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Pioneering horticulturalist


Heather Hartshorne - Born: February 3 1930 | Died: October 18 2021

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Heather was born to Ray and Dorothy Harper in 1930. She and her two sisters, Brenda and Rosemary, grew up in Colonel Light Gardens and went to St Therese Primary School and Cabra Dominican College.

In 1948 Heather attended Adelaide Teachers College and she began teaching in the country in 1950-51. The following year she entered the Dominican order and taught in Catholic schools but left the order in 1955 to embark on a working holiday in New Zealand, Canada and Europe.

After three years and now 29 years old, Heather decided it was time to settle down. In 1959 she married Ben Hartshorne in Sacred Heart College chapel at Somerton Park. The reception was held under the Hills Hoist on the back lawn of Heather’s parents’ place in North Brighton.

Heather gave birth to Sarah in 1960, twins Paul and Simon in 1961, Justin in 1962, Guy in 1964, Hugh in 1966 and Sam in 1971.

Ben was a teacher and the family moved around the State as he completed postings in Kadina, Mannum, Fulham, Semaphore and Millbrook in the Adelaide Hills.

Returning to Semaphore, the family settled in a former Carmelite priests’ residence in Union Street. Ben died suddenly in 1979 and Heather faced new challenges raising six teenagers and an eight year old on her own.

One of those challenges was finding an income. A passionate gardener, she began looking after friends’ gardens and the convent at Semaphore. She had a thirst for knowledge and enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Horticulture at the SA Botanic Gardens.

Over the next four years she juggled motherhood with work, study and field trips before qualifying as a horticulturalist.

Doors began opening for Heather and she won an award to research coastal plants.

She produced a detailed report which went on to be published as a book called Plants for Dry Gardens.

Next came a career in television with Heather co-presenting the ABC Home Gardens program. It would take a day to film two 15-minute programs and the pay was minimal but she loved the fame.

Heather also became a lecturer in horticulture while continuing her gardening business. After teaming up with friends Lilly Manning, Barb McMullen and Pat Edwards, the Golden Girls were born.

When middle son Justin left school and wasn’t sure what to do, he agreed to help his mum for two weeks but ended up staying and now runs Hartshorne Landscaping.

Faith was a big part of Heather’s life and her interest in history led her to write a book to commemorate the centenary of Semaphore parish. Faith of Our Fathers in Semaphore 1907-2007, was published in 2007 and outlined the influence of the Carmelites, Dominican Sisters, Sisters of St Joseph and the larger than life characters of the parish.

She also wrote Taperoo: A mine of grit and a history of the Anglican missions to seamen in Port Adelaide called The Flying Angel.

Heather was ahead of her times in many ways, including caring for the environment. Fittingly, the epitaph on her funeral card reads: ‘Live each day as if it were your last, and garden as though you will live forever.’


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