For the past 10 years a devoted group of voluntary gardeners has smartened up and cared for the grounds of the historic old Napier Hill Cemetery.

But over the past few weeks someone has gone through the cemetery, which borders the Botanical Gardens, and done their best to wreck much of the beautification work the volunteers have carried out.

"It's just crazy," said local resident and historian Peter Wells, a member of the Greening the Graveyard group.

"A person, or persons unknown, have taken it upon themselves to wrench out and destroy plants wholesale, including those which were donated to us."

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The vandals had also removed a rose bush which had been planted by a family in memory of a loved one who was laid to rest there.

"I can't tell you how devastating this is to the group who garden with goodwill and hard work."

There had been several vandalism attacks over recent weeks, Wells said, and pleaded for anyone who may have seen anything happening, or who may come across anyone doing it, to call the police.

He also suggested witnesses could "discreetly photograph" the offenders for police to follow up on.

"This will not stop what we do but it has really hit some of the group pretty hard — it's hard to try and understand why someone would want to do this — do they have some sort of vendetta?"

The volunteer group, which has about six members, began gardening and planting across the old cemetery grounds which had become unkempt and prone to vandal attacks through the years.

They have planted heritage roses, annuals, bulbs and other beautifying varieties, often growing the plants themselves from seeds.

"This has led to the cemetery becoming noticeably more tended and loved," Wells said.

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The historic site began to spark community attention and interest after an exhibition titled "Somebody's Darling" was staged at the MTG in 2008.

It backgrounded many of the remarkable stories behind many of the graves, and ultimately led to Wells and fellow historian Gail Pope starting tours of the cemetery during the subsequent summers.

The exhibition had also sparked the resolve of volunteers to beautify and restore the grounds, which meant the ferocity of some of the recent vandalism had hit the group members hard.

"This is just so unfortunate," Wells said, adding he hoped the community would help keep watch on the area.

"The community needs to help protect the work we have been doing over the years."