A sprinkling of prickly characters, some amazing plants and enough dirt to keep things interesting ensures For the Pleasure of the People: A history of 150 years of the Colac Botanic Gardens is as colourful as a bed of annuals.

Written by former mayor, passionate community advocate and keen gardener Helen Paatsch, For the Pleasure of the People, is a wry and gorgeous ramble through the first 150 years of these impressive and much-loved botanic gardens.

The title comes from garden designer William Guilfoyle’s description of the gardens he was commissioned to design for the people of Colac in 1910. Helen also chose the title in response to the number of locals who generously shared their memories of the Colac Botanic Gardens with her, and in so doing inspired much of the book.

Helen delves deeply, digging up facts on important recent history, such as why does the contentious issue of cars in the Gardens keep springing up? Helen also uncovers fascinating details about other important historical moments, such as what happened to the emus and kangaroos? And, why did someone blow up the original gazebo?

The result is a lively, lovely look at the history of the Colac Botanic Gardens, which in turn allows readers a glimpse of the trends, styles, rules and regulations that have dominated this corner of the world over the past 150 years.

Helen traces the Gardens’ story from the gazetting of the land “for botanical and recreative purposes” in 1865 to the present day.

As well as presenting the chronology of the Garden’s development, the book includes chapters dealing with the plant collection (including trees on the Heritage Register), the Friends group and the three reports that have guided the development of the Gardens since 1911.

Helen’s gentle way with words and sharp wit make this an informative, fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable read.

Now in its second edition, it is available from the Friends at $29.95 plus postage.