15-02-1945 – 23-7-2015
When Peter took up hobbies, he did it with a vengeance, be it gardening, metal detecting, growing orchids or conserving them.
I first met Pete at an ANOS Geelong meeting in 2005, when he introduced himself and made sure I was introduced and welcomed into the group. That was the start of a great friendship.
Pete was already a very experienced and successful grower of exotic orchids at the Maribyrnong Orchid Society and was heavily involved in the running of that society, including being its Show Convenor for 12 shows. Exotic orchids were his passion, especially masdevallias and cymbidiums – he had a newly constructed orchid house specifically for cymbidiums.
He joined ANOS Geelong in 2002 where his conversion to growing Australasian orchids began in earnest. The following year he joined ANOS Victoria, initially involved with growing epiphytic orchids, but soon fell under the spell of our beautiful terrestrial orchids, developing a love for our local orchids and their conservation.
Pete soon became involved in the running of ANOS Geelong, first as a committee member, then vice-president and then as secretary, a position he held for seven years with distinction. Typical of Pete, he made it clear on joining the committee that he was also committed to the Terrestrial Study and Conservation Groups of ANOS Victoria, and there would be activities that would take precedence over ANOS Geelong activities (including the Annual Show held on the first weekend in November). Pete would not join the committee unless the other committee members accepted and were okay with this.
Pete was fascinated by terrestrial orchids and took advantage of the ANOS Victoria tuber bank, rapidly becoming a very successful and skilled grower of these orchids, especially those that were difficult to grow. His Cymbidium house was invaded by terrestrials and fairly soon was completely converted to their growth. As his skills grew, he became an important donor to the ANOS tuber bank.
ANOS Geelong members will remember Pete’s contribution to our annual tuber day. Pete organised tuber donations from Helen Richards, Dick Thomson and others, as well as providing a considerable number himself. The success of Pete’s hard work in encouraging the growing of terrestrial orchids at ANOS Geelong can be seen on the display benches each month. He was a great mentor and teacher to new growers, always free with advice and help. When Pete could no longer look after his orchids, he made sure that the rarer or more difficult to grow orchids went to experienced growers, while others went to growers just starting out.
Pete was justly proud of his terrestrial orchids, and was the recipient of the annual Everett Foster award for the best terrestrial benched at an ANOS Geelong meeting or show from its inception in 2011 to 2014.
In 2012 he became the ANOS Victoria Conservation Coordinator, a role which involved a lot of work and which he carried out with great distinction. The conservation work took him and the rest of us to all corners of the State. While there were many orchids that Peter worked with, he took a particular interest in Prasphyllum sauveolens at Miners Rest near Ballarat, Diuris fragrantissima, the Fragrant Double Tail and Diuris basaltica, Little Golden Moths, the last two growing close to his home.
At Pete’s funeral, many colleagues from ANOS Victoria and Geelong, State departments (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning , Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria), Academia plus private contractors he had worked with were in attendance to farewell him – a testament to the regard in which Peter was held in the orchid world.
His special territory was the Long Forest Reserve area near Bacchus Marsh and the Dumpy Greenhood –Pterostylis truncata, which grew there. He became the ‘expert’ on the orchids of the area ensuring that the orchids were well looked after, both in the reserve and along the road side. There are 5 square markers along the Long Forest road ensuring that the rarer orchids are not damaged by any roadside works – they will also remind us of Peter.
Pete was heavily involved in orchid reintroductions in the Wimmera. The two years he was battling cancer were the first times in almost 10 years that Pete wasn’t involved, and his presence was sadly missed.
Pete and I became travelling partners soon after I joined ANOS Vic. We travelled many thousands of kilometres together on orchid trips in Victoria, South Australia and NSW, and shared many a motel room or cabin over 7 years. A favourite pastime for us in the evening after a pub meal was to download the orchid photos taken that day and, over a bottle of red (not Shiraz!), try and identify the different species photographed. Sometimes, if the ID’s were particularly difficult, a second bottle was required – though for some reason this did not improve our ID skills!
Pete had a love- hate relationship with technology – especially mobile phones, digital cameras and computers. Everything was fine if things worked as he hoped, but he got very frustrated very quickly when they didn’t.
A particular problem was his camera. Unfortunately, as with a lot of common items, they are not designed for left handers, as Pete was, so his fingers were forever pressing buttons that they shouldn’t when he held the camera, causing lots of unanticipated actions, along with much frustration and annoyance.
Pete’s contributions to orchids in Victoria cannot be summed in a few words, but I hope I have given you some idea of why we in the orchid world hold Peter Kiernan in such esteem.
Tribute: Neil Anderton
A donation has been made to the Australian Orchid Trust Fund by ANOS Geelong Group Inc.