If tears could bring a scorched paradise back, weary gardeners up and down the coast could down tools.
There has been precious little downtime since bushfire blasted the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden on New Year's Eve.
There have been tears for tortured wildlife and torched trees, but two days after the fire Michael Anlezark and team rolled up their sleeves.
Picking up tools, however, proved difficult.
"Our tractor, our gaiters, every hand tool, every power tool - more than 30 years of accumulated things we needed to run the place - every bit of it was gone," Mr Anlezark said.
He corrects himself with a smile: "That is not true. We found a garden fork outside somewhere."
That fabulous fork is stored somewhere "very safe".
Graceful new buildings and their immediate green surrounds were spared on December 31.
Not so the 103 acres which have been an outdoor classroom for generations of children and a labour of love for thousands of volunteers.
"It is one of the largest volunteer-supported botanic gardens in Australia," Mr Anlezark said.
"We have more than 100 volunteers and they contribute about 16,000 hours a year."
"Everyone has been devastated.
"It has been very emotional. I still get choked up on a daily basis talking about it. So many people have put so much into this garden over decades."
Most must be pining to help, but hundreds of burned, unstable trees make that perilous.
For now, Mr Anlezark leads the paid staff and a handful of nursery volunteers in the clean-up.
"It has been hard for them," he said.
"There have been quite a few tears. To be here on a daily basis seeing this ..."
Gardeners in camouflage gear are a welcome sight when Australian Community Media visits: expert chainsaw crews from the the Australian Army deployed to cut up trees fallen over paths and bridges.
In the nursery, an infantry woman armed with secateurs helps nursery manager Di Clarke and volunteers tend hundreds of seedlings which withstood the flames and radiant heat.
Before the rains came, others were farmed out.
"We were down to hand watering so I came up with the idea of 'foster a box'," Mr Anlezark said. About 60 volunteers eagerly became temporary plant parents.
"We got about 5000 plants out, being looked after by dedicated people," he said.
Mr Anlezark is optimistic - an emotion at odds with his December dread as the Clyde Mountain Fire marched south from the Kings Highway.
"It was highly likely fire was going to get here," he said.
"I was on leave and I came back once I realised how bad it might get.
"I worked with the staff to get all the furniture off the veranda, get anything combustible away from the buildings; we cleared the gutters again in the nursery precinct. We worked hard, flat-out, all day."
For precious items, the new herbarium was the safest bet.
"The last thing I did was put valuable stuff in there, computers, art works from the gardens," Mr Anlezark.
"We loaded up the car with books and personal things, locked the gate, said 'goodbye' and thought 'what are going to come back to?'."
Weeks later, in conversation, Mr Anlezark's composure cracks: "Seeing the fire maps, the spread of the fire maps, that following day, that dreadful day ..."
Worst was "not knowing how bad it was, what we had left, if anything, and the effect on wildlife".
Anyone driving past the blasted hills and once-vibrant, now-ruined entry sign must ponder what lies beyond the garden's locked gate on the Princes Highway.
That was the agonising query for Mr Anlezark and Ms Clarke on Thursday morning, January 2.
"We had put those bloody banners up only a couple of days before," Mr Anlezark said wryly.
Driving down Deep Creek Road was literally dreadful, but then "we could see through the trees the building was still here".
"I couldn't believe it," he said.
They also found forest still alight, a pavilion damaged and sheds destroyed, retaining walls and mulch burning and the remains of three main bridges and 18 walkways.
"The place looked like the Trevi fountain; every irrigation fitting had melted," Mr Anlezark said.
The pair went into "save it" mode, turning off pumps and dousing mulch fires.
There was good news within the grim: Mr Anlezark's bet on the herbarium proved a winner.
"The new herbariam building was fantastic," he said
"All the retaining walls were destroyed around it, so it got pretty intense up there.
"The fire went right around the nursery, but there is a patch of beautiful green; our most valuable plants are protected and still beautiful and green amongst all this black and devastation.
"It was incredible, uplifting."
After warily taking "in as much of the devastation as we could and making it as safe as we could", the pair left - rocked, but with renewal already on the agenda.
"I started to make a bit of a plan about how we were going to get back and running again," Mr Anlezark said.
"One of the first things I did was start flagging the most dangerous trees. There are at least another 100 to come out, particularly on some of our walks, but the urgency is to get main areas safe.
"We are leaving some trees that may be dangerous but are not in public areas and they will become habitat.
"I am keen on trying to let the bush recover as it does, on its own. We have 10km of walking tracks and our main concern is to make those safe and to have as minimal impact on the natural areas as possible."
In an unused home on the grounds, historical records went up in smoke.
"We are still trying to find out what we have lost," Mr Anlezark said.
A pavilion popular with school children for workshops is damaged, but youthful help is at hand.
"The kids at the schools were worried about their outdoor classroom," he said.
"They want to help." The regular schools program is cancelled this year, but schools will propagate plants to restock the garden.
"This place has been built up by the community and it is loved," Mr Anlezark said.
"The community wants to help and we should let them where ever we can."
The disaster brings a chance to rethink.
On the wish list are better sprinkler and irrigation systems and better positions for gardens.
"When you have a full nursery it is hard to (overhaul) because you have to move everything and take it all out," he said.
The post-rain green swathe around the main buildings is deceptive.
"Every plant on the site was affected; either destroyed, heat stressed, lack of water ... it was all drought stressed anyway," Mr Anlezark said.
"The whole site is so damaged. Everywhere I go, all the protected gullies that you think might be okay, they are not, they are burned to the base, burned right to the bottom.
"Now they are scoured out with the flooding, so it is even worse in some areas, but our large open areas, which were a refuge for some wildlife, greened up really quickly.
"Within several days the grass was starting to shoot; some of the native grasses, some of the displays, have come back really well."
The loss of wildlife hurt. A population of about 45 kangaroos is down to about five.
"We were all devastated," he said.
"We found lots of dead kangaroos. Two weeks later WIRES had to come back and euthanise one. We would see half a dozen swamp wallabies; we now have two.
"We found quite a few dead birds: red-browed finches, rainbow lorikeets, eastern rosellas.
"We lost a few snakes, but gained a few more."
Once-common diamond pythons are gone, but red-belly black snakes are "bigger and better than ever".
"It is quite alarming; they are stressed, there is something not quite right," he said.
"Typically if they feel your vibrations, they move away, but they are just staying put and not going anywhere.
"Twice I have almost trodden on one, literally my foot above it."
An echidna, a lyrebird and a goanna were greeted with less trepidation.
"Where those things were commonplace, they are now unusual and we are really excited to see them," he said.
A welcome sound is the call of "Whippy", the resident whip bird.
The arrival of the cavalry (actually, the infantry) in the form of the Army was also welcome.
"These guys have skills with chainsaws and they are used to dealing with damaged areas," Mr Anlezark said.
"They are keen to work with our volunteers; we will achieve a lot with them here."
Mr Anlezark is acutely aware of the anxiety volunteers unable to enter are feeling.
"We need patience from the community and for them to know we are working really hard to bring it back," he said.
"We have a plan and our aim is to open the garden as soon as we can and make it as safe as we can.
"I know there is pressure because people want to help. We want the help, but we have to manage the help.
"Sometimes there is a risk of people helping in ways you do not need and that can make more work for you, trying to manage people doing things that are not a priority.
"There are lots of people who want to get in here and help clear up, but we need the right gear, the right vehicles, people with the right skills.
"There will come a point when a lot more people can come in and help, but until the site is safe, it is not viable."
He fears "the community will see locked gates and think nothing is happening".
"Things are happening and this place is so loved. We are doing our best and the council is fully committed to the garden being reopened as soon as we can."
After eight years as manager, three of those overseeing the redevelopment, the "gypsy-like" Mr Anlezark would normally be looking for another gig.
"This is the third garden I have managed and we have stayed at each about six years," he said.
"It has been a really tough couple of years and I am really tired and I really needed a break. I was looking forward to a decent holiday after Christmas and I can't really do that.
"There is a mammoth amount of work and it is going to be tough, but I can see the opportunities we have here to make what has been destroyed even better.
"We have done this redevelopment to such a high standard, everything from now on can be to that standard."
Plastic tap risers will be replaced with galvanised, tree mulch with gravel and treated pine with Australian hardwood.
"The surviving bridges and retaining walls here were Australian hardwood," he said.
"The benches throughout the garden were Australian hardwood and we have had very little damage."
Older hardwood bridges burned, to be replaced with steel frames.
"The few steel bridges we have are completely intact,' he said.
The playground where so many kids have played is hurt but alive, complete with its giant musical instruments. The woodchip soft-fall smouldered and burned adjacent timber and will be replaced with rubber."
Already, fire-hardy eucalyptus are growing facial hair but other species may not fare so well.
"There are many areas where the fire was so intense it is not coming back," Mr Anlezark said.
"There are a lot of species that are not used that level of fire or they are marginal rainforest plants, generally in gullies, not used to fire; they have trouble coming back.
"A lot of the plants we have planted over the years, we will lose."
Staff mourn older, slow-growing, banksias.
"There is also a species called Rhodamnia rubescens; it was listed last year as critically endangered in our region," he said.
The garden worked with peers at the National Botanic Garden, Wollongong and Jervis Bay's Booderee Botanic Gardens to collect cuttings.
"We are going to be relying to getting material from other gardens to reestablish our plantings of those," Mr Anlezark said.
"It looks bad locally, but it is not completely lost."
The final fighting words of an "exhausted but optimistic" gardener.