Vale: Hazel King OAM FAIH

Sadly, Hazel King OAM FAIH died on Thursday August 31, 2023 at the age of 91.

Hazel was one of Australia’s most highly respected horticulturists. She was a Fellow and Life Member of the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH) and had held a number of senior positions within the organisation.

Hazel grew up with horticulture in her veins. A few years before she was born, on June 25, 1932, her family had come to Australia so that her father, Albert Hill, could take up a position as head gardener for Dame Eadith Walker at the historic Walker Estate ‘Yaralla’ at Concord in Sydney’s inner west. As a child Hazel learnt about gardening by following her father and playing in the grand grounds of the estate. In more recent years she has regularly conducted tours at the Walker Estate Open Days for the Canada Bay Heritage Society.

Hazel studied horticulture at Ryde TAFE in 1975/76 and worked as a garden adviser in retail nurseries.

During the 1980s Hazel was Secretary of the NSW Branch of AIH. She also served as treasurer and AIH councillor. She and President Don Burke worked on many significant programs including convincing the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture to create NSW’s first Environmental Weeds legislation. Following this, Hazel and the late Pamela Polglase organised members of the AIH to go out into bushland areas and destroy and remove pampas grass.

Hazel did organisational work for several key horticulture industry technical seminars. At one of these, AIH collected scientists and nursery people together to establish the future of growing media (potting mixes) in Australia. Hazel also helped organise a seminar titled ‘Sydney AND the Bush’ where government, scientists, landscape architects and horticulturists considered the future of Sydney’s fragile and important bushland. Hazel and Pamela Polglase organised Sydney-wide garden competitions.

In the late 1980s, Hazel took on a training role teaching garden classes along with other colleagues at what was then Bonds Nursery at Terrey Hills. Many of the students became loyal friends and dedicated gardeners, forming their own garden club known as The Graduates. Such was the success of these garden classes the original Graduates group of 40 students, was quickly followed by the development of three additional Graduates clubs, each with 40 motivated and enthusiastic members, a testament to the enthusiasm for the love of gardening that Hazel and her colleagues installed in their students.

Hazel also later conducted her own classes at Macquarie College of Advanced Education.

Hazel’s move to Berry on the NSW South Coast prompted her to join Berry & District Garden Club taking on senior positions on the committee. Hazel organised interesting guest speakers for Zone Friendship Days and opened her own garden on many occasions for the annual Berry & District Garden Festival. She supported many local causes such as the Berry Men’s Shed, the Berry CWA and the David Berry Hospital Auxiliary. She knitted hundreds of comfort teddy bears for the local children’s hospital. She served as president and secretary of the Berry & District Historical Society.

She was an accredited garden judge for more than 30 years and a regional selector for Open Gardens Australia for many years.

Hazel propagated thousands of plants for club plant sales, conducted plant clinics at the local show, regularly conducted guided tours of the David Jones Spring Floral Display in Elizabeth Street, Sydney and, for several years, looked after the garden at the historic home Bundanon on the NSW coast, gifted to the nation by artist Arthur and Yvonne Boyd.

Hazel was invited to be the horticultural expert guide on Odyssey Garden Tours to Europe and the United Kingdom which resulted in her writing articles and presenting lectures to members of U3A (University of the Third Age). To add to her numerous writings, in 2021 she co-authored a book, Trees of Historic Berry.

Hazel always gave generously of her time and shared her vast horticultural knowledge. She often volunteered her time to talk to garden organisations. In 2003 she was invited to write an article in the quarterly Garden Clubs of Australia’s Our Gardens magazine and she continued to write ‘Seasonal tips’ every quarter, sharing her vast knowledge of gardening with members of the 780 affiliates of the Garden Clubs of Australia.

A diminutive figure, she was always seen at garden and horticultural visits taking shorthand notes of everything that interested her.

She was presented with numerous awards for her contributions, most notably an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2021 for her contribution to horticulture and local history. Sadly, she was posthumously awarded a life membership of the Garden Clubs of Australia in September 2023.

Hazel is survived by her three children Rowena, Paul and Simon and their families.

Hazel enjoyed sharing quotes about gardening and life. I think this one from Indira Gandhi is apt for this amazing but self-effacing lady: There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.

Valé great gardener.

A service to celebrate Hazel’s life will be held at 10:30am on Friday, October 27 at the Berry School of Arts, Alexander Street, Berry. All are welcome to join in recognising this remarkable gardener.

Judy Horton MAIH RH

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