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In memory of

KEVIN 'GROUCHY' WILSON

28th May 1926 – 20th August 2020

Kevin arrived on the orchid scene in 1956 at the age of 30 when he joined the newly formed Sutherland Shire Orchid Society in a suburb of Sydney.  He soon became a well-established member and quickly moved up the ranks from novice to the open division.  Although he grew some exotics, Kevin’s real passion was for the Australian bush and the orchids that grew there.

About fifteen years later there was a great re-awakening of Australia’s interest in its own orchids and Kevin was at the forefront of this.  He participated in and led many trips to the bush with groups and society members.  Kevin wasn’t out there to strip the bush, he was there to discover how the orchids grew in the wild and to bring back selected pieces to improve the quality of his collection.  He then set about learning how to grow these native orchids better.  In a real sense Kevin and his native orchid colleagues were pioneers, no one had done this sort of work before.

Kevin soon developed a special interest in sarcochilus and he was amongst the first to seek out high quality clones of these orchids and to start breeding with them.  Development of shapely clones of Sarcochilus hartmannii were his first successes and Sarcochilus hartmannii ‘Sylvanvale,’ ‘Red Cloud’ and ‘Red Cap’ were some of Kevin’s best line-bred species.  Progress with the hybrids was slower, but Kevin persevered and the results of his patience and expertise can be seen in Sarcochilus Dove, Jeanne and Orange Glow.  Kevin registered ten sarcochilus hybrids between 1995 and 2002 and these clones or their offspring are still held in many orchid collections today.  The fact that sarcochilus orchids became popular in Australia and even more popular around the world was due to Kevin and his other pioneer colleagues including his good mate, the late Neville Roper.  (Neville nicknamed Kevin ‘Grouchy’ and this moniker stuck, although few people ever saw a grumpy side of Kevin.)

As well as an orchid breeder, Kevin was a judge of the Orchid Society of NSW and later the Australian Orchid Council.  He was greatly respected, wielded great influence and was tireless in the work he put into judging, especially training new judges.  Kevin was generous in sharing his knowledge of orchids and he travelled all over Australia to give talks to orchid groups on his beloved topic.    

For many, many years Kevin cheerfully donated countless hours of his personal time to the orchid societies that he belonged to in various capacities including committee member, newsletter editor, and organiser of huge floor displays at big orchid shows, to name just a few.  In recognition of this massive amount of work he did for the orchid community and for his contribution to the promotion, development and culture of Australian native orchids and their hybrids, Kevin was granted life membership of both Sutherland Shire Orchid Society and also The Revesby Workers Australian Native Orchid Club, of which he was both a Patron and founding member.

Kevin was one of those extraordinary people who dedicated a large amount of his life to his passion for native orchids and unselfishly shared his knowledge with anyone who took the time to listen.  We miss him, but whenever we see one of his sarcos in flower, we remember him.

Tribute by Murray Aldridge, Don Roberts and Jan Robinson

A donation has been made to the Australian Orchid Trust Fund by the Sutherland Shire Orchid Society and the Revesby Workers Australian Native Orchid Club.

AOTF: 3953