Jenny Liney could not have predicted her passion to understand her own backyard would grow into stewardship of 11,000 plant specimens.
After moving to Potato Point from Sydney, the retired librarian became fascinated by the plants in the nearby Eurobodalla National Park.
With more than 1000 unknown plants tantalising her, there was nothing for it but to, at the age of 58, enrol in university botany studies.
“I wanted to know what I was looking at,” she said.
On Saturday, Mrs Liney, now of Moruya, was named Citizen of the Year by the Moruya and District Australia Day Committee.
She earned the award for allowing her curiosity full rein and donating 20 years of her life to the Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens’ herbarium.
The herbarium curator was honoured at a popular Australia Day event on Saturday morning in Riverside Park, which also included horseshoe throwing.
She said the Eurobodalla had much to treasure.
“There is such a small part of it that has been developed and destroyed,” she said. “It is fairly well looked after and it is up to us to keep equilibrium. It is fragile and dependent on other people’s attitudes. If people don’t care about it, we will lose it.”
She said the Gardens were crucial for preserving and understanding plants from the Clyde, Deua and Tuross rivers catchments.
“The Gardens preserve pretty well, in a natural community, a wide range of our local flora,” she said.
She said she loved the region’s “diversity, the proximity of the sea and the mountains, the forest vegetation, the heath vegetation, the water vegetation, the grasslands and all the inhabitants that occupy those areas”.
“My passion is plants. They don’t move like birds do, they are easier to study.”
Yet she found time to volunteer in seabird rescue and remains fascinated by the relationships between species.
“The relationship between plants and insect pollinators, determined by weather and time of year, it is never ending,” she said.
“The range of regeneration of the plant kingdom is fascinating. It is all in a chain, and if you break one link, disaster could follow.
“Birds are dependent on plants and plants are dependent on birds and they are all dependent on what is in the soil, which we forget a lot of the time.”
Mrs Liney volunteers several days a week at the Gardens, works at home and donates the proceeds of plant surveys on private and public land to the Gardens.
Proud husband John said she had also been his full-time carer since his mobility had declined.
“And that is a 24-hour job,” he said.
“How Jenny finds time for it all, I don’t know. She takes me to doctors, dental appointments, haircuts, because I can’t negotiate so many of the places I used to be able to walk to.”
Robin Kellett, of Batemans Bay, said her mother fully deserved the award.
“She does not expect any recognition, she just does it because she loves it,” Mrs Kellett said.
Son-in-law Clinton Kellett said anyone walking near plant life with Mrs Liney should allow plenty of time.
“Go for a walk with Jennifer and a half-hour walk is a five-hour walk and you only do about 100 metres,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eurobodalla Shire Council announced its own shire-wide awards on Friday night in Moruya. Eurobodalla Citizen of the Year was Marco Cardinale for his 28-year contribution to the Moruya Surf Life Saving Club. Young Citizen of the Year was Narooma High School graduate Tamara Kenny.