Maria Hitchcock was among the recipients in the Queen’s Birthday honours list this year for service to conservation and the environment.
For more than 40 years the Armidale gardening guru has been involved with gardening groups, and in recent years she has dedicated much of her time trying to save Australia’s native plants that are on the threatened species list.
“I feel fantastic. It’s the reward that the nation bestows on you,” Ms Hitchcock said.
“When you set out to do the sort of work that I’ve done, over the last 40 years, you never think you’re doing this for a medal.
“You’re doing it because its your passion or for your community or for a group.”
The Save our Flora group started in 2013, but Mrs Hitchcock’s involvement in the local community goes back much further than that.
In 1973, Mrs Hitchcock was a foundation member of the Armidale and district branch of the Australian Plants Society. Over the years she has been its president, vice-president, secretary, publicity officer, and newsletter editor.
She is a life member of the Australian Plants Society, and a member of other groups including Garden Plant Conservation Association of Australia, Botanic Gardens of Australia and New Zealand, and the Australian Garden History Society.
In 1988, Mrs Hitchcock successfully campaigned for wattle to be gazetted as the floral emblem of Australia, then four years later, more campaigning saw the gazettal of 'National Wattle Day'.
She is also the author of three publications Wattle (1991), A Celebration of Wattle (2012) and Correas (2010).
Her community involvement also extended to the Armidale Dumaresq Ratepayers Association, which she chaired for three years, while she has also served on several council committees.
Her enthusiasm for the Armidale community includes being the founder and chair/secretary of the Dumaresq Progress Association, from 2000 to 2016.
She was also the organiser of the Save Dumaresq Dam Campaign, in 2014 and 2015.