We each grew up with a strong love of plants and the environment. Bill’s early years were spent exploring the western plains of Melbourne, and later as a jackaroo around the Riverina in New South Wales. His passion for Australian flora and the environment grew strongly in those years.
Sue was deeply influenced in early childhood by her surroundings, living at Bickleigh Vale, in Mooroolbark, Victoria. Bickleigh Vale is the Heritage-listed village designed and built in the 1920s-30s by garden designer Edna Walling. Sue’s mother, Gwynnyth Crouch, lived with and worked for Edna for ten years, then upon her marriage built the cottage Wimborne in the heart of Bickleigh Vale, where Sue and her brother spent their early childhood years.
Together, we built Austraflora Nursery (in Montrose, Victoria) from the early 1970s, our desire being to encourage everyday gardeners to grow Australian plants. This was a period of great change in Australian garden design as people discovered the excitement and extraordinary beauty and resilience of our native flora, and began using it in their own landscapes.
A holiday for us was crossing Australia, exploring wild country from Tasmania to the Kimberley; delving into plant mecca southern Western Australia; walking the High Country of Victoria & NSW; travelling to Far North Queensland and Central Australia, always on our own, in our sturdy old Landrover campervan. Everywhere, we’d spend days & weeks immersed in a world of natural history, seeking new plants that could have a future role in horticulture and landscape design, furthering our understanding of Australia’s unique environment at every step.
Our passion for seeking new material for horticulture is twinned with scientific work. Together we have authored or co-authored more than 25 papers describing and naming new species of Acacia, Banksia, Callistemon, Grevillea, Hakea & Eucalyptus, many in Victoria, and published in Muelleria, the journal of Royal Botanic Gardens, Victoria. This includes the first revision of the Grevillea victoriae complex since botanist George Bentham’s Flora Australiensis (1863-78).
As the years have become decades, and our own senior years accumulate, none of our passions diminish. At Wombat Bend, our home in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, we work extensively on new varieties of native plants, developing selections that are suited to today’s need for resilient, drought-resistant, heat tolerant plants in gardens and broader landscapes.
Sometimes we get the chance to extend what we do into another level; at present, we are developing a magnificent property & habitat in central Victoria for a dream client: purely Australian plants in a landscape setting from heaven, in granite country, painting pictures that enhance the built environment and encompass the views in breathtaking scale. It’s exciting. And fulfilling.
Our beautiful billabong is the heart of ‘WB’ (as everyone calls it), home to hundreds of birds and other wildlife, and core of our daily activity. It’s what we wake up to, and what closes our days.
Our love of wildlife has encompassed how we live our own lives, with deep respect for the wild creatures who share our space. Occasional rescue work also takes place, especially with our wombat population whose care we take very seriously.
Our souls could never be complete without our dogs, specifically Airedale Terriers, who are our life companions at every turn. Generations have left their paw prints on WB and in our hearts, and Airedale Rescue & Adoption work is a large component of life at WB.
Sharing what we have created at Wombat Bend also underpins our daily living, and our self-contained, private B&B, The Burrow at Wombat Bend, offers our guests a wonderful space in which to relax, rejuvenate, and spend time in nature. Our guests quickly become friends and many make regular return visits, simply to immerse themselves again in the deep peace of WB.
It’s not a bad way to be living. Our only wish perhaps is for another lifetime.