Leading the way

Kellee Reissinger Coordinator Geelong Botanic Gardens In 21st Century Garden Photo Gail Thomas

Kellee Reissinger’s lifetime passion for horticulture has recently seen her appointed Co-ordinator of the Geelong Botanic Gardens where she is enthusiastically leading the way on introducing the Gardens to a broader audience where the future is undefined and ready for the next evolutionary phase.

Working at Van Loons nursery at Wallington while still at school saw the seed planted for Kellee’s career in horticulture. Initially it was a desire to be a park ranger but also work with all plants. Following an advanced certificate in horticulture Kellee worked for two years at Barwon Water revegetating the Barwon River and then came to the Geelong Botanic Gardens. While doing her trade she won a scholarship to go to Japan where she lived and worked for ten months before returning to the Geelong Gardens working on the establishment of the 21st Century garden.

After travelling around the world for just over a year Kellee applied for a three month job at Zoos Victoria at Werribee and ended up being there for eighteen years working on the development of garden beds and exhibits and horticultural side of things for zoos including seed saving, garden beds, browse, collection and exhibit maintenance for the animals and establishing the new gorilla enclosure. With the Zoo predominantly showcasing South African fauna she cites that as an influence for her love of South African plants while a love of southern conifers led her to travel to South America and look at the araucarias there, to Patagonia and the beautiful Valdivian forests.

Kellee recalls co-writing a paper on understanding the principles of a Botanic Garden back in 2003.  It was handed to her on her return to the GBG, and she can honestly say it has stood the test of time. Understand the Principle: Break the Rules was a clear statement that aimed to prompt discussion on regional botanic gardens and their capacity to facilitate and contribute to the world botanic agenda.

“This is 100% relevant now as it was twenty years ago. I see my time here in Geelong will be in the arena of ‘Opening the Green Curtain’.  I liken the GBG to a sleeping giant, or sleeping beauty, awaiting the call of those responsible for its future to stand up and lead us into the next chapter of this magnificent Garden.

I think the Gardens are about to have a big growth spurt. Coming full circle, it’s my role and responsibility to promote and engage people with the Botanic Gardens, strategically put in place future planning, climate relevance and figure out what our place is in the botanic world. It’s about management, looking at the whole collection of plants, where it sits and focusing now on the future.”


Gail Thomas

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