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Letter 11 - Edna Walling

Edna Walling is a possibly Australia's most well-known garden designer, remembered for her influential work and prolific writing.

Edna was born in 1895 in England where she developed a love for the English countryside.  She moved to New Zealand, then Melbourne in her youth and attended the School of Horticulture at Burnley with the encouragement of her mother. Starting her career in 1919, she focused on achieving harmony between houses and gardens, drawing inspiration from Italian and Spanish garden styles that included pergolas, walls, steps and pathways with dense greenery and few flowers. She is quoted as saying:

"It is really rather amazing that we have copies of the English style rather than Spanish and Italian because in this climate, protection from hot winds is essential to civilised living."

She established herself with a sophisticated design style characterised by strong architectural elements and a balance of structured and wild sections. 
Walling's reputation grew rapidly, leading her to work for prominent clients such as Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Sir Frank Packer.

She was a prolific writer, contributing hundreds of articles to a regular column in the Australian Home Beautiful magazine (1926-1946) and publishing four different books during her lifetime. A fifth was released posthumously in 1984.  She had a passion for black and white photography and took photographed landscapes, plants, pets, children and friends.

In the 1920s, Edna built a picturesque village for herself called Bickleigh Vale in Mooroolbark, where she designed cottages and gardens. Throughout her career, Walling emphasised the use of native plants and advocated for conservation.

Her influence on Australian gardening was significant, and her legacy continues to be celebrated by garden enthusiasts. Walling's assertive personality sometimes led to conflicts, but she was also known for her generosity and passion for her work.

She passed away in 1973 at Buderim, Queensland where she had moved in 1967 to live in a warmer climate.  Edna left behind a lasting impact on Australian garden design and conservation efforts.

The Friends of Edna Walling at Bickleigh Vale Village are dedicated to preserving the heritage and environment of the village, organising working bees, collaborating with local authorities, managing visitor events, and maintaining a website to raise awareness of the village's significance.

 


References and Further Reading