Susan P Dempster (1968 - )
Sue has, from the beginning of her 25 year career in gardens, been very focused on listening to home gardeners themselves, their concerns and challenges, what works well for them and what doesn't. She understands from experience the frustration of being given conflicting gardening information as well as with the lack of interesting WA plants available to the public. Why do WA natives have such a bad reputation? Why are they thought of as being unruly, boring, messy and generally unattractive to people who want a beautiful garden? These are questions that have intrigued Sue as she knows from her own experience that this doesn't have to be true. In response to these common misperceptions she has become increasingly focused on supporting people to better understand how our native plants can actually flourish in their personal home gardens and meet their particular wants and needs.
This is still Sue's passion today and she now has thousands of happy clients who can attest to her skill at listening to and understanding their desires for their garden and her deep knowledge of the appropriate WA plants to meet their criteria. Her experience has shown that much of the poor reputation of WA natives has come from a lack of understanding as to which particular plants are appropriate for specific locations and then the appropriate care and management of the plants themselves, the soil, moisture requirements and so on. Sue is expert at providing this specialised support and, through this, enabling people to have native gardens that they simply never dreamed possible.
There's more to it than planting a native plant
Sue has a wealth of information to share from specialised, invaluable watering and mulching/ fertilising knowledge, to pruning and growing programs, dieback, translocation, seed and cutting collection and even fauna relocation programs. Having worked extensively on a large scale doing landscape plan reviews for, for example, the City of Joondalup, Ellenbrook, and the Shire of Serpentine/Jarrahdale, she now works primarily with home gardeners focusing on 'pockets' in their gardens. Sue understands that clients have different needs and visions for different areas of their properties so these need to be treated separately. Of course there is also variation in soil, wind, and shade which alter conditions even within small areas. Sue's passion and drive to create and nurture a wildflower and wildlife corridor through WA mean she is in demand as a public speaker and facilitator on WA native plants, focusing on reconnecting West Australians with their local flora and fauna in a way that is both economically viable and environmentally sensible utilising local plant strategies. She truly brings heart and mind into revitalising a sense of place.
Growing up in the Land of Flowers and community
Sue is the third generation of 'wildflower women' in her family working with Western Australian flora, a heritage of more than 100 years. It was a natural direction for her; even in her school reports “Sue is very observant of the environment”, “very interested in preservation and cultivation on native flora” and “keen to observe and discuss animal habits”. She reports that walking in the bush with her mum, Hazel Dempster, and nana, Eileen Croxford, was a time where she felt the most at home .
In Sue's own words: "I grew up with a connection to this country, walking through the bush with Harry Butler, running through the Manjimup bush with my three brothers and sister, picking up insects, placing lizards on our faces and arms to feel how sticky their feet were, playing games of ‘following scents’ of Boronia and Crowea, climbing trees and rocks and falling out of trees breaking bones. We went camping in the middle of nowhere and climbed great big endless hills and had picnics on the top of them. This is how I was brought up and how I choose to live today."
Sue now understands that not only did she have a privileged upbringing to have been so intimately connected to the land, but that she also has an obligation to this country to care, to share with you what a sense of place is and how to work with our land not against it. By doing this we all are supported in being better versions of ourselves, more united as a community, more satisfied as individuals and, in the midst of it all, our country is able to flourish, not suffer.
Education, Education, Education
Although Sue's family heritage of understanding WA native plants was strong she still decided that formal education would be useful so engaged in and completed her Advanced Diploma of Horticulture and Advanced Diploma of Horticultural Design. On top of this she completed her Cert 3 in Business Studies.
Working with the communities of the Wildflower Society of WA and Environmental Weeds Action Network ignited her enthusiasm to share her knowledge. Through her business Everlasting Concepts Sue ran education courses where she worked in collaboration with top Australian and international experts to present expertise on WA plants as well as sessions on other topics such as garden designs, weeds, environmental impacts, street trees, soils, mulch, water, irrigation and nutrition. As a result of her own experience as well as these collaborations, Sue has inarguably comprehensive theory, current information and experience to understand what WA plants are not succeeding in landscapes and why. Further she understands the complexity of appropriate plant selection.
Everlasting Concepts won the States Nursery Industry and association environmental award 2008/9 and was a finalist for the National Environmental award that year.
New Landscape Approach