The action never ceases for Witta resident Norma McLeod. If she isn’t arranging a club activity, she’s planning an event or creating something artistic. All with her passion at the heart of it – flowers.
by Victoria McGuin
Norma McLeod is a busy lady. When I visited her in Witta, the phone rang at regular intervals throughout the time I was there. Norma’s husband, Keith, proved most adept at fielding the calls and passing on various messages.
It isn’t surprising really, as this inspiring woman consistently gives her time, energy and ideas to the community, particularly when it comes to gardens. It all began with the Garden Club in Maleny.
“We bought this land in 1993 and lived in a van while the house was built,” Norma explains. It took roughly six months to complete their home but even before they had officially moved in Norma had friends saying, ‘Come and join the Garden Club in Maleny’.
“We were involved in the autumn fairs, spring fairs, and the floral carpets which helped to raise money for community groups.
“Back in 1953 a crop of dahlias was ruined by a bad storm and the idea came about to create a carpet of these flowers for the fair. It just became a tradition after that.”
In 1999, Norma became Treasurer of the Club for three years, served on the Committee for 10 years and has been active ever since.
“I’ve been the hostess, welcoming new members and visitors, arranged morning teas and helped with the Flower Competition. In 2015 I was made a Life Member,” she tells me.
The Club is so popular they currently have 180 members, many of whom built a Garden Shed which houses a library, in the old Witta School grounds as a base to meet.
One of the most popular events is the Flower Competition where members bring their exhibits.
“We have a rose class, flower-of-the-month, native, bunch of flowers, fruit and vegetables, and an ‘all else’ class. Voting is done by placing marbles in cups; no collusion!” she laughs.
In 2005, Maleny Garden Club member, Margaret Harper, initiated Gardening on the Edge. A trail of hinterland gardens open to the public, together with a garden market, camellia flower display, produce stalls and teas and lunches.
“This is the biggest fundraiser for us, and we distribute the proceeds to various local community groups. It’s also wonderful for the region as it draws a lot of people here.”
Norma has also been involved in the Floral Art Group since 2000. “With other club members we make arrangements. There used to be an Art Award run by the Anglican Church with prize money of $12,000.
“Gardening on the Edge was held on the corresponding weekend and our flower arrangements coincided with their paintings. One year I did a model of a lady from the neck down, all made from flowers in Tasmania.
“She was made from paper mache and glued with flowers and ribbon to outline her bra and corset. But I can’t draw to save myself!”
Keith has joined us at this point and chips in, “She comes up with some good ideas, and she knows how to keep me busy!”
Norma and Keith have been married for over 60 years and have a slightly different account of how they met.
“I was playing netball in Brisbane,” says Norma, “and Keith was working at the service station while I waited at the bus stop. He used to whistle at me and I would snub him!”
“It wasn’t me who whistled,” protests Keith, “it was my friend!”
“Anyway,” continues Norma, “I went to the Alderly Picture Show one time with a girlfriend and Keith was there with a friend. It transpired that my friend married his friend, and 12 months later I married Keith.”
Many years and children, grandchildren and great grandchildren later, the couple have become stalwarts of the Witta and Maleny community. With Keith retired, much of his time is spent supporting Norma with her various causes and events.
“I have been involved with the Maleny Show for 23 years,” she shares. “I was assistant flower steward, then in 2006 I became chief flower steward until 2012 when Parkinson’s caught up with me.”
Despite this, Norma has been decorating the stage at the Maleny Show for the last 11 years. “We’ve built a small house on stage with 1000 tiny paper jacaranda flowers to cover the house.
“Keith made a metal-frame horse for the Year of the Horse and I covered it with material and flowers. In the Year of the Small Farmer, we turned him from a horse to a belted Galloway cow.”
“And in the Year of the ANZACS we changed him to a donkey!” adds Keith.
Norma shows me a large map of Queensland painted on calico for the 150-year celebration of Queensland. It is huge and clearly lovingly made, as is everything Norma turns her attention to. Norma’s friends Marie Hegerty helped with all stage decorating.
It is unsurprising to know that in March this year, Norma won the Blackall Range Zonta Club’s overall award for voluntary efforts in the Maleny Garden Club, the Maleny Hospital Auxiliary, the Walk of Remembrance and the Maleny Show Society, winning the Zonta Yellow Rose.
“I had no idea! I’d gone for drinks and nibbles with a friend. I thought I was hearing things when my name was called out. And then they asked me to draw the raffle and I drew my own ticket!” she laughs. “I was on Cloud Nine.”
Norma’s award is well deserved, and it is clear to me that this lovely lady is in glorious full bloom.