HMASA Secretary Dianne Hall
By June Taylor
The old adage “if you want something done, ask a busy person” certainly does ring true in the case of Dianne Hall, who is Secretary of HMA in South Australia. This busy, always positive and enthusiastic woman who’s a wife, mother, grandmother, company director, business woman, author, charity worker and media presenter, to name but a few of her roles and passions, seems to have more hours in her day than most of us.
Di Hall and husband Jon are owners of the picturesque, multi-award-winning garden centre Newman’s Nursery at Tea Tree Gully at the foot of the beautiful Adelaide Hills.
Di didn’t really enjoy her early school days but as a creative person she thoroughly embraced her time at the North Adelaide School of Art where she studied sculpture and design and later went on to receive a Bachelor of Business. This training held her in good stead to run such a successful nursery business and develop creative marketing opportunities.
Dianne met Jon Hall in the early 1970s. She says she was smitten by “Jon’s beautiful nature, broad shoulders and his love and passion for the environment and gardens”. The pair married in 1974.
“I had no idea that I was marrying into a horticultural dynasty that had been founded way back in the mid 1800s,” says Di. She developed a true passion for the family business and in particular for camellias, which are Newman’s specialty. She loves to work with these delicate flowers and has learned from her mother-in-law, Suzanne Hall, who taught her the art of picking the camellias and displaying them in flower shows, exhibitions and the annual Royal Adelaide show. Di says while she has developed a love and respect for all plants, camellias remain her favourite flower.
In 1985 Di and Jon became the sole Directors of Newman’s Nursery and set out to develop its full potential as a garden centre taking it to a new level with many state and national awards of excellence. They enhanced the unique gully property developing it as a tourist attraction with the popular, licensed Topiary Café, exquisite gardens and stunning display areas.
With an entrenched family history of camellias and as one of the largest and oldest camellia specialists in the southern hemisphere, Jon and Di Hall have enjoyed the journey of discovery of new specimens, the excitement of breeding of new varieties and the diversity camellias offer any garden even when space is at a premium.
Jon’s father Roger Hall once wrote: “Camellias are the choicest winter-flowering plant in cultivation.” Di Hall agrees and says she has a total fascination for their varied beauty and interesting growth habits. When asked to name her favourite, she hesitates be answering. “It changes from week to week but this week, I can’t go past ‘It’s Gorgeous’, which is a soft pink bloom that is flamboyant and beautifully formed,” she concludes. “It is a Floribunda camellia developed by Bob Cherry at Paradise Plants.”
Nowadays Di and Jon are semi-retired and their son Daniel manages the garden centre. Prior to COVID-19, Di and Jon travelled the world taking in gardens, garden shows and expos, which they found inspirational. The time away from the day-to-day running of the garden centre has also allowed them to specialise in new projects, to grow an abundant edible garden at their home property at Upper Hermitage and most importantly to spend time with their four grandchildren.
Di loves to cook especially using their own chemical-free, home-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs. In 2007 she combined her love of cooking with her passion for camellias to produce an exquisite coffee table book titled High Tea in the Garden, which is still available.
Di notes that during COVID-19 many first time gardeners emerged wanting to grow their own organic, vegetables and herbs as well as flowers and even shrubs. “The lockdown last year enabled people time to embrace and enjoy their home gardens for the first time,” she says. She hopes their enthusiasm will continue as the world re-opens.
Di Hall has been an active member of the HMA in SA since 2003 and has served as President, Vice President and Laurel’s Chair and continues her involvement as Secretary. A Life Member of the Nursery & Garden Industry South Australia, Di was a previous President. She has also been a board member of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and is a current member of the Carrick Hill Gardens and Grounds Committee. She has served many other organisations including as past Chair of the Australian Garden Centre Accreditation Scheme.
Di Hall has dreams of a world where water is free and there’s no GST on garden-related products. She she believes that all our nation’s leaders have to do is uphold this idea and it will improve our living conditions, our physical and mental health and green our environment while encouraging more of our community to enjoy the love and joy of gardening.
“Growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs is both satisfying and has enormous benefits for everyone, ” Di Hall enthuses.
Dianne Hall is a true inspiration to everyone that she meets and is a tireless worker who has spent much of her life promoting the fascinating and exciting world of gardening.