Australian Women's Register

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Walling, Edna (1896 - 1973)

4 December 1896
Yorkshire, England
8 August 1973
Buderim, Queensland, Australia
Landscape designer, Writer and Photographer
Alternative Names
  • Keating, Edna (maiden name)


Edna Walling is best known for her garden designs. She is also remembered for her photographs, gardening and landscape books, magazine articles, and the creation of Bickleigh Vale, a village of English-style cottages. Her garden designs vary greatly and include city and country cottage gardens in which stone paths and low walls, carefully cut and well placed, are key elements.


The Walling family lived in the village of Bickleigh, Devon, before migrating to New Zealand, and then to Australia in 1914. In Bickleigh, Edna Walling's father William had trained his daughter in woodwork and honed her skills in perspective and scale. Father and daughter also enjoyed walking together through the English countryside. Walling's future garden designs were to reflect elements of this countryside, and of the various English gardens they visited.

After completing a course in horticulture at Burnley College in 1917, Walling commenced work as a jobbing gardener. In 1921 she purchased three acres of land at Mooroolbark and built her first home from local and second hand materials. This home was named Sonning after Gertrude Jekyll's Deanery Garden of the same name, which she had visited in England.

In 1922 Walling purchased a further 18 acres of land adjacent to Sonning. The houses she built became the village of Bickleigh Vale. Between the 1920s and 1960s Walling's commissions included designing the lily pond for Coombe Cottage, Dame Nellie Melba's residence in Coldstream, Vic.; Durrol for Mrs Stanley Allen, Mount Macedon, Vic.; and the Cruden Farm garden for Mrs Keith Murdoch (now Dame Elisabeth), Langwarrin, Vic. She also undertook commissions in Hobart, Tasmania, and designed villages at Port Pirie, South Australia (never completed) and Mount Kembla, New South Wales, for Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd.

During this period Walling wrote four books: Gardens in Australia (1943), Cottage and Garden in Australia (1947), A Gardener's Log (1948) and The Australian Roadside (1952). She wrote articles for The Australian Women's Mirror, The Australian Home Builder and The Australian Home Beautiful. In a letter held by the State Library of Victoria's Edna Walling Collection (La Trobe Australian Manuscripts), Walling declines an invitation to join the Australian Society of Authors by saying:

'Actually, you know, I am not a writer. I merely made a record of the work I had done, which the Oxford University Press published. I also wrote The Australian Roadside as my contribution to conservation work of this country… The books were only achieved through the great help of my teacher friend, Miss Lorna Fielden, without whose assistance I doubt if they would ever have seen the light of day. And so, much as I appreciate the honour you have bestowed on me I don't really think I have any right to be counted amongst the illustrious names appearing in your Society'

Walling's ABC Radio talks include On Making a Garden (1941), Improving the Farm and Curing Erosion and The Farmers' Friends (1951). In 1967, Walling moved to a cottage - 'Bendles' - at Buderim, Queensland. She died there in 1973.

Sources used to compile this entry: Barrett, Margaret (edited by), The Edna Walling book of Australian garden design, Anne O'Donovan, Richmond, Vic., 1980, 144 pp; Walling, Edna, Cottage and garden in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1947, 147 pp.

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Archival resources

State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection

  • Exchange of correspondence and accounts, 5 Feb. 1937 - 14 Aug. 1937, MS 10725; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • Papers of Edna Walling, 1962 - 1970, MS 10408; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • Papers of Edna Walling, c. 1940 - c. 1970, MS 13048; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details
  • Papers of Jean Galbraith, 1900 - 1990, MS 12637; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details

The University of Melbourne Archives

  • Records of Cuming Smith & Company Limited, 1938 - 1960, 96/73; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details
  • University of Melbourne. Photograph Collection, 1940 - 1972, 98/106; The University of Melbourne Archives. Details

Digital resources

Moira Pye and Jean Galbraith
c. 1930
Walling, Edna (1896 - 1973)


Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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