Birds and Collecting Ladies

Following the 2018 AGM, past member Damian Kelly entertained members with a talk encompassing his interest in birds and also for botanical art, in particular that of women artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Damian referred to his recently published book “Castlemaine Bird Walks: a guide to walks and birds in the Castlemaine district” and the companion website:

Many of the birds featured in the book also visit Damian and Lynne’s garden in Castlemaine.  Damian spoke of the importance of providing water for birds and also mentioned that feeding wild birds is acceptable provided that care is taken to provide the correct food rather than bread and scraps.  Providing a variety of habitat plants, shrubs and trees, native and/or ornamental, will ensure that wild birds will visit your garden.  Understanding bird behaviour and their food preferences, e.g. seed eaters, nectar feeders, insect eaters, is also important when creating a diverse environment to attract birds to an area.

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Enjoying the bird bath!


Women artists who collected and painted botanical specimens in the 19th and 20th centuries are much admired by Damian, not only for the quality and accuracy of their work, but also for the intrepid journeys they undertook to remote locations in their search for rare flowers and plants.

Women artists mentioned by Damian include:

Marianne North – the obsessive solo world traveller. Collaborated with Darwin and Von Mueller. Built her own gallery in Kew Gardens that is still in existence. Was a friend of the Hookers – famed father and son Kew Gardens Directors. Mentored others such as Ellis Rowan and Margaret Forrest.

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Ellis Rowan – travelled the world. Illustrated botanical textbooks in the USA, had exhibitions in Australia and London. made a living as an artist. Clashed with the likes of Buvelot, Lindsay and others in the male dominated artist scene.

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Margaret Forrest – wife of John Forrest who was involved in Federation, Premier of WA. Margaret travelled with Marianne North (the 8 hour ride), was a good painter in her own right and organised exhibitions for Rowan and North.

Marianne Campbell –  Von Mueller collaboration and painter. Ended up owning Duntroon in Canberra.

Ida McComish – travelled widely in Asia and the Pacific with her botantist husband painting and collecting.


Damian recommended the following books for those who would like to explore the work and feats of these wonderful women.

Penny Olsen: Collecting Ladies – Ferdinand Von Mueller and Women Botanical Artists
(NLA Publishing 2013)

Leonie Norton: Women of Flowers – Botanical Art in Australia from the 1830’s to the 1960’s (NLA Publishing 2009)

Marianne North: Abundant Beauty: The Adventurous Travels of Marianne North, Botanical Artist (Greystone Books 2011)

Marianne North: A Vision of Eden: The Life and Work of Marianne North (Published in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1980)

Christine Morton-Evans: Flower Hunter: The Remarkable Life of Ellis Rowan (Antipodes Books and Beyond, Ltd. 2009)







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