I have always had a love of nature, and a desire to know about natural systems. From native flower pressings in Dad’s huge Webster’s dictionary to cicada safaris and rock and mineral collecting, my childhood was always busy.
Bromeliads entered my life early – there were billbergias in my childhood garden that fascinated me, with their tanks of water and rotting vegetation and the dazzling flower spikes that emerged. It wasn’t until I began teaching in Sydney’s far west in 1977 that I discovered them again, and so many types. I began collecting ‘broms’ in earnest and haven’t stopped since. I also married my lovely Bev, moved to the Coffs Harbour area in northern NSW where I taught for 30 years and began the process of rearing 3 wonderful children. Life was never dull!
Identification and plant taxonomy soon absorbed me too and I joined the Australian Bromeliad Society in 1977 and the BSI soon after, attending meetings, visiting many collections and purchasing available bromeliad literature. To satisfy my desire to collect the plants that I saw in the various books and journals, I began importing, mainly species, but a fair selection of hybrids and cultivars too. I soon learnt that this activity was designed to fail!
With so many unidentified plants I started to utilise the new Bromeliad Identification Centre in Sarasota, Florida, USA and visited Harry Luther at the Marie Selby Botanic Gardens in 1988, for the first time. I then attended the World Conference in Miami. There I met so many people from all over the world and established lasting friendships. I began travelling, making trips to Costa Rica, Peru, Panama, Colombia, Brazil and Europe, as well as attending many World and most Australasian conferences.
I now run my nursery, Forest Drive Nursery, full time, would still import plants if I could and spend much time photographing my collection. Hybridising and species seed-raising demand much of my time now too. The internet has also opened up endless opportunities to share and discuss, often in real time – email, internet forums and Facebook are the new norms in communication.
Retired? Not really!