Ballarat horticulturist Bob Whitehead receives Order of Australia Medal in Australia Day Honours 2016

GREEN THUMB: Bob Whitehead’s passion for horticulture and his contribution to the community has seen him receive an OAM. Picture:  Luka Kauzlaric

GREEN THUMB: Bob Whitehead’s passion for horticulture and his contribution to the community has seen him receive an OAM. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

BOB Whitehead knew he wanted to be involved in horticulture from a young age.

“Gardening was in my family. My grandmother was a really keen gardener,” Mr Whitehead said.

“After grade eight we had the choice of going to technical school or high school. I said I wanted to do gardening so I enrolled to go to Burnley School of Horticulture.”

After a two-year course, Mr Whitehead started a long and fulfilling career in horticulture and involvement in the community.

It was Mr Whitehead’s passion for horticulture and long contribution to community service, particularly in Ballarat, that has seen him receive an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the Australia Day Honours.

Mr Whitehead was first employed by Melbourne City Council parks and gardens, where he stayed for 21 years. He then became curator of parks and gardens at the City of Hawthorn for 17 years, before taking up the new position of Ballarat Parks and Gardens director.

Before moving to Ballarat, Mr Whitehead was involved in several community organisations in Melbourne, including Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation vice-president, Box Hill Horticultural Society member and foster carer with his wife, Ruth.

His service to the community continued in Ballarat where he was on the Ballarat General Cemeteries Trust for 21 years, Rotary Club of Ballarat member for more than 20 years and chairman of the Ballarat High School chaplaincy committee.

In the late 1980s, Mr Whitehead created the Lake Esmond Botanic Gardens of Natural Flora. “Lake Esmond was a quarry surrounded by blackberries. We didn’t get as far as we wanted because the funds ran out,” he said.

Over the past 20 years, Mr Whitehead opened his Yendon garden to raise funds for World Vision Australia.

The 90-year-old said he was humbled to receive an OAM, and would celebrate with his five children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“It’s quite an honour to be recognised in such a way. I’m very humbled about it,” he said. “I look back and I would say I have had a very fortunate life. I am very grateful.”