Tag Archives: gardening

LOCAL OUTRAGE- Friday Fictioneers

Desperate to attract passing tourists, Council voted to upgrade the local park.

While surveys confirmed locals had wanted to install a steam locomotive and have a mini railway running on weekends, they’d ended up with “Rusty” , a “pile of scrap metal”, instead. Accordingly, Rusty was only good for one thing and for more information, you’ll need to consult the local dogs, who’d voted him the best telegraph pole in town.

Then, last Sunday morning, Rusty was gone. No one had seen or heard a thing, but in his place, there was a garden gnome.

Apparently, Nigel  had come home.


This is another contribution for the Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast.

Hope you’ve had a great week!

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

Sunflower…A Christmas Miracle.

This sunflower growing in my garden finally unfurled the last of its petals today. By the afternoon, it had turned its golden, yellow face towards the warm Australian sun, oblivious to the long and winding road which brought it here.

What it doesn’t know, is that it’s “grandparent” witnessed the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in the Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard.

Moreover, this sunflower doesn’t know that an Australian journalist and photographer salvaged seeds from the crash site and brought them back to Australia. These seeds were cultivated in quarantine and their seeds were posted out to family and friends of the victims.

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A personal message from journalist Paul McGeogh & Kate Geraghty who sent me the sunflowers.

That’s why it’s extra special that the sunflowers are flowering for Christmas. It means so much!

How these seeds ended up in my garden is a long story, but I have been sharing their story on my blog. I have also taken the seedlings to local schools with a view of teaching the kids about compassion, kindness and how even the smallest acts of kindness can make a difference. I am a real believer in the strange, inexplicable love of a stranger. That as much as we expect our loved ones to be there in our hour of need, frequently we are touched by the love of a stranger who steps out of their comfort zone and is there for us. This is not so much heroism, and yet it is. We can all make a difference, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant we might feel. Every single one of us are movers and shakers, especially when we get together and the one becomes many.

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What I particularly like about the sunflower story is that it perfectly illustrates that even in the depths of darkness and despair, even when the world seems swamped by violence, anger and hate there is still human kindness, love and compassion. There are still individuals who will stand up and be counted, even at the point of putting their own lives on the line.

That’s huge.

A few months ago, I received a request for sunflower seeds from a relative of the Malaysian pilot who was him in the attack. They’d lost their seeds when they moved and she was devastated and started search the web until she found me and the blog. That meant so much to me. I sent her 5 seeds and I hope they flourish. We’re keeping in touch.

I still have around 2o seeds which I’ll be planting shortly and I am doing my very best to produce plenty of seeds to take their message forward.

Although I didn’t know any of the people on board personally, I never want to forget them or what happened. Yet, I also remember how the love of two strangers reached out through the darkest of hours and gave love.

So, I will do what I can this Christmas to pass the message on.

xx Rowena

 

 

Jacaranda Dreaming.

This morning, I had a passionate affair with my Jacaranda tree. Different, I know…especially as I’m not usually one of those tree-hugging types. However, being Spring, all that pollen must’ve gone to my head.

Our Jacaranda tree has exploded into a luscious canopy of mauve flowers. It really is sensational. You can also see quite a few patches of mauve around town, which is rather uplifting when I’m driving around in Mum’s  Taxi. For a crazy photographer like me, this is like spotting candy beside the road. Yahoo!

Of course, if you know anything about Jacaranda trees, their beauty isn’t confined to the sky either. There’s also a pretty mauve carpet all over the grass. Indeed, as we “speak”, there are even a few stray flowers scattered all over my sleeping dogs.

After all, when it comes to dropping flowers and leaves, the Jacaranda tree is incredibly generous.

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Anyway, this morning when I went outside to photograph the sunflower seedlings, I detoured via the Jacaranda Tree. I started roaming underneath the branches looking for an angle, a perspective with my eagle eye. This was a bit tricky as my neck was quite stiff and I really had to crank it up. After a few minutes, I decided to put together a range of perspectives. I love interpreting things from different angles and seeing them through fresh eyes.  AND… these fluttering purple flowers, really were dazzling, awakening my senses and my soul.

While photographing a tree in your own backyard can feel rather hum drum, it is convenient. Besides, the funny thing is that while I might find my backyard boring, it could well be paradise to someone living on the other side of the world. That being the case, I’d much rather invite you over than the neighbours, who’ll just notice my junk.

Anyway, as soon as I point my camera at the tree, I’ve been transformed. There’s that very real sense of being sucked inside my lens. That I’m concentrating absolutely all my being and focus onto those flowers. Of course, I could call them “the subject”, but I’m not writing a university essay. Rather, I’m sharing a passion which goes beyond definitions, boundaries or even words. It’s this sense of being so consumed by what I’m seeing, that I’ve become one with it. Our boundaries have merged.

It’s a beautiful thing.

After taking the photos, I returned to my desk to download the images. By the way, my desk would look right out onto the garden if the blinds weren’t down. I know that sounds like a waste but even though it’s only Spring, the sun’s intense.

So, while I was sitting there feasting on images, I could sense a strange scratching on the back of my head. It was very much like one of my dogs scratching on the back door. No, it wasn’t nits. It was finally the muse. While I should be quite attuned to this after many years of writing poetry and turning myself inside-out through verse, I was surprised. It’s been awhile since I’ve written a poem and to be perfectly honest, I was trying to squeeze in a nap. However, as I’m sure you know yourselves, the muse doesn’t care whether you’re ready or not. She simply turns up on a whim and you have to jump or she’ll pass your spark onto someone else. The muse can be a heartless sod.

So, of course, the muse won out!

This poem is about peering through my long zoom lens trying to get a close-up of the jacaranda flowers while they’re moving in the wind. In case you haven’t used a “real” camera, long lenses do not like movement, unless of course you’re going for the blurry look. To be honest, trying to photograph these flowers, reminded me of trying to photograph kids. They can be impossible! Anyway, the poem developed its own twists and turns from there, taking on a life of its own…as it usually does.

Anyway, here’s the poem:

Jacaranda Dreaming

 Blurred through the lens,

purple skirts fluttering in the breeze,

the jacaranda flowers giggle like little girls,

caught up in their sequined twirls.

Eyes to me!

Stand still!

Smile!

 Look at the camera!

Yet, they won’t listen.

Can’t hear.

My pleas are falling flat

on deaf ears.

Oblivious to the lens,

they’re entranced by

the Spirit of Dance.

She moves among them

without a sound,

shaking their shackles free.

Liberated,

they take flight,

finally pirouetting out of sight,

leaving their seeds behind.

I wonder where they will sleep tonight…

these dazzling purple butterflies

fluttering in the sunlight

taking my heart.

 2.

All too soon,

the seeds scatter away from the tree,

falling deep into the starving Earth.

Almost on auto-pilot,

they raise their arms through the soil,

no longer seeds but trees.

They’re growing strong.

Growing tall.

Standing firm against the wind.

Fresh flowers fall from their limbs

year after year,

as the cycle of life goes on.

It’s hard to believe

these trees ever danced free,

flying along on the fragrant winds,

now that they’ve been firmly planted.

Indeed, you could probably say

the same of me.

Yet, I was also once a girl.

A girl twirling in her ballet skirt

learning to dance,

soaring on the brink of flight.

 Rowena Curtin 7th November, 2016

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Crooked and free-flowing, there’s something refreshing about the Jacaranda’s maze of twisting branches.

 

Do you have a favourite tree in your garden? I’d love to hear about it.

xx Rowena

PS I’m still wishing I could find Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree and climb to the very top and disappear for a bit. Wouldn‘t it be great?!!

 

Sunflower Seedlings…Lessons in Kindness.

This morning, I carefully packaged the sunflower seedlings up into a protective box. It wasn’t Fort Knox but they looked safe, especially once I’d strapped them into the back seat with a seat belt. I know this might sound over the top and I don’t know if you can be a helicopter parent to plants. However, if you’ve been following the progress of the sunflower seeds, you’ll know these aren’t any ordinary sunflowers. These sunflowers seeds came from the site of the MH17 crash in the Ukraine in 2014. They’re incredibly precious!

 

That’s also why they were in my car.I wanted to share their story with my daughter’s class. Miss goes to school 45 minutes drive away from home and with my “creative” approach to driving, that was a very long journey up along the free and through bumper-to-bumper peak hour  traffic. Slam on the brakes…ouch.

Hence the seat belt!! Moreover, you could say the cardboard box was somewhat like one of those protective car seats you sit your toddler in. I wanted them to be so safe, that I could’ve bought a Volvo.

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The Sunflower Seedlings.

Of course, I could’ve left the sunflower seedlings safely at home but I felt there was something bigger at stake. That I didn’t need to wait until the flowers actually bloomed to share their message of kindness, love and reaching out even to complete strangers when tragedy strikes. That we all start out as seeds and with love, care and nutrients and we can grow up into someone gorgeous and productive, giving our seeds back to the earth, feeding the animals and helping to wipe away the dark clouds by simply being ourselves…nothing flash. I also thought of the teachers who were onboard and how they sowed those metaphorical seeds into so many students, who went on to carry their message forward. BUT…then I also think of all those beautiful passengers whose lives were tragically cut short…every day people who were just coming home from holidays. Of course, I think of the Maslin family who lost their three beautiful children and have created a foundation to raise money for children with dyslexia. I want to help sow those seeds too. After all, words are seeds and being able to read is something most of us take for granted.

So, as I watched the sunflowers poke their heads through the soil, I came to realise that  just the fact that the seeds had sprouted, was enough for them to speak. Tell their story.

The sunflower is extraordinary and I’ve always had a connection with them but not in the same way I have now.

In August 2014, commercial flight MH17 was shot down by terrorists in the Ukraine killing everyone on board. That plane which bore the brunt of so much anger and hate, crashed into a stunning field of sunflowers, a coincidence not lost on the media. Photos and footage appeared of the ugly scar carved into the sunflowers’ heart and photographer said that the sunflowers even turned their faces away from the wreckage.

Paul McGeough is the Sydney Morning Herald’s Senior Foreign Correspondent specialising in the Middle East. He’s accustomed to reporting on horrific events around the world, the same way the rest of us eat toast for breakfast. “When most people are running away from a place, photographer Kate Geraghty can usually be found running towards it.” Yet, they were guttered by what they saw and felt drawn to bring sunflower seeds back to Australia from the crash site to give to the families and friends of the victims.  They wanted to give them something to remember and honour their loved ones who weren’t soldiers fighting in a war. There weren’t going to be any medals. They were just everyday people going on a holiday.

Nothing more, nothing less.

The children making the love hearts.

Our children making the hearts cards we sent out. They look quite young now.

I received about 40 seeds and decided to share them with our local schools to create some kind of ongoing tribute of legacy for those who died.  However, I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year but I planted the first lot of seeds ten days ago and six have sprouted.

Of course, the seedlings arrived safely at school and I ended up sharing them with my daughter’s class and a year 6 class.  I also shared the letter I’d received with them wishing”May your sunflowers bloom” and the photo of the original plant in the Ukraine. I also had one of our red hearts stuck in there.

It was a simple story with a few precious props but the kids were riveted, sitting still and absorbing it all and asking questions at the end. I spoke to them about the kindness of the journalist and photographer salvaging the seeds and bringing them back to Australia via quarantine. I spoke about how we can feel powerless when someone is going through hardship and that though we can’t change anything, we can show we care through little things like a card. I also spoke about the importance of learning and literacy. Many of the Australians killed had been teachers and a little boy from Perth, Otis, had dyslexia and his family has set up a fund to raise money for dyslexia. I wanted them to appreciate that you can plant a plain, ordinary seed and when you nurture that seed, it can grow into something big, bold and colourful.

You can tell kids to be kind, keep their hands and feet to themselves, watch their language, and you might be lucky to see some change.However, I know these kids were changed by this story…a very simple story of plucking, sowing and nurturing the seeds  and I can’t wait to witness the harvest.

It is my hope that these sunflowers and their story will truly honour all those whose lives were tragically cut short through anger and hate and somehow carry their legacy forward.

While sowing a few seeds might not seem monumental and the sort of thing you’d ever expect to change the world, but I strongly believe they can!

Hearts Ettalong

They’re sowing the seeds in our hearts!

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 23rd october, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share.

You’re just lucky that it rained. Otherwise, you’d be joining me in a tent camping at the Scout Hall right on the waterfront.

That said, I still haven’t decided whether I was lucky or unlucky the weather saved me from camping. While I was looking forward to giving camping a go and sleeping metres from the water, I did get cold feet which had nothing to do with the rain! I’ve now decided I should start off with camping in the backyard where everything but the camping is familiar.

How was your week?

Now, that we’ve established that we’re not roughing it, can I offer you a more civilised beverage than billy tea? In case you don’t know what billy tea is, that’s tea made in a tin pot over the camp fire.

Last week, was really hectic for me. There were a couple of tough, difficult days for my son, which have come good but they were incredibly stressful and we are still concerned about him. He is 12.5 years old and in his first year of high school and I guess that says it all. He has taken up sailing so hopefully that will provide him with a relaxing outlet to get him through the swirling vortex of pubescence. I might need to take it up too, although writing and photography are my outlets.

Thursday, I had a medical check-up in Sydney and as usual, I went off the grid afterwards. I went to the Sydney Jewish Museum to see an exhibition about Anne Frank and also a collection of letters from Otto Frank, which he’d sent to an Australian and a New Zealander who’d written to him after reading Anne’s diary. That was fantastic. Here’s the link.

After going to the exhibition, I started walking towards Surry Hills and Central Station. En route, I stumbled across  Darlinghurst Gaol, which has been the National Art School for some time. The old sandstone architecture was very striking and intriguing and I could sense the stories hovering in the air…and a few ghosts.

I love Surry Hills and stopped there for afternoon tea, wandered through Salvo store there and a bookshop, which had a stunning rainbow-coloured bicycle parked out the front. I could almost picture myself riding it but am not so sure. It is very rainbow.

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I also saw some fabulous Street art in Surry Hills:

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Saturday, I went down to the Scout Hall to join in with the fishing, which largely involved me taking photos and watching a few of the kids. In retrospect, I realise that I should’ve had a few lessons myself as I have no idea how to cast off and so was of little help to the kids. The kids caught a few undersized whiting and bream which were thrown back after photographs were taken but one boy managed to catch a flounder, which was exciting…not a common fish. I also spent considerable time following mother duck and her ducklings with one of the cubs. The ducklings were adorable!

 

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Our Daughter Fishing.

 

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Australian ducklings with mother duck.

Meanwhile, last Sunday we finally planted 12 of the sunflower seeds salvaged from the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine. You would be so proud of how lightening fingers here is looking after those precious seeds. A week later, seven out of the twelve seeds I planted have sprouted but one had it’s top nipped off. I am moving them out in the the sun outside every morning and then bringing them back in at night and watering them with a spray bottle. My other half-dead plants are complaining of preferential treatment as they continue to experience neglect but I have to ensure these sunflowers not only survive but also produce a bumper crop of seeds, which don’t get eaten by the birds either! It’s a big job!

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Anyway, I’d better head off and start getting ready for another week. It’s now Sunday afternoon and Monday morning is just around the corner.

Hey, just wondering, if I turn back and go round the other corner, does that mean I’ll go back to Saturday and get another weekend? After all, it makes perfectly logical sense. If only this were possible, I might just be ready for another week. What do you think?

Anyway, thanks for catching up and I hope you’ve had a great week and an enjoyable weekend.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share run by Diana over at Part-Time Monster and you can read the other posts by clicking here on the Linky.

Love & Best Wishes,

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