Life’s Diverse Connections Are Wattle Bring You Success

Karen Smith MAIH, Winner of the Golden Wattle Award 2020.

In this edition’s Member Spotlight, we chat with Karen Smith MAIH, editor of the renowned horticultural industry magazine, Hort Journal, and our annual Golden Wattle awardee 2020, in recognition of her services to Australian horticulture.

Karen’s passion and experience as a horticulturist shines through every month when we receive the Hort Journal in the post or in our inboxes. With a horticultural career spanning decades and a positive approach to life and work, Karen is an inspiration to horticulturists across Australia.

Networking and people create opportunity

Almost thirty years ago after a career in the travel industry, Karen decided to study horticulture and began her career in a retail nursery before joining  Yates offering consumers help with the endless task of support and advice and the occasional complaint. Karen’s enthusiasm and drive to help would-be gardeners find success meant that her role grew in size and scope.

“It was very much a role that centred around helping gardeners succeed and to feel confident they could reach a successful result with seeds, plant protection products and fertilisers”, says Karen.

Around that time, Yates established its home garden care franchises to take advice and care services out to Australian gardeners. It was then that Karen started as a technical trainer, offering the franchisees support and advice on best-practice horticulture and effective safe use of Yates’ product range.

Rendezvous in Business

Karen is a natural and enthusiastic networker and she partnered with a group of women to form the women’s networking organisation, Rendezvous in Business. Designed to create and foster opportunities for women to succeed in their businesses with like-minded advice and support, the organisation raised more than $70,000 in charitable donations for cancer research over six years.

Karen has been the NSW technical trainer for Yates since 2004, nearly sixteen years. It is a role that combines her love and knowledge of horticulture with travel across Australia.

“I help gardeners choose the products that will help them get a good result in the garden. But many customers aren’t sure about differences between herbicides and fungicides, for example, so it really helps them to understand the right product for the right use”, Karen explains.

The role sees Karen travel extensively which complements her work as the editor of the Hort Journal Australia magazine and allows her to explore her interests in regional gardens and places.

“I love meeting people and hearing their stories – that’s really what gives me energy!” Karen says.

Networking into a magazine opportunity

Hort Journal Australia started life in 2008 with the need for a technical but accessible horticultural industry publication that offered more than consumer gardening.

“The advertisers and the readers needed a magazine that brought them new products, a blend of technical, business and people-oriented stories in a format that was enjoyable to read”, Karen says.

When Judy Horton (MAIH, Retired) suggested the role of editor to a new industry magazine was opening up  Karen  (successfully)  jumped at the opportunity.  Karen approached the role with the view that connecting ideas and people would serve the publication well.

Twelve years later Hort Journal is the go-to publication covering everything from new pests, green life and urban greening updates, scientific and technical content and practical advice for horticultural business owners, supported by longstanding and committed advertising.

Love for plants and industry

Karen’s interests and experiences have all worked together around a deep love for plants and horticulture.  Karen sees the value of joining organisations because she genuinely believes that being involved projects you to another level. She has been an active in many associations over the years including a committee member of the Hort Media Association NSW, A selector for the Australian Open Gardens, and currently President of the interior Plantscape Association.

“These associations connect you with other like-minded people and opportunities arise from them”, Karen says.“I am privileged to work in a beautiful industry that has shown its colours during the pandemic of 2020 as people flocked to their gardens for solace and for access to somewhere they can find peace and life”.

“From my early days in the nursery to working at Yates and running my own business, all of these experiences have helped me come to appreciate the joy and the beauty of horticulture in Australia.”

“We are a fortunate industry where people are turning to us for inspiration and for that positive sense of wellbeing we all get along plants and nature”.


The Australian Institute of Horticulture commends Karen on her Golden Wattle Award and we are proud to count Karen as a supportive, generous and committed member.

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