Tag Archives: flowers

Old Flame-Friday Fictioneers

Margaret made Bill his cup of tea…Twining’s Australian Breakfast.

“What’s wrong with them, Bill? Can’t they read? NO FLOWERS meant NO FLOWERS! It was hard enough to bury you once, but over and over again, petal-by-petal? Just stick a knife in my heart. NO! I’m NOT being a drama queen. Got a friggin rose caught in the walker. Almost broke my neck. I COULD’VE DIED.”

“All those flowers… Didn’t they know, you NEVER gave me flowers?”

“Flowers in death, but not in life… A bunch for every birthday and anniversary you ever forgot…”

“I hate flowers. Burn them all!”

……

A few years ago, a neighbour’s husband passed away and she had an entire room filled with flowers, and the whole prospect of what to do with them, really troubled her. One morning, she popped over and gave me an arm full of dead Arum lillies. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about receiving them either. What was I supposed to do with them? I knew them out. I lamost always give people a photo frame when they lose someone close. Flowers just become another death.

That said, I love receiving them, and while they’re good, they really do cheer you up.

This has been another contribution fot Friday Fictioneers hosted Rochelle Wisoff-Fields PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson.

xx Rowena

Up the Garden Path, Port Arthur.

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Although I’d never heard about the stunning gardens at Port Arthur before our visit, I was happily led up the garden path. Indeed, the gardens were a serious, botanical feast…especially for a brown-thumbed sod like myself unable to convert our sandy soil into a floral paradise.

It’s hard to comprehend that stunning, specialist gardens were growing in such a brutal, violent penal settlement. However, line most things, one thing led to another.

In 1849, several scientific groups joined together to form the Royal Society of Tasmania for Horticulture, Botany and the Advance of Science, the first Royal Society outside of Britain. Members had connections with Kew Gardens and other nurseries. This society  took responsibility for managing Hobart’s Government Gardens, later to become the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Among Royal Society members were numerous Port Arthur administrators and officials including Commandants William Champ and James Boyd. Many plants were ordered from England. Cuttings, tubers, corms, rootstock and seeds were also collected by plant enthusiasts on the eight-month journey to Van Diemen’s Land. The genes of some of Port Arthur’s plants map the ports of call in South America, South Africa and India. Boyd alone ordered hundreds of plants, including dahlias, marjoram and fruit trees.

 

As early as the 1830s ornamental trees were planted at Port Arthur. By 1838 the avenue leading to the Church from Tarleton Street was lined with young trees provided by the Governor of the day, Sir John Franklin. In 1846-47, Commandant Champ developed Government Gardens as an ornamental garden primarily for the enjoyment of the ladies of the settlement. The gardens were much admired and reached their peak in the late 1860-70s. After the closure of Port Arthur the gardens were neglected until reconstruction began in the 1990’s.

‘The usual afternoon walk was to be Government Cottage Garden where the officers’ wives, their children and nursemaids used to assemble. They were charming gardens. Lovely green lawns and gay flower beds – even a fountain in the centre – all beautifully kept.’

E.M. Hall, 1871-7.

 

The plants at Port Arthur have been catologued and their stories reproduced in a stunning online catalogue. I found it rather intriguing to read how seeds, cuttings and bulbs from exotic species found in Britain, India, South Africa and more arrived onboard ships in Tasmania, finding their way into the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hobart as well as these gardens in Port Arthur.
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I might not know the botanic name for this rose but I did manage to photograph it. I could curl deep inside and wrap myself up in that petal swirl.

These days it is impossible to conceive the trafficking of plant materials across international borders when you can’t even bring plants, fruits and a swag of other items into Tasmania from the Australian Mainland…at least, not as your average Joe. Quarantine is very important in Australia and Tasmania in order to keep out exotic diseases and  pests.

“Port Arthur is beginning to look springlike. The oak trees are bursting into leaf and there is a profusion of bulbs in bloom in the paddocks which at one time were old gardens.”

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Thursday 30 August 1934 p 5.

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Anyway, I thought I’d share a few stories about the various plants at Port Arthur.

Quercus robur (English oak, common oak)

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The trees that surround Government Gardens and line the avenue up to the Church are mostly English oaks. This is the most common forest tree in Britain.

The botanic name robur means ‘strength’ in Latin, and refers to the hard timber for which the trees have been valued since prehistoric times. Sir John Franklin, the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land from 1836-43, provided the Port Arthur Penal Settlement with young oak, ash and elm trees, some of which may survive today. Deciduous European trees were some of the earliest brought to the new colony, bringing a sense of comfort and familiarity in an otherwise foreign landscape.

Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)

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A native to western and south western Europe, including the British Isles. Commandant Champ wrote a letter to his mother requesting her to collect the seeds of wild flowers when walking in the woods and send them to him.

 

Lupinus polyphyllus   (garden lupin)

This plant was discovered in the north-west of North America in the 1820s by Mr David Douglas, who also introduced the Douglas fir to Europe.

Seeds of ‘blue and yellow lupins various’ were being advertised for sale by Mrs Wood in the Hobart Town Courier by November 1829:

‘This splendid lupine is now become so common that we can hardly conceive how gardens must have looked without it, though it is not yet quite twenty years that seeds of it were first sent to this country…’

Melianthus major (honey flower)

A common plant in colonial gardens, Melianthus would have been admired for its unusual leaves and growth habit, as well as for its large red flower spikes, unlike any plant found in traditional English gardens. It is native to South Africa, and was collected by sailing vessels on their way from England to the Australian colonies and other trading ports.

Myosotis sylvatica (forget-me-not)

The forget-me-not is so common in Tasmanian gardens that many people consider it weedy and tend to pull it out. A common flower in woodlands throughout Britain and Europe, this would have been one of the early introductions to the gardens in Port Arthur.

The following poem appeared in an April edition of the Launceston Courier in 1829, and captures the sentimentality that people at this time had for the forget-me-not:

There is a flow’r I love so well

That grows within my garden plot

My willing pen its name shall tell

The lovely blue ‘forget-me-not’

‘Tis not within the rich man’s hall,

But near the honest peasant’s cot,

Where grows the lovely flow’r, we call,

The modest blue ‘forget-me-not’.

It does not boast a rich perfume,

The rose-bud’s glory ‘t has not got;

It does not want a warmer bloom,

The brilliant blue ‘forget-me-not’

Through life I’ve lov’d this simple flow’r

Nor ever be its name forgot

In prosp’rous time or adverse hour

The humble blue ‘forget-me-not’

And should I die an early doom

Let no false tear my mem’ry blot;

But let there spring around my tomb,

The azure blue ‘forget-me-not’

Salix babylonica (weeping willow)

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Weeping Willow at Port Arthur 2017.

The weeping willows that once grew in this garden, and in many other sites throughout Australia and Britain, were taken as cuttings from a tree growing on the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island of St Helena. A quick growing shade tree popular  for ornamental plantings, willows have also traditionally been used medicinally and for basketry.

In 1845, the Commandant of Port Arthur investigated which Tasman Peninsula outstations had suitable conditions to plant willows for basket-making, and supplied these with cuttings from his own garden.

Rosa chinensis (China rose)

China roses were introduced into the west towards the end of the 18th century, and enabled the many cultivars of rose available today to be developed. China roses have the quality of repeat flowering, although they bloom most heavily in the spring.

The roses growing in Government Gardens include ‘La Marque’, a variety released in 1830 with large, fragrant, white flowers.

Solanum aviculare  (kangaroo apple)

Thomas Lempriere, the Commissariat Officer at Port Arthur from 1833-48, wrote in his journal about the culinary value of various native plants. He stated: ‘the Solanum…or kangaroo apple, is a very handsome plant and the fruits, when perfectly ripe, pleasant to the taste’. –1838

In 1828 the kangaroo apple was featured in an  article in the Hobart Town Courier, which commented:

‘…we have had occasion, this season particularly, to remark the great luxuriance of what is called the Kangaroo apple, or New Zealand potato, a species of Solanum common to this country and New Zealand… a beautiful evergreen shrub, with dark verdant leaves… It is covered with small round apples, which when ripe eat exactly like bananas, and a sort of yams grow at its root, it is both ornamental and useful.’

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed our meanders through the gardens at Port Arthur. Adding a few details to my photographs, has become quite a long and interesting journey, even for this serial plant killer.

If you’d like to check out the Port Arthur Gardens’ Plant Guide, please click: here.

xx Rowena

Sunflowers…Sowing the Seeds.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult it’s been for me to plant a few seeds.

That’s because these are no ordinary seeds.

These sunflower seeds were grown in Australian Quarantine from the seeds brought back from the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

You’ll no doubt recall MH17 was the Malaysian airlines flight, which was shot down over the Ukraine  on the 17 July, 2014.

Therefore, these seeds represent each precious individual whose life was tragically cut short through terrorism and war. More than that. They strangely represent hope. Hope that their legacy will gone on. A reminder that love conquers the grave and they won’t be forgotten. Faith that the goodness in people will triumph over the bad.

Personally, these seeds have come to have additional meaning about sowing goodness into our young people, especially the battlers, and helping them to grow up straight and tall on the inside.

Many of the Australians who died on board were teachers. Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. It means having vision and seeing the sunflower blooming in each and every child…even before the seed has been planted. Ideally, that faith continues through the storms.That can be and usually is a very challenging, but also rewarding, thing.

The Maslin Family, who lost their three children in the crash, started a fundraiser in their memory for children with dyslexia. Their youngest son,Otis, had dyslexia and treatment is long term and expensive and so is diagnosis.

Putting all of these people together, the sunflowers for me came to mean giving kids who are struggling to read and learn that helping hand to do their best. Reading might always be difficult for them, but even if you can simply give someone the capacity to read, fill out forms and read the day to day stuff, it would change their world completely. It would set them free in ways those of us without dyslexia have never considered.

For some reason, this has become very important to me. It’s become my heart. Not because I’m a writer and I live, breath and devour words, but also because I know what it’s like to be on struggle street, not knowing if you’re ever going to get out.

Although quite different to dyslexia, I was born with hydrocephalus which went undiagnosed until I was 25. At that point, my neurological symptoms spiralled dangerously out of control. I couldn’t put my finger on my nose, was falling over a lot, forgetting the basics and getting the sequencing of basic tasks out of whack in a way that was almost funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. This increased pressure on my brain obviously wasn’t good.

Yet, I was lucky. I had surgery and had a shunt put in. Over time, most of my symptoms have eased and if it wasn’t for the auto-immune disease, I’d be back on my feet.

There is no surgery or quick fix to cure dyslexia and other learning difficulties. I guess that’s what I like about what the sunflowers represent. That you plant a small seed yet from that tiny thing,  big, bright happy sunflowers grow…yippee!!

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On Sunday, a year after receiving the sunflowers, we planted 12 seeds in a seed planter and we had a little ceremony out on the back lawn, using an upside down laundry basket as a table. We had our stunning red climbing rose in full bloom as a backdrop. Nothing symbolises love more than a red rose other than a human heart.

If you would like to read about the sunflower seeds, click here

I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year. Actually, this wasn’t anxiety but more of a reality check. That’s because I am a serial plant killer and our front yard is currently littered with dead bodies following my most recent splurge. I always vow to change but my track record speaks for itself.

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Mind you, sowing the seeds is only the beginning. Seeds don’t magically turn into sunflowers overnight. They require tender, loving care and that correct balance of wet and dry soil, sun and shade and exposure to the elements yet protection as well. My husband found the sunflower seeds inside the other day and said: “they’re meant to be sunflowers, not cave flowers”.

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Initially watering the seeds in the kitchen sink. Overdid it a bit.

So, now I’m watering them with the spray bottle morning and night and have covered them with a sheet of plastic creating a mini greenhouse and am leaving them out in the sun by day.

It’s only been four days so far. So, still too soon to see any shoots poking their heads through the soil but I’m doing my absolute best to help them along.

I hope you will join me on this journey.

BTW if you would like to find out more about the Mo, Evie & Otis Foundation or donate, please click here: Maslins Set Up Dyslexia Fund.

xx Rowena

Forget-Me-Not…The Legend.

Every Spring, a field of forget-me-nots appears in my parents’ front yard.

In some ways, they’re not the most showy of flowers and aren’t unlike lantana in appearance, which has become a weed of plague proportions throughout the Australian bush.

Yet, there’s a sweetness about them and although the flowers are quite small and seemingly insignificant, they’re a brilliant blue and for so many of us, there’s that sentimental connection. They remind us of someone, perhaps somebody who has passed away and they remind us of once upon a time.

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Walking Through the Forget-Me-Nots. Photo: Rowena Curtin.

What I didn’t know, was that there are a few legends about how the forget-me-not received its name.

In one German legend, it is said that as God was naming all of the plants, one tiny blue flower did not want to be overlooked, so the flower called out, “Forget me not, Lord.”

forget-me-nots

In a different legend, it is said that a boy and a girl were walking by a river that flows into the Rhine. The girl saw a lovely flower growing just by the water’s edge. The bank of the river was steep and the water swift.

“Oh, the beautiful flower!” she cried.

“I will get it for you,” said the boy. He sprang over the side of the steep bank and, catching hold of the shrubs and bushes, made his way to the place where the flower grew.

He tried to tear the plant from the earth with both hands, hoping to get it all for her who was watching him from the bank above.

The stem broke and, still clasping the flower, he fell backward into the rushing stream.

“Forget me not!” he cried to her as the waters bore him down to the falls below. She never did forget her blue-eyed friend who had lost his life trying to get her a flower.

“Forget me not!” she would say over and over until her friends called the little blue flower by this name.

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Not unsurprisingly, forget-me-nots remind me of my Mum and Dad but also my Mum’s Mum for some reason. I could see her liking them and she was a very sentimental person and like my Mum, she also had the most incredibly pretty blue eyes.

So when I saw a forget-me-not tea cup, saucer and plate for sale on eBay, I had to have it. However, the forget-me-not seems to be associated with tragedy because although the tea cup arrived safely in the mail, it fell and broke shortly after. Indeed, I’d only used it once. It sat on the sideboard in pieces looking sad and forlorn, for some time and I wondered whether I should simply throw it out but how can you forget a forget-me-knot and eventually my husband got out the Superglue and fixed up a host of my mistakes. Like so many of us, it bears the scars of experience but through this near loss, it’s gained appreciation and an understanding that even a tea cup doesn’t need to be perfect!

Do forget-me-knots have a special meaning to you? Any stories? I’d love you to share!

xx Rowena

Sources

Project Gutenberg Classic Myths Retold by Mary Catherine Judd with drawings entirely from classic sources http://www.gutenberg.org/files/9855/9855-h/9855-h.htm#xxxviii

The River by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). August 1850. Steel etching. Illustration for chapter 47, “Martha,” in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield.

Camellia Dreaming.

In a split second of eternity,

everything is changed,

transfigured.

A few bars of music,

rising from an unfamiliar place,

a touch of perfection in the flow of human dealings…

I lean my head slowly to one side,

reflect on the camellia on the moss on the temple,

reflect on a cup of tea,

while outside the wind is rustling foliage,

the forward rush of life is crystalized

in a brilliant jewel of a moment

that knows neither projects nor future,

human destiny is rescued from the pale succession of days,

glows with light at last and,

surpassing time,

warms my tranquil heart.

Muriel Barbery

The stunning pink camellia I’ve photographed in situ here, was lying on the mossy grass in my parent’s garden yesterday. It was about the size of a saucer and absolutely beautiful!

A taste of a Sydney Spring.

xx Rowena

Why I’m Not Sailing!

Today, when our sailing trip with my Dad was cancelled due to strong winds, I discovered that even when you have a yacht, going sailing isn’t guaranteed and smooth sailing isn’t as easy as I thought.

Apparently, one of the first things you need to learn about sailing, is that just because you have a yacht or access to one and you’ve made plans, that there’s no guarantee that you’ll get out on the water as planned.

Indeed, it turns out that having a yacht is only a very elementary part of going sailing. Unfortunately, sailing is at the mercy of that greatest of vagaries…the weather.  Of course, you don’t want to take unnecessary risks. However, when you’ve been counting down the days and you can already feel the wind in your hair, it’s only natural to feel upset. Want to fight back.  Ignore the weather report. After all, where there’s a will there’s a way.

It’s good my Dad knows when to call it quits. Moreover, quite aside from risking lives, taking the kids out in rough conditions is counterproductive. We need each and every sailing experience to be a good one when they’re starting out. So, I had to be sensible and find an alternative to lessen the disappointment.

Today, we’d arranged to go sailing with my Dad. I had a routine appointment with my lung specialist in Sydney and sailing fitted in well afterwards. So, I’m sure you’ll understand that while I’m coughing away having lung function tests, that I was picturing being out on the water enjoying some smooth sailing and my disappointment when it didn’t happen. As we were driving back from the hospital, the wind was whipping through the trees and although my knowledge of sailing is pretty basic, it was looking like we wouldn’t get out.

Yet, I’m a pretty determined person and live that old adage: “where there’s a will there’s a way”.

However, you also need to be responsible and know when it’s time to think laterally and find something else to do…especially when the weather bureau is reporting 30 knot winds and making special, additional reports.

Clearly, it wasn’t the day to go out.

Yet, Geoff has the week off work and the kids are on school holidays and I didn’t feel like simply going home. We decided to stop off at Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River on the way home.

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In the meantime, Dad was taking a few photos of the garden  and I decided  to retrieve the camera from the boot and go hunting. We’re just edging into Spring in Sydney. Lush green leaves are budding on deciduous trees, flowers are blooming and inspiration was everywhere.

My parents have a very established garden, which was initially developed by an avid gardener with then exotic plants. There’s a jungle of azaleas front and back and numerous camellias including the ginormous reticulatas, which Dad planted and more dainty sasanquas. Their garden also has quite a range of Japanese maples and there’s a stunning Crab Apple flowering by the front door at the moment.

If you are also seriously into photography, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I was walking through the garden looking through the lens, trying to pluck things out of the under and overgrowth, which would take on a life of their own in 6 x 4.

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A Twisted Fork in the Road.

I spotted bare branches with a maze of dark sticks silhouetted against the azure sky. I saw that proverbial fork in the road as the branches split and branched out but then as you moved out toward the twiggy ends, there was such a maze of sticks. This reminded me of what it’s like to get lost and how your plans can get so badly scrambled, that you get lost in the maze..where am I? Do I even know who I am?

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When your path becomes a jumbled maze…

Fueled by the strong wings, clouds were sprinting across the sky, whisking me out of myself and into their arms. Senses overloaded, I lay down on the grass using my camera bag as a pillow, opening the eyes of my heart up to the sky. White, flossy cloud streaked across the intense blue sky like trails of cotton wool. The leaves were rustling and chattering in the wind and various birds flew by.

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Scrumptious Clouds!

Indeed, while I was lying there I heard a “Scratch! Scratch!” in the undergrowth and a brush turkey was wandering by.

Despite all these “distractions”, I could feel myself melting into the grass and the full weight of life’s burdens being lifted from my shoulders. I can’t remember the last time I lay down on the grass and looked at the sky and stopped. Completely stopped…my heart rate slowing right down to R for rest.

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So, although we didn’t get out on the water today, I was able to experience the same sense of deep relaxation on land.

This is an important skill for a sailor to learn. After all, just like you don’t catch a fish every time, you can’t always get a sail. So, instead of succumbing to the disappointment, you’re better off keeping an open mind and finding other ways to carpe diem seize the day.

That is, instead of dwelling on the yacht which got away.

Have you ever been sailing? Please let your stories flow!

xx Rowena

Nature’s Candlesticks.

Such beauty growing in my own backyard, even if I cheated, planting this  Callistemon as tube stock 15 years ago.

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Red Bottlebrush Tree in our backyard.

So beautiful with their red brushes back lit by the sun, the tree itself can be quite scraggly but still a rugged Australian beauty.

It’s also popular with the locals.

Rainbow Lorrikeet

Rainbow Lorrikeet in a native Callistemon or red Bottlebrush Tree.

Goes to show that you don’t need to travel far to experience nature’s beauty or to find something to photograph, write about or find some inspiration.

What has inspired you lately?

xx Rowena