Hazel Monica King - Order of Australia Medal
When getting to know Berry's Hazel King, it doesn't take long to realise the trade of horticulture was born into her blood.
"I must admit, I'm a bit obsessed with it," she said.
"If I'm not outside doing the garden, then I'm still outside looking at it, still surrounded by nature and trees."
Her father came to Australia from England to work as a horticulturalist on the largest Estate in Australia over 80 years ago - which is where she was born.
The historically significant Yaralla Estate is one of the last large nineteenth-century estates remaining in Sydney, and is now home to the Dame Eadith Walker Hospital.
"My father was a head gardener on the Dukes Estate in England and then he came and worked on the largest Estate in Australia. I was born on that Estate," she said.
"I grew up with that background and I just loved it. And so the rest is history!"
It only makes sense that Mrs King, aged 88, was awarded an OAM for her service to horticulture and community history in the Shoalhaven, announced to her last week.
"It's a great honour. I was quite overwhelmed actually when I received the communication from Canberra. It was a strange but nice feeling," said Mrs King.
"I don't know who nominated me. One day I wonder if that person will tell me!"
After marrying and having children, Mrs King studied horticulture as a mature aged student.
Since the 2000s, Mrs King has been a member and volunteer of the Berry and District Garden Club, and has held many positions across the Australian Institute of Horticulture and Berry and District Historical Society.
Working mostly in retail nurseries, giving tours of estates and dedicating her life to teaching her much-loved trade, Mrs King said the most important thing about horticulture was the impact it can have on others.
"I think particularly with COVID...its highlighted that people going into aged care homes or going into a hospital bed that looks straight out of a wall as opposed to putting people near a tree or some lawn - seeing nature is a really big asset," she said.
"Even with children in playgrounds, years ago lots of schools just had a slab of concrete.
"Over the last few years, playgrounds have improved with trees to sit under and vegetable gardens to learn in. There is always a pull to nature."
For those wishing to get into the industry themselves, she said horticulture is an art that if you are drawn to it naturally, you will flourish.
"If you love it and you are very interested in it, then it will absorb you and you will never stop learning," said Mrs King.
"And that's how you become good at it."
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