How the Nursery began

The Growers
In the early 1970s Penny and John Rose started a small wholesale nursery in Duffy's Forest, beside Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park .

Betty Maloney
Their love affair with native plants came about by accident. Unable to throw out some excess production of seed grown Blue Gums, Penny offered them to the Stony Range in Dee Why where she met Betty Maloney.

Betty who was the illustrator for many complete works on native plants, suggested the Roses visit some specialist nurseries in Victoria and in mid 1974 they returned with a heap of tubestock to pot up as mother plants. A short time later they opened a small retail outlet under an old Banksia tree.

Marie Knuckey & the Sydney Morning Herald
A close friend of Betty's, Marie Knuckey provided some welcome publicity in 1974 by describing her visit to the nursery where she was amused to see all the little Rose children and their friends "helping" their parents - a human interest story that was to help put native plants on the map.

Some wonderful staff
Many will remember Annie Bird who ran the nursery on Saturdays for many years. Mark Ferrington who up until July 2008 managed his own branch of Sydney Wildflower Nursery at Marsden Park and Phil Congdon who moved south to open the Heathcote nursery. One of the family 'helpers' retains an interest in the nursery, elder son, David, is now the owner of the nursery carrying on the family business.

The original streetscape 1983 Heathcote Gardens Nursery site for lease


John Brett and Heathcote Gardens Nursery Although the nursery had its beginnings as a retail offshoot of Forest Native Nursery, it was the foresight of John Brett that enabled the present nursery to become Sydney Wildflower Nursery. Advertising a nursery site "To Let" at the Ryde School of Horticulture, the Roses saw this as an opportunity to market native flowers north and south of the Harbour. It took little persuasion to convince John Brett that a specialist native nursery would help with his dream of "greening Heathcote". More.

John Laws and Mike Carlton
An opening promotion with John Laws saw Phil Congdon moving south in April 1983 and a follow up with Mike Carlton brought many long term supporters into the nursery.

The Nursery Management
It was Phil Congdon who introduced Michele Stewart to the nursery. A highly dedicated and knowledgeable member of the Australian Plants Society, she took over the reins from Phil when he moved overseas and steered the nursery for many years. Now son David is the owner with dedicated, experienced and qualified staff, Narelle, Kath, Paul, Ian and Craig making up the team.

The carpark takes shape The first plants laid out The fernhouse takes shape
The gardens are planted The kiosk is built The fernhouse expands

Sydney Wildflower Nursery North
When the Rose family retired south to Berry in 1993, the Duffy's Forest nursery moved to Terrey Hills under the ownership of Vince and Julia Sherry (Palmlands).

Forest Native Nursery still supplies the majority of the plants sold at Heathcote as well as sending plants to the sister nursery and a few selected retailers in Sydney and the Central Coast.

John Brett continues to be an inspiration, enjoying regular visits to chat with and encourage the staff. There is a stream of caring native plant enthusiasts willing to help out during holidays which means there are always dedicated and knowledgeable people around to help you join the trend and grow our beautiful plants in your garden.


Ceratopetalum gummiferum 'Alberys Red' - NSW Christmas Bush

H: 3-4m

W: 2m

Red bracts at Christmas make this a stand out in the garden. Water and feed well while establishing and prune after flowering to maintain a bushy habit. Mulch well for summer heat.