Woman Walling, Edna

Australian plant conservation activist, Author, Garden designer, Housing developer and Pioneer

Written by Anne Vale, The University of Melbourne

English born Edna Walling (1895-1973) is known today as one of Australia's most highly regarded twentieth-century garden designers and writers. An early graduate from the Burnley School of Horticulture (Burnley) she went on to design some significant Arts and Crafts gardens, and was Australia's first woman property developer, the initiator of many conservation actions, a prolific writer for journals and newspapers, and a talented photographer and author.

Walling emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1914. She graduate from Burnley in 1917 and commenced her working life as a jobbing gardener. Construction rather than horticulture inspired her and she pressed individuals from Melbourne's architecture profession for work. As she demonstrated her design capabilities commissions followed, including several from the fashionable architect Marcus Martin. In 1934-35, she met Ellis Stones (1895-1975) who along with contractor Eric Hammond formed the most important relationships of her career. Walling's work echoes that of the collaborations between English Arts and Crafts garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Edwin Lutyens. Characteristic examples include Boortkoi (1937-38) and Mooramong (1940) Mawarra (1932) and Durrol (1932) - all in Victoria- they continue to inspire subsequent generations of garden designers. Walling became a property developer in 1921 when she purchased bush land at Mooroolbark in Victoria. She personally designed the cottages and closely supervised their construction creating a village style community called Bickleigh Vale. Walling became a vocal advocate for the use of native plants in designed gardens and for the conservation of indigenous vegetation along the roadside and in the open landscape. Her seminal volume, The Australian Roadside (1952), is still in use as the authoritative text on this subject.

Walling associated with numerous horticulturists, writers and garden designers - many of whom were developing their own distinguished careers - including Glen Wilson, Gordon Ford and Ellis Stones, all of whom credit Walling as an important influence on their work. Walling expanded this influence through her numerous magazine, newspaper and journal articles accompanied by her own photographs and sketches, for more than thirty years. Her first book, Gardens in Australia was published in 1943 followed by Cottage and Garden in 1947. A Gardener's Log, a collection of Home Beautiful articles, was first published in 1948. Many subsequent titles were published based on these original pieces of writing.

By the 1950s, Walling had stopped producing a regular column for Australian Home Beautiful, however she continued to write occasional articles for Walkabout, Woman's World, Australian House and Garden, the Sun News-Pictorial and the Age. A design commission prompted a move to Bendles in Buderim in Queensland 1967. She continued to send articles to editors until shortly before her death on 8 August 1973. On the Trail of Australian Wildflowers, was a collaboration between Walling and her friend and colleague, the botanist Jean Galbraith.It was published posthumously in 1984. The Happiest Days of My Life, which the development of her holiday property on the Southern Victorian Coast, was written by Walling but not published until 2008.

Walling's numerous 'markers of influence' - her garden designs, writing, photographs, water-colour designs, radio broadcasts, associations and her extant gardens, ensured that she was an important role model for aspiring young female professionals throughout her career, and she continues to exert significant influence to this day.

Published Resources


  • Vale, Anne, 'Olive Mellor and the Australian Suburban Garden', Masters Thesis, The University of Melbourne: Faculty of Land and Food Resources, 2005. Details
  • Vale, Anne, 'Exceptional Australian Garden Makers of the 20th Century', PhD thesis, The University of Melbourne: Department of Resource Management and Geography, 2009. Details

Online Resources