District Group 2023 Highlights part 2


With 19 local groups around NSW, there is always a lot of regional activity – bushwalks, meetings, talks, garden visits, plant sales, bush care and propagation. Here are some highlights from 2023.

North Shore​​

A great way to connect with the community and raise awareness of Australian plants is through  holding plant stalls. We propagate plants in our shade house located at Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden  and we are always keen to raise money by selling our plants in tubes and larger pots. First up in February, we went to the Seniors Expo at Turramurra Uniting Church. We ate a lot of cake  but didn’t sell many plants! 

Next attempt was the Berowra Fauna Fair in March. This was quite an event for the community, where  we fitted in perfectly with bee hotels, frog displays and wildlife rescue. These were our kind of people!  We spent the whole day helping customers choose the right plant while swapping stories of successes  and tragedies in the garden. Whenever we had a moment spare, we attended interesting talks on  topics ranging from fungi to marine animals. It was so heartening to be amongst people who care  about the environment and who are active in the community. 

We liked Berowra people so much that another stall was held later in the year at the Apex Berowra  Woodchop. Our customers had lots of questions and were very grateful for the interest we showed in  their quest to improve their gardens and understand the habits of plants. Because our wares were so  cheap ($5 for tubes and $8 for the more advanced plants) our sales were good. For entertainment,  we watched the wood chopping competition which was high stakes. The whole event was like a mini  Easter Show where we were the only ones selling Australian native plants. 

We sold half of all the plants in our shade house that day, so we look forward to more propagation in  2024.

Northern Beaches

The two events that stand out according to our wonderful events and walks organizer were the visit  to Harry Loots’ garden and the bushwalk at the end of Ralston Ave. 

Harry Loots garden in Cremorne was visited in June by 14 people .Harry’s garden overlooks Middle  Harbour and Primrose Park and is already from the street showing its character by the presence of  several tall Xanthorrhoeas. Many of the plants in the garden are indigenous, but some are also simply  beautiful native plants. Another important aspect of this garden is the provision of habitat for native  fauna, for which Harry’s garden even featured on television I believe. I missed this visit and have to  thank the writers of reports and our newsletter editor for such good insightful reviews. 

The bushwalk at the end of Ralston Avenue matched the picture book walks everyone hoped to  experience. It was a perfect sunny late winter day, with all buds opening and a great variety of all  early flowers on display. The colour palette included purple, white, cream, yellow, pink with Boronia  ledifolia, Phebalium squamulosum, Kunzea capitata, Conospermum longifolium and Hibbertia  cistiflora and more from others. Nineteen people attended, including my granddaughter and the  length was just perfect to see the wonderful flower display as well as getting a good idea about the  landscape, which drops of into continuous bushland valleys. Different vegetation communities were  displayed at the eastern and western aspects of the path, but that may reflect more than just the  direction. The walk was followed by lunch at the local hotel allowing for plant discussions and plant  ID to be resolved whilst restoring our energy.


We met on numerous occasions during 2023 with the focus of sharing our love and knowledge of  Australian native plants. We enjoyed guest speakers like the always entertaining botanist Ruari Carolin unpicking the many ways plants ‘move’ around in their environments or by being taken to wonderful locations by members sharing their stories of their travels and the plants and unique environments that they encountered. 

Our much-anticipated Members’ Night facilitated the sharing of knowledge allowing time for members to ‘show off’ their garden triumphs. Bush walks to many of the diverse environments in the Shoalhaven extended our knowledge and appreciation of the huge variety of native species in our local area. 

Our plant stall in association with Berry Public School Plant Propagation Nursery was hugely successful at educating and engaging with the public and was a great outlet to sell plants grown by members. 

On two outings we joined up with other APS Groups, meeting up with the Southern Highlands Group at the Grevillea Park Bulli and members of the South East Group on a fossil talk and bushwalk at Ulladulla. 

Yet another successful year!

Nowra APS - South Pacific Reserve walk
Berry Public School, Plant Propagation workshop

Parramatta Hills

We had a very successful 2023. We had a good mix of face to face meetings with a speaker, outings  and bushwalks. We have also tried to include some social activities such as lunches together before  or after walks. This variety has attracted many of our members and sometimes members of other  APS Groups. We have 58 members and an analysis of attendance indicates that 38 members came  to at least one activity. This is 66% or two thirds of our membership. 

One highlight was a weekend visit to the property of one of our members at The Branch, east of  Buckets Way. More than 200 species have been recorded in this bushland. At the time of our visit  there was an amazing variety of Grevillea spinulosa. A rare Grevillea, Grevillea guthrieana grows on our property. Our bushwalks have included outings to places where there is a variety of Hawkesbury sandstone  flora but as our area membership catchment also includes the Cumberland Plain we have been on  walks in this part of Sydney as well. These have been equally rewarding and extended our plant  knowledge.

Banksia spinulosa
Parra Hills members at Vineyard Creek, Telopea.

Southern Highlands

Both membership and participation are on the rise. We have listened to some wonderful talks, visited  three native gardens and had a couple of walks through the bush. We also had a fascinating outing to Australian Botanic Garden’s Herbarium and Seed Bank at Mt Annan and have had opportunities to meet with three other APS groups: Canberra, Illawarra and the Southern Tablelands.  

It’s been a big year for community projects. In 2023 we engaged with Wingecarribee Council over several issues including street trees, the removal of mistakenly planted weed trees and a chance to liaise and advise on plantings for the new Bong Bong Common Play Area.  

We secured a grant from Council to have the Department of Primary Inductries test 15 dying trees,  representatives of a mass dieback in the Highlands. The results point to the notorious fungus-like  Phytophthora. We see this as a first step towards providing landowners with useful information about how to prevent the spread, dispose of affected trees and replace them with a more resistant planting  regime.  

Our members continue to tend the Coles planter boxes in Bowral. Long-term signs are now  permanently attached to the boxes displaying our contribution and logo. At the CWA Moss Vale,  where members meet bi-monthly, we have maintained the Eucalyptus gregsoniana planted by our  members in 2019. There are further plans for native plantings this coming year. 

A milestone in 2023 has been our entry into the digital world with members now able to pay for plants  with a credit card and the mastering of the iNaturalist app to aid plant identification. We have also  forged a happy relationship with the Habitat Gardeners of Bundanoon who produce magnificent stock;  our contributions go to 2023’s Citizen of the Year, Wombat John (Creighton).  

Perhaps the greatest highlight of the year is honouring by the NSW APS of member Jane Lemann,  who was the APS NSW Conservation, and member Jennie Simons who was appointed a Life Member of the Society, both long-term members dedicated to the work of celebrating our native flora. 


The year 2023 was very special for Sutherland Group as we celebrated our 60th anniversary 1963– 2023. Yes, we have been going for 60 years! We held a Sutherland Heritage Festival event at Joseph  Banks Reserve in April with a photo display of the reserve’s 50 years, and our Open Gardens  weekend in September, with almost 500 visits to our 6 open gardens. Thank you to our generous  garden hosts for sharing their diverse native gardens with the public and to the volunteers who  assisted. We made a 60th anniversary donation to the Australian Flora Foundation of $600 as well  as our usual annual donation of $500. We have several other anniversary projects which are  underway. 

We continued our regular activities to share our enthusiasm and knowledge of native plants. We  enjoyed 9 monthly meetings with an average of 28 people a meeting and updated our laptop and data  projector to improve quality. Speaker topics organised by Ralph Cartwright included WA travels, flying  foxes, local grevilleas, a bush tucker garden, our Charlotte Pass video, burrawangs, spring flowers,  Sutherland Council’s invasive weeds program and East Arnhem land. We welcomed eight new  members, but were saddened by the loss of Margaret Olde, a long-time member, just a month after  visiting us for Peter Olde’s talk. 

Activities included our very popular week-long trip to Charlotte Pass in February and walks in the  Royal National Park, organised by John Arney. We supported Joseph Banks Native Plants Reserve  with working bees twice a month and other regular work, and Sutherland Council’s Bushcare and  nursery activities. We created a showcase of native flowers and won prizes with our Australian plant  entries at the Royal Easter Show. 

We supported APS NSW by hosting a quarterly gathering at Bundeena in March, and with members  John Aitken as Vice-President, Lisa Godden as monthly e-newsletter editor, and Dan Clarke as Conservation Officer, and supported our national body ANPSA with John Aitken as President and  Rhonda Daniels as Secretary. 

It was also a significant year for local partners: Sutherland Council’s Bushcare program celebrated  30 years and Sutherland Council Community Nursery celebrated 50 years in 2023. Many of our  members support Bushcare and nursery activities to promote native plants. 

We look forward to the next 60 years.

Clare McColl and Ralph Cartwright at Clare’s open garden
Heritage Festival display at Joseph Banks Reserve, Kareela


Tamworth Monthly meeting display

2023 was a relatively quiet year for the APS Tamworth Group. Our members are ageing, and some  are not as agile as they once were. We still have our monthly meeting where we discuss what’s  happening in our gardens and show what’s flowering in our gardens at the plant table.  

At one meeting we had a lively discussion about what plants would be suitable for small gardens as some of our members have downsized. 

We had an interesting talk by one of our members on some of the books that they have, particularly one on the role that fungi have in healthy ecosystems. 

Our local council had a session at the Town Hall for new people to Tamworth where different clubs and societies put on a display of what they do to try and recruit new members. 

We had a display at the Victoria Park Precinct Open Day. The Botanic  Gardens where we have our monthly meeting is in the Victoria Park  Precinct. 

The threatened species patch at the Tamworth Botanical Gardens is still going. We had several working bees installing wire tree guards.