My grandmother was an avid gardener. For most of my life she lived on a five acre block that she transformed from an empty paddock into a wonderful garden. I inherited her plants last year and am loving having indoor plants for the first time. She loved flowers and her camellia has just started to flower in my front yard – a pretty, delicate thing with white petals edged in pink.
The unabashed prettiness of pink roses is always a joy to behold. The best ones are terribly thorny and heavenly scent. I’m collecting cuttings of pink roses at the moment for a planned Pompadour bed in my garden, in honour of the arts she commissioned and inspired. In 1757 the Sevres Porcelain factory, of which she was a great supporter, created a colour named after her – Rose Pompadour. Bleu Celeste is a gorgeous blue made by the same chemist. The history and recipes for these colours and other decorative materials from the period are wonderfully documented at Makers and Materials.
My mum is quite the gardener. She’s been coaxing things to grow in the hard, clay soil around the house for many years. Not everything does well, but lots of plants thrive. Among the success stories are these ox tongue lilies (Haemanthus Coccineus) which provide a spectacular greeting for visitors in the driveway. At other times of the year they are verdant green tongues protruding from the ground in clusters.
The geraniums are oblivious to the world beyond the weather in our backyard. Watered sufficiently they pump out their fluorescent blooms to tempt the passing bees and delight the eyes of weary humans. Grown from a stolen branch, simple and bright, they seem content to be as they are, no more, no less.
A wander around the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, en route to the National Wine Centre, took me past the Lotus Pond. It is a forest of giant green leaves, with the impossibly pretty pink flowers rising tall above. Swaying in the breeze like some strange kind of radio receivers, the spent flower heads face the sun, in various shades of green, rust and brown. From deep within, hidden from view, a cranky water bird honks it’s disapproval at my presence.
Banksia plants are terribly interesting, from the dark green of their upper leaves, to the soft pale green of the underside, their knobbly trunks and intricate, large flowers. For such a spiky looking tree, the inner part of the flower stalk is remarkably soft like velvet. I spotted a coastal banksia recently with curious lumps on its flower heads – some kind of disease or parasite, but aesthetically very pleasing.
(Big Bad Banksia men are the villains in the classic Australian children’s book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.)
These bright orange flowers going crazy in my veggie patch make me happy every time I look our the back windows. They seem to like the dreary weather. Perhaps they know that look even more bright and colourful when skies are grey. I think it is calendula, which has the added bonus of being edible. Calendula officinalis is commonly known as pot marigold and poor man’s saffron. You can throw it in a salad or rice or butter for colour and a little extra flavour or put it in a pot to make anti-inflammatory tea.