Amidst the unseasonal showers in January, Kangaroo Island gardeners gathered on Saturday, January 23, at an event generously hosted by Frogs & Roses.
The event had been publicly promoted as a Q&A and book launch with Sophie Thomson, but the gardening community had been quietly working with Sophie in the background to reframe the event as a surprise celebration of Anne Morrison and her joint 2022 Kangaroo Island Citizen of the Year award.
Believing she had been organising a second launch of Jennie Teasdale's new book, Exploring Enchanted Gardens on Kangaroo Island, Anne was unaware that many bushfire affected gardeners had arrived specifically in her honour.
Sophie Thomson and Kathy Barrett spoke to Anne's tireless work over the 25 months since the 2019/20 fires.
In this time, Anne has become the heart of the large bushfire affected gardening community on the island.
During the fires, many people on the island lost their gardens along with their homes, farms, and businesses.
While charities and government agencies focused on shelter and infrastructure needs for these people, Sophie and Anne, president of the Kangaroo Island Garden Club, recognised the devastation of gardens was a deep loss that threatened the mental health of dozens of property owners.
These gardens were a primary food source, a source of stability, and a daily focus for many families, nourishing souls as well as bodies.
Since the fires, Anne has voluntarily invested many hundreds of hours on logistical management, juggling complex and detailed information about each gardener's requirements, as well as the delivery of many thousands of plants into the hands of bushfire affected gardeners.
This has included 500 bare rooted fruit trees, roses, compost, mulch, and more.
With other locals, she set up the Open Garden Festival in spring 2020 to give fire affected gardeners hope.
She potted and sold donated tube stock at the festival to raise funds for materials and the crippling transport costs to bring bulky, heavy materials to the Island, such as IBCs, compost, and mulch.
She coordinated the support of the Kangaroo Island Garden Club behind Sophie's pop-up community garden in the centre of the burn zone, ensuring there was fresh produce available to gardeners and a green space for the community to meet and heal.
Wherever there were opportunities, Anne used them to advance the support of the bushfire affected gardeners.
Saturday's gathering was an opportunity for many of the bushfire affected gardeners to publicly recognise Anne's care and compassion.
It was clear to everyone that Anne, together with Sophie, has no intention of slowing down.
More plants have arrived, and the next wave of distribution is already in planning.
A beautiful book has been donated by Kangaroo Island Garden Club for all Islanders to express appreciation for Anne, include messages, pictures, pressed leaves or flowers, or other gestures that capture people's gratitude.
The book is available at:
- Ingram's Home Hardware, from January 24- February 6
- Davo's Deli, from February 7-February 20; and
- Frogs & Roses, from February 21-March 6