James Watson's plant giveaway

James Watson's plant giveaway

Thursday January 23rd 2014

James Watson's plant giveaway

Port Douglas pensioner James Watson has been noticeably absent from Nautilus Street in recent weeks.

Almost every day for the past three years, Kenyan-born James – in his in conspicuously bright tropical shirts and straw hat - was a familiar sight at Four Mile, tending his beloved median strip garden.

Even as Parkinson’s Disease progressively impaired James’ nerves, sending him into a self-described “H-E-L-L”, he continued to transform the once haphazard, weedy median strip mess into a tropical oasis.

Now though, he’s been forced - on doctor’s orders - to down his gardening tools permanently.

“I love that garden,” he said after a recent hospitalisation.

"But now, three years after I received the plaque from [then Cairns Regional Council Cr] Julia Leu [for beautification of Nautilus Street], I really have slogged myself and unfortunately…I was told by the doctor, 'You’ve got to stop.'"

“I’ve got stacks of plants here - I’ve been using my backyard as my nursery - and the [property manager] says I have to clean it up. There’s beautiful plants here – frangipanis and stuff – that are just waiting to be planted, but I’m not allowed to.”

James has about 40 plants in his backyard to give away, including frangipanis and cordylines. Anyone interested can pick up one or more plants from his home at 19 Martin Scullet Drive, Craiglie, this Saturday, January 25.  

Meanwhile, Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu assured the community the Nautilus Street garden is safe.

“James is an amazing person who has volunteered his time and energy to many projects and organisations over the years,” she said.

“He has done a wonderful job beautifying Nautilus Street and sadly he now in poor health. I want to keep the garden alive and maintained and have asked council staff to review the current maintenance schedule and develop a plan for the area based on Council’s capacity and community expectations.”

“It would be fabulous if more community members, especially those living close by or in Nautilus Street, could assist if they think the garden is important and have a bit of time to do so. In the interim, I have also asked staff to deal with the excess mulch issue and the most urgent maintenance issues.”

James is also hoping to rally community support for his inspirational book, Songs of the Heart: For You and Me, co-authored with his 13-year-old grandson, Jai. The postcard-size book combines photographs of Port Douglas scenery with short affirmations.

Songs of the Heart can be purchased for a gold coin donation (to cover printing costs) at either The Newsport, opposite the Owen Street Post Office, or The Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette, in the Saltwater Building on Grant Street.