It is with great sadness that we pass on news of the death of master rose grower Geoff Swane. Geoff ran the rose-growing side of Swane’s Nursery and, until his retirement, was based at Narromine in New South Wales. His sister Elwyn has shared this information about Geoff’s unassuming but important life in the nursery industry and rose community.
Geoff was born at Ermington on March 15, 1934, the fourth child of Edgar (Ted) Norman and Phyllis Gwendoline (Gwen) Swane, who at that stage had a nursery at Hughes Avenue and Hope Street, Ermington.
Geoff attended Newington College at Stanmore and after finishing school went to work in the nursery. At that time Ted employed quite a few men who would have been his own contemporaries and who in their own right were experienced nursery hands, skilled in the art of budding and grafting. It was with these much older ‘hands’ that Geoff learnt and became competent at his chosen trade.
At that time Swane’s had a property at Reilly’s Road, Northmead, which was where most of the fruit trees were grown, and another at Kirby’s Road, Rydalmere, which was where Geoff began his nursery career and his rose-growing experience grew.
He and older brother Ben began to make overseas trips to rose-growing conferences and growing areas to broaden their experience and to eventually establish agencies with breeders such as McGredy (an Irish rose-breeding firm that later moved to New Zealand) and Armstrong and Weekes in the US.
As it became increasingly clear a drier climate and better soils were the answer to better production the brothers looked for growing areas outside Sydney. In comparing geological and meterological maps of the Californian basin that they reckoned was the ‘best’ with New South Wales, their search honed in on Narromine west of Dubbo. The family purchased 52 hectares (130 acres).
Newly married and only recently moved into a house at Swane’s new nursery at Dural, Geoff spent the week at the Narromine and came home to Dural on weekends. After a few years of this commute his family moved to a house in the township of Narromine and life settled.
Geoff had always been a keen sportsman. He played rugby union for his school as well as for Eastwood and Gordon rugby clubs, and also played a fair round of golf. The local golf club became his focus in Narromine. He held sway with the greens committee because of his horticultural skills. He also became involved in the management of the local irrigation board. Geoff was a well-loved and respected member of the Narromine and broader community.
Although not as high profile in the industry as either of his late siblings, Valerie Swane OBE the first female President of the nursery industries of both NSW and the national body, or brother Ben Swane AM also a former President, Life Member and a Nurseryman of the Year, Geoff was none-the-less a superb rose-grower. He was able to name a rose variety from stem, foliage and thorns without the flower!
Geoff did not enjoy good health in the last years of his life but made the move to a retirement village in coastal Forster in 2020. He will be greatly missed by his sister Elwyn, who lived close by.
Geoff is survived by his wife of more than 58 years, Eva Maria Swane, and their three sons, Richard Geoffery, Glenn Robert and Mark Gregory Swane and his wife Alex Gould, grandchildren Harriet and Jemima Swane, remaining sister Elwyn Swane and his nieces and nephews and their families.