Leo Hodge – shearer, dingo trapper, grazier, artist, musician, poet and gardener

By Warren and Gloria Sheather

Leo Hodge

We find that the internet is a treasure trove of botanical and horticultural information. A recent search brought to light a biography of Leo Hodge, christened Leomin, the originator of many Grevillea hybrids, all prefixed ‘Poorinda’ after his property in the Gippsland area of Victoria. The name is taken from an aboriginal word meaning ‘light’.

Leo was a shearer, dingo trapper, grazier, artist, musician, poet and gardener. Of course Leo’s main claim to fame is the production of over 50 hybrid Grevilleas including the well-known ‘Poorinda Constance’ and ‘Poorinda Queen’.

We always thought that Leo named hybrids that spontaneously appeared in his extensive native garden.

This is not the case. He hand pollinated selected plants and covered the selected flowers to reduce contamination. It is interesting to note that most of his hybrid seedlings took three years to flower.

The Grevillea seedlings, in our garden, take about the same time to mature.

Crowea ‘Poorinda Ecstasy’

Leo did not limit his hybridizing activities to Grevilleas. Crowea ‘Poorinda Ecstasy’ (above), Philotheca (syn Eriostemon) ‘Poorinda’, Westringia ‘Poorinda Pavane’ (below), Prostanthera ‘Ballerina’ and Boronia ‘Sunset Serenade’ are all the result of Leo’s hybridizing or selection of superior varieties.

He made no financial gain from his work but left it to commercial nurseries to commercialise his hybrids.

At his funeral Leo was described as “a man who left an impact on the lives of his family and his name and achievements on the pages of Australian botanical history.