Meet David Kennedy

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17 Nov 2021

David Kennedy’s Katoomba garden Clover Hill is a showcase of rare cool climate gems. Come see him at the Fair!

With no room left, the avid plant collector and nurseryman has started a new garden over the mountains.

Interview: Robin Powell

Has gardening always been pleasure and business?

I’ve had nurseries since the early ‘90s, starting with orchids. When I moved to the Blue Mountains I sold all that and wasn’t operating a nursery for a while. But I was importing plants to grow in my own garden and needed to recoup some of the costs so that’s how Clover Hill Rare Plants started. 

What do you look for when choosing plants for the nursery?

That’s changed quite a bit over the years. While I still enjoy the rarities, I’m finding I’m less keen to fuss over a plant now. There are so many plants that are beautiful, and not all of them need to constantly watched to keep them alive. Now I’m looking for hardy, drought-tolerant beauties.

What was the impetus for the new garden you’ve begun at Hartley?

We ran out of room! I have plants in pots that haven’t found a home for years. We also wanted a new challenge, and the different conditions of Hartley, which is over the mountains, offers that. It is much drier, but with better soil than Katoomba. It’s going really well so far. Everything I have planted has just taken off. The roses grow like you wouldn’t believe, and some things that didn’t like the drizzle in the mountains, especially the prairie-type things like agastache, are already doing really well.

What’s happening to Clover Hill?

We have decided to keep it and run it as a holiday let. Of course the garden will change a little. I’ll have to make it a bit more low maintenance, so that requires using a few more shrubs. The bulbs of course will look after themselves.

What are a few of the gems you’ll be bringing to Collectors Plant Fair?

Agastache ‘Blue Boa’ is going to be very popular with gardeners from drier climates like Canberra. It has really good colour, with flowers that are larger and last longer. All the buddleias are always popular and this year I hope to bring one called ‘Red Fox’, which is a shorter grower with spectacular bright reddish-pink flowers. I’m planning on having some of the terrific white Jerusalem sage, Phlomis purpurea ‘Alba’, and for the plant nuts a rare woodland plant, Jeffersonia diphylla. That one will bring the collectors out of the woodwork! Oh, and having sold up orchids and sworn off them for good, I find I’m collecting species slipper orchids again, and will have seedlings of some of those.

Meet David at his Clover Hill Rare Plants stall at Collector’s Plant Fair, Hawkesbury Race Club, Clarendon, or visit his online mail order nursery: