District Group highlights – 2021 part 2

By Heather Miles

Blue Mountains – Margaret Gaul

Glenbrook nursery
Helen Blattman

The Glenbrook Native Reserve Nursery at 41 Great Western Highway, Glenbrook Native Plant Reserve, NSW, 2773 has been well supported by the public, despite restricted openings due to Covid. More people are asking for information on creating native gardens and using species local to our area or areas where they live. For example, we get many enquiries and visits for people west of the Divide needing windbreaks etc. for farm land but also plants suitable for their gardens. We also get customers from the Eastern suburbs on their way home from visiting the mountains asking for container plants which tolerate salt to put on balconies. From the beach to the snow!

Significant donations of plants have gone to many groups including both Springwood and Blaxland High and Leonay and St Marys Public Schools and to the Sydney Refugee Team to establish a Refugee Garden at Granville in Western Sydney. It’s encouraging to see that the value of native plants as habitat is spreading through the community in a practical way rather than just awareness. Our yearly Spring Fair had to be cancelled as were those of many other groups, with a large impact on earnings from plant sales but we think we have just about made it up with the introduction of an electronic payment system, member sales and a gradual extension of opening hours for the nursery. We are now, in 2022, open on Sat, Sunday and Wed 12-4 to double vaccinated people who wear a face mask. APS members get a 10% discount.

Blue Mountains members gathered to celebrate the 90th birthdays of Dick Turner and Helen Blattman. Dick was presented with a special bottle of wine, while Helen received a beautiful bunch of Native flowers. Both are longstanding members who have devoted days of their lives to Australian plants and especially to our Reserve at Glenbrook.

Many of our members put in submissions against the raising of the wall of Warragamba Dam and thankfully the proposal was rejected on the basis that the environmental and aboriginal cultural impact had been insufficiently addressed. Others of our membership were overjoyed to hear the announcement that The Gardens of Stone had been declared a State Conservation Area since they had been advocating that for very many years.

In a small pandemic window we managed to again host the cadets from the nearby Air Force Base for the annual Clean Up Australia event, providing the hungry workers with a free sausage sizzle for their community-minded efforts.

A small group of members visited Mt Tomah and were given a talk and tour by Greg Burke as an update on post bushfire recovery. Although many other excursions were cancelled due to the pandemic, another group managed to squeeze in a visit Mt Annan

Coffs Harbour - Rob Watt


Once again it was a year dominated by Covid. And we got things wrong. We believed that to return to normal, we should act normally. This meant doing our best to have meetings – to carry on as we had done previously. What we failed to note was that while we on the Committee were accepting of sitting through meetings with masks and the like, our ‘normal’ members were not. While we cancelled only 3 meetings – July, August and October, our numbers attending plummeted for most of the meetings we held. And while visits to local National Parks and the like were fewer, the numbers were higher. Our visits to gardens dropped because many people just didn’t want outsiders in their gardens. This wasn’t at the time self-evident and there were restrictions in movement making such trips difficult anyway. However, by the end of the year we had learned our lesson and in planning 2022, hopefully we had seen the light. We re-examined the number of meetings we need, and what sort of visits were the most popular. And with practically all vaccinated, things ought to be a great deal easier.

A particular highlight of 2021 was the visit to the Glenugie Peak to see the extraordinary floral diversity created both by the altitude and dolerite rock intruding into the surrounding Mesozoic sandstone. A though quite a climb, well worth it.

Menai - Margaret Olde

Actionotus forsythii
Lloyd Hedges on TV

Our involvement in the Glossies in the Mist Project continued throughout 2021- an initiative co-ordinated by the Southern Highlands Group of the National Parks. Pam Forbes and Marian Whatman met weekly to propagate trees which were donated and then planted in the Southern Highlands as food sources for the Black Cockatoos. Vice President Lloyd Hedges and member Anthony Jackson were also involved in a mass planting day at Penrose.

Other members of our group met weekly to propagate plants, which are donated or sold to finance the Group’s activities. When members visited both the National and Australian Botanic Gardens during early 2021, they were excited to see the impressive massed displays of Actinotus forsythii which had been propagated and donated by the Menai Wildflower Group and it was pleasing to be told that they had not lost any of the plants at that stage.

Another one of the highlights of 2021 for the Menai Wildflower Group was entering the Royal Agricultural Society’s Flower Competition at the Royal Easter Show. A number of members cut flowers from their gardens and it was exciting to see these buckets of spectacular blooms being transformed by Helen Patience and her band of helpers into amazing creations to fit into the various categories. Even more exciting was winning prizes in 13 of the 17 categories entered, as well as winning the Grand Champion.

Finally, Vice President Lloyd Hedges became somewhat of a media personality when he appeared on Ten News as well as in the Sydney Morning Herald online. This was prompted by the interest in waratahs which were blooming fantastically this year, and a single plant in the local area along Barden Creek had 19 blooms on it.

Northern Beaches - Harry Loots

Dipodium roseum, image Harry Loots
Cryptostylis subulata, image Harry Loots

Northern Beaches group has faced the same problems as other APS groups during 2021. Group  activities were disrupted by Covid-19 restrictions and members were required to be vaccinated and bring their own drinking vessels. The restrictions mostly curtailed night-time meetings at Stony Range Regional Botanic Garden, however Anne Gray was able to organise quite a few successful Saturday morning walks in the local bushland.

In February the group completed the 1.2 km. circuit walk on the northern side of Manly Dam.      There was a lunch at a local café. Unfortunately, the March walk on the Challenger Track in the Ku-ring-gai National Park was cancelled due to rain.

Next month the group visited Penny Hunstead’s garden in Newport. Penny is a trained botanist and runs her own gardening business. Penny kindly provided an impressive buffet lunch that was fulsome in variety, quality and quantity. On the first Thursday meeting at Stony Range Conny Harris and Russell Beardmore presented photos of the plant regeneration on North Head after the fire. Russell also spoke about the lesser plant family Euphorbiaceae.

One of the best talks of the year was presented in June by geologist John Martyn. His topic ‘Rocks and trees of the Northern Beaches’ was based on his research for his recently published book  ‘Rocks and Trees’.

Also in June the group was fortunate to receive an invitation from Marina Grassecker  to Harvest Native Plants Nursery, 281 Mona Vale Road, Terry Hills for a presentation of plant propagation methods. 

Because of Covid-19 restrictions the next group walk was not until October when the group met for the Cooyong-Aumuna Trail at Terrey Hills. Later there was a brief morning tea at the small park opposite the Terrey Hills Shops.

The group was delighted to see three different orchid species when walking along the Slades Trail in Duffys Forest in November. Luck was again with the group when it was able to hold its Christmas party uninterrupted at Stony Range on a December Sunday. 

Financially the group broke even in a roundabout way. The annual Stony Range Spring Fair was cancelled so that Northern Beaches missed a fund-raising opportunity. Due to the small number of activities the group’s outgoings have been minimal.  

Nowra - Janice Hughes

Plant propagation
Nowra group

Two evening meetings in our hall were warmly appreciated. The first, in June, was a talk given by our highly qualified Biologist, Ruari Carolin, on the life of Joseph Banks. The biography by Grantlee Kiera was discussed and Ruari imagined a sailor’s life 200 years ago which made for a very entertaining evening.

The chance to have another meeting in the hall was taken with a firm favourite of many years standing. This was a “Show and tell”’ for all members, featuring 3 plants, weeds to identify, cuttings to swap etc plus photos and questions.

In March our propagation day was as popular as ever at Berry Public School and very efficiently run by Lyn Clark at her Nature Studies and Plant Propagation Centre.

Other highlights were the day out for walking talking and a personal plant identification game challenge devised by group member in Booderee Botanic Gardens in July.
Social distancing of course has been a problem but throughout the year visits to 3 members’ gardens were managed and our closeness to the bush has helped to keep us sane! Bomaderry Creek Reserve and the Coolendel Lookout in Budgong National Park were memorable.
Wirrecoo Native Gardens in Huskisson, maintained so well by our members, has had working bees throughout the year.

Wollongong Botanic Gardens invited us to their 50th year celebrations and there Clarence Slockee showed a group of us the aboriginal knowledge of the local plants, and the wonderful nursery there where so many native plants are given free to residents to green Wollongong.
Our Christmas party was held at the picnic area adjacent to Moona Moona Creek at Vincentia in December. A much needed catch up for many of our members.
Looking back , though the virus curtailed many activities, we were pleased to have been able to have achieved a fairly full and rewarding year.

South East region - Dianne Clark

Lyndal Thorburn
Proteaceae working bee

Looking back on 2021 it surprises me that our APS South East Region group managed to meet together 8 times during the year. Even when we did not meet, every month during the year our members were sent a newsletter full of information and articles to keep everyone inspired and in touch . The newsletter was a vital part of our communication.

The year began as normal with our AGM at a members house and we were delighted to hear about Lyndal Thorburn’s travels around Western Australia with her husband Tom Jordan. At the time we did not realise what a special adventure this was. Lyndal’s knowledge, enthusiasm and her obvious determination to learn as much as possible about her environment was impressive.

One of the aims of this group is to be active in the local community and to encourage others to grow native plants. This past year we were involved in the Guerilla Bay Bioblitz, where some of our members gave guided walks and others participated in other activities that were on offer, such as animal monitoring and bird watching. A very enjoyable day.

The South East Region group has an ongoing relationship with the local Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens (ERBG) and this year this relationship was strengthened by an agreement to work together in the garden. The Proteaceae Project began, which involves the growing of, planting and maintenance of a garden bed at the ERBG. We have had four propagation and preparation days and will be continuing this work in 2022. The aim being to have a definite project for our members to contribute to, to aid the ERBG in their fire recovering and a learning experience for all. We also hope to raise the profile of our group in the community.

Sutherland - Rhonda Daniels, Leonie Hogue

Joan Zande and Marie O'Connor arranging entries for the Royal Easter Show
Sutherland group

In 2021, Sutherland Group was very pleased to celebrate our president Leonie Hogue being awarded APS NSW life membership and John Arney receiving the Conservation Award at the AGM and quarterly gathering we hosted at Kurnell in May. At the AGM, John Aitken stepped down after 6 years of great service as APS NSW President, and continues as Vice-President.

We held five face-to-face monthly meetings in the first half of the year (on WA wildflowers, Woronora cemetery, flowers to fruits, pipeworts and Mungo National Park), then five by Zoom in the second half of the year. Similar to 2020, in general, we had about the same number of members attending online as at our face-to-face meetings. Our Zoom meetings continued our plant table feature with photos and videos of plants in members’ gardens. This allowed a wide range of plants to be seen in great detail. We added recordings of our plant table photos to the APS NSW YouTube channel.

We continued our monthly working bees at Joseph Banks Native Plants Reserve in the first half of the year, but not during COVID restrictions. Fortunately, we were able to hold our usual end-of-year gathering at the reserve in December. In the first half of the year, our week-long trip to Charlotte Pass was well-attended and we had two local bushwalks. Once again, we won prizes with our Australian plant entries at the Royal Easter Show and made a donation to the Australian Flora Foundation.

Sutherland Group members continued to strongly support APS NSW with John Aitken as President (to May 2021), Rhonda Daniels as enewsletter editor (retired in December 2021 after 30 issues), Dan Clarke as conservation officer and Ralph Cartwright on the ANPSA biennial conference organising committee. John is also co-editor of the Australian Plants journal.

Tamworth - Martin O'Rourke

Working bee
Working bee

2021 started off with a full program planned. Due to Covid-19 hampering activities some of the meetings and activities planned were cancelled.

In late 2019 the Tamworth Friends of the Botanic Gardens secured a grant for $5,000 to spend on the Threatened Species plot in the Botanic Garden that is jointly run by The Friends and Tamworth APS. As some members are members of both groups the lines between the two groups get a bit blurred. The money had to be spent by December 2020, but due to Covid-19 it was extended to the 30 June 2021 by which time all the money was spent. The area was sprayed for weeds in September 2020 and a second spraying occurred in March 2021 by a professional.

We had two planned working bees to plant trees, install plastic tree guards and irrigation lines. The first was on the 20 June where 13 Hakea macrorhyncha, 20 Calitrus oblonga (Pygmy Cyprus Pine) and 2 Acacia pycnostachya (Bolivia Wattles). All of these had been grown by one of the members.

An unplanned working bee was held in late July 2021 at the Botanic Gardens to replace some of the plastic tree guards that had been disturbed by goats. Wire guards were placed around the Hakea macrorhyncha and some of the Calitrus oblonga (Pygmy Cyprus Pine) that had been planted in June 2021.