised his interest through completing a horticulturalist certificate course in 1990.

"Before I knew it, over the next decade, what had started as a hobby was getting out of hand. We helped friends for years at nurseries at Parkhurst and Norman Road while expanding the cultivating of palms, black boys and cycads at our own places,'' he said.

That led to growing and supplying shrubs and palms for nursery outlets as well as landscape designing.

In early 2002, the Gales bought the present High Street site which had closed and needed tender loving care.

Since then the business has gradually grown while at the same time the couple has had to cut back a little because of Ian's health problems.

"I had a prostate cancer operation earlier this year but I reckon there are a few more springs in me yet,'' Ian said with confidence.

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