Member Snapshot: Bill & Clover Bradley

Bill and Clover are a husband and wife team that have been growing native orchids since 2012 (according to Clover, “I grow and look after the plants and Bill who is the self appointed manager with the constructive criticism, looks at the flowers.”). However, in the short time they have been involved in orchid growing, they have produced already many winners in the monthly benching competitions and shows!  They kindly share with us a snapshot on their growing and taking care of Australian native orchids.

Q: How did you come to be orchid enthusiasts?

Clover:  We both had an interest in Australian native plants. Before we were married we learned china painting and native flowers featured heavily in our work. When we married we had an Australian wild flower wedding even down to the men’s button-hole flowers and the tiny silver vase on top of the cake! Apart from buying the odd native orchid for the next 37 years, the interest lay dormant until 12 months before retirement; I decided to grow native orchids. I joined the Berowra Orchid Society and Bill (who was already retired), spent his time on the Internet terrorising growers and buying orchids! And so the collection grew from a few plants under an awning to orchids growing inside three and a half green houses (The other half is Bill’s tool shed – Editor).

Q: Which are your favourite native orchids and why?

Clover & Bill: We have a few native Dendrobium hybrids and speciosum varieties, but Sarcochilus are our favourites. Sarcs normally flower in the spring, but orchid breeders are now trying to breed new varieties of Sarcs that flower in the other seasons. According to David Butler, we are about 5 years away when we will have Sarcs flowering at any given month! When we see Sarcs flowering in the off season, we try and buy them. 

Beautiful Sarco. Serenade from David Butler

Q: Approximately how many “pots” in your collection?

Clover: I record all our orchids in a database and have somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 native orchids in our green houses at any given time.  Of these, we have close to 1,200 Sarcochilus orchids.

Q: What was the most memorable orchid collection you’ve visited?

Clover & Bill: There are many, most of the established growers like David Butler, Ken Russell and his cousin Bob, Lloyd Edwards (Earth to Joy), and Henk van den Berg all have beautiful collections.


Q: Which is your favourite nursery to purchase orchids from?

Clover: Most of our plants are David Butler based or from Ken Russell.

Q: What was the worst mistake you ever made growing your orchids?

Clover: I was trying out a new recipe for a dry fertilizer mix and I didn’t do it properly. It burned the roots of the plants and I lost nearly half of my collection! When trying out new fertilizer, use a very weak mixture first on a few plants.


Q: What would you advise novices thinking of or just starting out growing orchids?

Clover: Join a club. This is the best way to gain practical knowledge on growing orchids from people who live near you and grow the same orchids as you. When we first started out growing native orchids, we were helped by the other members like Bryan Spurrs who showed us how to do things.

When you’ve grown a few plants, bring them in and join the monthly benching competition. Even if you know they won’t win, you’ll learn quickly how to prepare them when you compare them with the other plants. After a while, you’ll be proud to see your plants on the table alongside plants from established growers!

Q: What do you like about our club ANOS Sydney Group and what activity do you enjoy the most?

Clover: Aside from learning from the other members, ANOS Sydney Group’s Sarcanthinae show is the best one to enter, because of the wide range of classes. This allows me to take a selection of plants to fit into each class. They also have the growing and popular vote competitions. The club also have more speakers over the year than other clubs of which we are also members. They are all very good speakers and are very knowledgeable on native orchids.


Q: What is on your orchid wish list?

Clover: I wish we could have more classes in our monthly benching competition. Our club only has one class, so tiny species are competing with the larger ones. Two or three separate classes would give more members the opportunity to win against the established growers.


Bill: I’d like to see the club promote the growing of Sarcs among people living in units. All around us I see more and more residential apartments being built. It would be good if we can introduce them to growing Sarcs on their balconies!

Some of Clover’s beautiful Sarcs!

One of Bill & Clover’s green houses

Clover's innovative bug zapper!

Sarco. Olivaceous