Date posted: 04 April 2016
Earlier this year the Botanic Gardens of South Australia lost one of its longest-serving and most passionate family members, John Edgar, after a battle with illness. Here Wittunga Botanic Garden supervisor Mark Oborn pays tribute to the Gardens' great mate.
John Edgar, or John E to his work mates, spent 26 years as a horticulturalist at Wittunga Botanic Garden where he was very well liked, cheerful and always had a smile for everyone. He was very welcoming and always made new staff members and volunteers feel comfortable in their new surroundings. John was the heart and soul of Wittunga – a constant familiar face at around the Garden for a quarter of a century.
John had an unrivalled passion for Wittunga’s plant collections, particularly its South African and Erica collections. He spent most of his career overseeing the garden maintenance and development of the vibrant South African “fynbos” (Afrikaans for “fine bush”) collection – one Wittunga’s major highlights. John’s gardening utility belt wasn’t your normal belt. This army camouflage number seemingly had pouches and pockets for everything. You’d swear he’d packed a drink bottle, camera, notebooks and pens, secateurs, pocket knife and umbrella with him, just to name a few. He took his gardening pretty seriously! He was always intensely proud of his work and happy to show new people around the garden he loved so much.
He also had a real passion for Wittunga’s history, right from its beginnings as farming land, through the Ashby family eras (Wittunga was established as a private home and garden in 1902) and into a publicly-accessible Botanic Garden in 1975. John even created his own historical records through work journals, in which he captured operational field work through images and diary entries from a horticulturalist perspective. He was our walking Wittunga encyclopedia!
You’d sometimes see John stretching and warming up in the Garden (he was keen on his karate) but they were stretches like you’d probably never seen! He’d be shadow boxing like there was no tomorrow – a green garden ninja between the trees. That was John, unique and always enjoying life. One of his finest qualities was his commitment and passion towards his lifestyle activities. At different points he was fanatical about cycling, karate, brewing home brew (he became quite the master beer craftsman), his scrapbooking and work journals, to growing his own produce and, of course, his coffee! One of John’s working week highlights was a freshly brewed coffee while doing the SA Weekend quiz during his break on a Tuesday morning. He especially enjoyed having the younger trainees involved so they could answer all the reality TV, sport and pop culture questions for him. John really had no idea and hated those questions!
John was always quick with a witty remark and his vibrancy and good nature attracted people the moment he walked into a room. John was also very generous. On hot days Wittunga’s freezer was always stacked full of Zooper Doopers for all staff to enjoy.
He was fun to be around and always had a positive outlook, even when illness struck him down. He fought his illness with extra special strength and character, and incredibly did his best to enjoy life right to the end. We’ve lost a husband, son, father, brother, uncle, dear friend and colleague, and we’ll miss him greatly. But the memories we shared with John and the legacy he’s left at Wittunga will last the test of time.
Rest in peace, John E.