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Valerie Gwendoline Swane (1926–1993)

from Sydney Morning Herald

Valerie Swane, OBE, who died early yesterday at her Pennant Hills home, was one of Australia's leading horticulturists.

Ms Swane, 66, managing director of her family company, Swane Bros of Dural and Narromine, was familiar to Australians through her radio and television gardening programs, her books and gardening columns in The Australian Women's Weekly and The Sunday Telegraph.

She was diagnosed with cancer in October.

Ms Swane earned an international reputation in her work with nurseries in the United States, France and South Africa.

Her services to horticulture were recognised by a number of awards including the OBE (1983), Hawkesbury Centenary Medal of Honour (1991) and the Waratah Award from the Nursery Industry Association (1992). She was also presented with the Paul Harris Award by Rotary for services to charity.

She was the first woman president of the Nursery Industry Association of Australia and NSW and was awarded life membership in recognition of her outstanding contribution.

During her presidency, the Year of the Tree concept grew into the community-based Greening Australia Movement and the National Tree Program, financed by the Federal Government.

Ms Swane was the first person to chair the National Greening Australia Committee, the NSW Greening Australia Committee and Greening Australia Marketing Ltd.

She was appointed by the Federal Government as the first chairman of the National Co-ordinating Committee of the National Tree Program.

She served on the Horticulture Stock and Nursery Act Advisory Committee; assisted in establishing the horticulture course at Hawkesbury Agricultural College (now University of Western Sydney); was the first lecturer in horticulture for the landscape architects degree course at the University of NSW; and she lectured part-time at the Ryde School of Horticulture.

Ms Swane retained a keen interest in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens and was a former committee member of the Friends of the Botanic Gardens and served on the Executive Council.

For some years she was over-judge in the Horticultural Junior Judging Competition at the Royal Easter Show.

Ms Swane was the author of several books, including The Australian Gardeners Catalogue, The Australian Rose Book, The Weekend Gardener and the recently published Growing Roses, the definitive book on rose growing, with photographs by Densey Clyne.

Roses were one of her great interests (there is a beautiful white rose named Valerie Swane in her honour), but she was interested in old roses as well. She produced an annual rose catalogue for the nursery.

Ms Swane was outstanding in what was a man's world for her knowledge and business acumen.

She was deeply religious, an opera buff and an enthusiastic traveller.

She is survived by two brothers, Ben and Geoffrey, and a sister, Elwyn.

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Citation details

'Swane, Valerie Gwendoline (1926–1993)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

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