A renowned horticulturist who pioneered the way for generations of women has died aged 96.

A Yorkshire native, Doreen Normandale, of Wroxham, retired to Norfolk in 1979 and made the county her home following a rewarding career.

Born Doreen Crowther, she became the first from her all-girls school in Halifax to choose a career in horticulture. To test her capacity in this field, her headmistress arranged for her to spend a year as a part-time apprentice in the parks department.

She went on to gain a diploma in horticulture at Reading University, completing the two-year course in just 18 months after universities were forced to fit four terms into one year due to Second World War restrictions.

Aged 19, she became the youngest person to gain a government advisor job working in East Sussex on the Dig for Victory campaign. Although the war had ended, her work still involved advising growers on pest and disease control and giving talks on vegetable production to home-growers and gardening clubs.

For this role, she was taught to drive and was provided with a ministry car and petrol coupons. She also become a good map reader, as all signposts had been removed when the war began.

At this time, the editor of Amateur Gardening magazine, who lived nearby in Crawley, heard Mrs Normandale giving a talk to his local Village Produce Association. Following the talk, he asked her to answer some of his readers' questions for two shillings each and she agreed. He later offered her a job as assistant editor and she seized the opportunity to live and work in London.

During her time in the capital, she enjoyed visiting theatres and watching concerts. She also joined Barnes Ladies Rowing Club, a sport she learnt at university and gained sporting colours in.

During her time in East Sussex, she became interested in fruit growing. This became an area her editor encouraged her to specialise in and allowed her to visit fruit research stations. She spent days with a photographer getting images to illustrate her articles and supplement the Amateur Gardener photographic library.

She also wrote the Amateur Gardening Handbook Currants and Gooseberries and another book entitled Fruit for Small Gardens. All of her writing was attributed to D.S. Crowther, to disguise the fact that she was female.

Both her gender and age were against her when it came to being promoted after the editor retired. Instead, she was pushed sideways to edit gardening books by Collingridge – an entirely office-based role.

By then, she had married John Normandale, who, on completion of his National Service in the Army, was articled to become a chartered accountant. The couple was reliant on her income but she was ready to change jobs.

At this time, Mr Normandale had heard of a job being advertised with Plant Protection Limited for someone to work with its photographer to make films promoting its products, such as pest control and weed killers. Based in Haslemere, it was an easy train ride from her London flat. She got the job and went on to find specimens and sites on which to base scripts and commentaries on.

When Plant Protection’s Jersey office decided to put a float into its region’s annual carnival, it decided to record the occasion and gave Mrs Normandale her first opportunity to travel by aeroplane.

The couple moved from their London flat to their first home in Addington, near Croydon, and in 1954 – the year rationing ended – Mrs Normandale became a full-time freelancer writing about fruit growing for many gardening magazines. Gradually this work diminished as she became a mother to her two daughters.

She was a keen girl guide and became lieutenant of her school company, helping with a company while at Reading. When her children became brownies, she took up the role of brown owl and went on to get a job as the organiser of a children’s club for the Croydon Advertiser.

She retired to Norfolk when her daughters left home and during her time here, she designed gardens in Thorpe End firstly, then in nearby Wroxham. She also spent time in lockdown potting up surplus plants for friends and plant sales, supporting groups such as the National Garden Scheme and Wroxham Sunday School Plant Sales. She also enjoyed completing codewords and crosswords.

Friend Joyce Billing said: “Doreen was a pioneer, broke down barriers, and became a renowned horticulturist. She will be sorely missed.

"She was always very thankful for any kindness shown to her and this made it a joy to do the smallest thing for her.

“She will be remembered for her kindness, interest in others, and generosity in her sharing of her encyclopaedic plant knowledge. Nobody could propagate quite like Doreen."

Mrs Normandale, of Wroxham, died on July 7.