Member Profile – Michael Keelan, South Australia

Michael Keelan is one of South Australian horticulture’s favourite sons. Indeed he could arguably be the longest and most continuously serving member of the horticultural media scene in this entire country!
For Michael it all began way back in the early 1970s and since that time he has been advising, informing and helping the public on the subject of gardening as well as promoting horticulture in almost every aspect of the media. His long career includes radio, television, newspaper and other publications, as well as social media. He has also served on and supported numerous committees and boards relating to the industry during those 50 years including today as HMA SA Vice President.
His media career began in 1973 when Michael made his foray into radio gardening, firstly on the ABC and then on Radio 5DN in Adelaide. Television appearances followed in the 1980s and in 1993 Michael joined Radio 5aa. Since then he has presented his top-rating gardening program each weekend and continues to do so today.
Michael was born into the horticultural world. His parents owned a fodder store on Payneham Road at Royston Park (an inner Adelaide suburb) when he was a child, which later became a popular garden centre. Even before this time, Michael worked on the family-owned vineyard at Morphett Vale and his love of nature and the world of plants soon took over this young lad’s life.
He spent his early school days in a tiny schoolhouse at Morphett Vale close to where his parents had their vineyard. When the family shifted to Payneham he went to the Payneham School before attending Urrbrae Agricultural College where he completed his formal education.
Looking back over his long career Michael says he has no regrets although he didn’t plan to be where he is today.
“I guess the garden gene came out in me and I’ve met some amazing people through gardening, not only in Australia but in the 40 or so countries that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you walk down your local street or a boulevard anywhere in the world, you’ll always find something of botanical beauty and interest.”
Michael is concerned about climate change and the effects that it can have on our gardens but he says it’s so important to select the correct plants for a successful garden.
“We are blessed here in South Australia as we have a wonderful Mediterranean climate that allows us to grow a diverse range of plants,” he enthuses. “I love having this choice and my own garden is a testimonial of this as I have an eclectic collection of all types of plants from tender ferns to hardy succulents and everything in between.”
Michael Keelan is passionate about gardening and has written for dozens of magazines, delivered hundreds of talks, workshops, training programs and lectures and, as a consultant, has had a huge impact on many gardens in South Australia including the Conservatory at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Carrick Hill and other prominent sites.
Michael continues to advise and inspire today with his regular column in the Adelaide Advertiser. His ongoing mission, promoted through his appeals on radio, television and in print, is of getting everyone in the state on board with growing their own food, planting more trees, enjoying garden tourism and preserving and protecting the environment.
In 1994 Michael Keelan was one of the principal organisers along with members of the nursery and landscape industry in SA in the establishment of the HMAA, which began in South Australia and now has members in all states. Its reach has also spread to South Africa and New Zealand.
Michael is very modest when talking about his awards of which there are many including the prestigious HMA Silver Laurel – Hall Of Fame, which he received in 2007. The winner of this high award is chosen for long and outstanding contribution to communicating and encouraging a love of gardening to the public. This award is the highest honour awarded by HMAA and has now been renamed the Gold Laurel.
Michael’s affiliations, memberships and involvement on various boards are too numerous to list, however this passionate, enthusiastic and inspirational man claims he is “just a humble gardener”. He has shared knowledge, information and advice to thousands and thousands of listeners, viewers and readers for five decades but maintains that there is still so much for him to learn in the world of horticulture.
For this truly amazing man, who as a small child loved to rake up the leaves, was fascinated by his grandmother who in her 90s would use her crutch as a dibbler when planting seedlings, and who thoroughly enjoyed walking the district with his mother in the early evening when she would chat to locals about gardening and share cuttings from their plants, it has been an exciting journey.
“I have been blessed to have such a wonderful supportive family who has been with me all the way,” says Michael. “Prue my wife of nearly 55 years has always been there for me with encouragement and a strong belief in what I do and sometimes, even a little timely advice.”
Michael is very optimistic about the future for home gardeners and believes that gardening and its many benefits are the answer to many of the challenges we face today.
When asked about retirement, 75-year old Michael Keelan says he hasn’t even thought about it yet.  “I still don’t mind getting up at 4.30am every Saturday and Sunday to share my knowledge with my listeners – it’s such a privilege,” he adds.

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