Trevor Nottle is President of HMA (SA) and a man who wears many hats. This quietly spoken, inspirational high achiever has an amazing list of horticultural credentials that could almost fill an entire book. The author of more than a dozen books, Trevor is also a horticultural consultant, garden historian, radio presenter, landscape architect and horticulture lecturer with years and years of experience. He has a very high international profile on a numerous range of topics and is a much sought after keynote public speaker around the world.
Trevor has presented dozens of papers to horticultural organisations, symposiums and conferences across the globe and won prestigious awards including recently the Frank Ugody Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Industry, a Master Landscapers SA initiative in 2020. However, Trevor still enjoys spending time in his garden each day and in particular in his two greenhouses that are filled with unusual plants that he observes and documents.
Trevor grew up in the north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide. By the age of 10 he was working as a ‘weeding boy’ for two elderly women who owned a very large garden in Felixstow and provided flowers for their local church.
Trevor’s uncle, John Heading, and neighbour Rex Johns, who was a nurseryman at Campbelltown, also influenced Trevor’s early love of plants and nurseries. Trevor admits he would like to have been taken on at the nursery as an apprentice but his mother had high hopes he would finish high school and become a schoolteacher. When Rex Johns decided to close his nursery and sell the land for a supermarket development the apprenticeship was abandoned. Instead Trevor completed high school and went to teachers college becoming a teacher as his mother wished. In fact Trevor did even more – he went on to achieve a Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture and completed his working career as Education Manager for Horticulture in TAFE SA. Currently he is Writer-in-Residence for the Carrick Hill Foundation.
His parents weren’t garden lovers but both grandmothers were despite living in the arid towns of Moonta Mines and Booleroo Centre where gardening was difficult due to the extremely dry conditions of these rural areas. Their dedication, commitment and persistence in maintaining a nice garden inspired Trevor.
Trevor Nottle in his Adelaide Hills garden.
His first effort in his garden at home was to arrange lumps of quartz rocks in rectangles to mark out the borders of garden beds. He planted out Buffalo grass runners to complete the lawns front and back gardens. He also had an early fascination with succulents – haworthias in particular – which he kept on the tank stand where his Uncle John had built him a bush house from pine off-cuts with brush for the roof.
Trevor has continued to collect plants including rare bulbs, which all find a home in his garden at Crafers in the Adelaide Hill. One group of plants he doesn’t grow is edibles. Due to shade and competition from huge gums trees on the boundary he says all he can grow is rhubarb. After years of frustration and failing to grow food, he is happy to head off to the local vegetable markets.
Although Trevor has inspired thousands of gardeners (both amateur and professional) through his books, teachings, talks and presentations, it is his involvement with Pritemps De Courson at Chateau de Courson just outside Paris that holds a special place. He stayed in the chateau as a guest of the owner for a week along with great gardeners from the UK, Holland, Germany and France. During that time he says he formed wonderful friendships as they judged entries for prizes for new European trees, shrubs, roses and climbers.
Travelling the world and meeting international members of horticultural groups has opened many doors for Trevor. He has made lasting friendships throughout the world and fondly recalls his six trips to Uruguay and Argentina where he presented his ideas and advice on designs, garden restoration and conservation. “Paso Del Correntino is always in my memory as a wonderful estancia on the banks of the Rio Negro,” he reflects.
Despite Trevor’s numerous trips to exotic destinations, he loves South Australia and all it has to offer. “My favourite place in SA is Burra in the mid-north of the state. The gardeners in this region are so creative and determined to improve their lifestyle and local amenity by actively engaging in growing and gardening in what most people would consider as very daunting conditions. They are truly gardening on the edge, discovering what to grow and how to make better gardens and they share so freely. It is a wonderful gardening community and I admire their stamina so much and I do try to support them in any way I can,” Trevor says.
Home gardens matter
Trevor says that home gardens are the predominant green features of every suburb, town and city in SA but claims they are almost completely ignored by politicians and decision makers as being insignificant in the lives of most people.
“I am working through HMA (SA), the Australian Garden Council and other groups to change this perception. I support HMA SA because I believe gardeners and horticulturists have something crucial to say to our communities about the incredible value of what all gardeners do, which includes making their personal environments more liveable and responsive to local conditions. Together gardens create places that are sustainable and beautiful for those who live in SA or for visitors to the state,” Trevor concludes.
Trevor says his journey through a lifetime of love of the horticultural world has been amazing. “I have been privileged to meet and stay with gardeners around the world and learn from them. I love sharing my knowledge wherever I go and I hope to continue but there is still so much to learn. I have been blessed to have my wife Margaret accept my fascination with plants and my love of gardening as well as my wanderlust in the horticultural world, which includes my collection of similarly addicted friends.”