Memories of travel gardens
Travel opens eyes to many wonders. On overseas jaunts I have taken such delight in the gardens visited, public and private, comparable locally only in the colder climates of Australia in Toowoomba and Canberra, where it is easier to amass flowering species. Otherwise Australian bush flourishes in the harsher climate, when wattle blossom in the winter and full flowering pink of pongamia emerges later.
What has so often enchanted me are the large and generous flowering hanging baskets to be found in spring in the UK, Europe and Canada that are a sight to behold. Full of colourful petunias and dangling vines, they hang from lamp posts, brightening the streetscapes in the ever so brief northern summer. Complementary tubs full of similar bright flowers decorate the sidewalk, inviting custom, admiration and photographs.
So enamoured of these images, I have tried to emulate them at home with my own little corner of reminiscence as demonstrated in the photo, that takes me back to places, remembering fondly the people associated with the images.
Bedford Landing near Vancouver conjures up several images: one of a freezing cold Christmas night walk along the canal, full moon shining on the water, after the warmth of a huge festive dinner with the Vairo family; and later in the spring enjoying special time with sisters traipsing the boardwalk admiring the floral show over a coffee at the local cafe.
An enormous heart shaped floral display centre square in Copenhagen conjures up memories of a jolly campervan trip with sisters and one husband around northern England and Europe, including a visit to the amazing Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde, rowing out into the Fjord in a ship much like the relatives would have back in the day. By now you would be getting the drift – the garden reminds me of people I love and past experiences savoured still.
Family garden mementos
One pot plant that is an enduring memory of the love of family is the one I have kept alive for over fifty years, still flourishing today. The pothus plant is a daily reminder of Frances, my mother in law, who gave the plant to me all that time ago. Frances was a quiet, religious woman, who tried her best for her family, helping where she could with the grandchildren, and leaving each of them with a beautiful hand- crocheted rug. For her deep love of faith, family and flowers, Frances is daily remembered with love, stirred by her enduring bequest in a vibrant plant.
That plant sits on a kitchen trolley made by my father Allan, who was similarly constructive, decent, though less religious. Allan was a wonderful home handyman in retirement, who would consider the list of jobs to be done, take a nap, and wake to have all consumables listed and calculated without the need for digital assistance. The trolley reminds me of the past and its contribution to our present and future.
With only a pocket handkerchief (i.e. tissue in today’s speak) size garden, I have to be aware of the space plants might take up before planting them in the ground. One huge grass like plant given by a sister Jan living on acreage, grew to take over more than its share of garden till it was reduced by seven eights and moved to the corner, where it is less dominating, yet still a reminder of fondness for the donor.
A pot of curly leafed fern is a contribution from my loving and generous sister in law, Patricia, who cannot allow a person to leave without gifting them with something. The fern is a constant reminder of the kindness of Patricia and my brother, as is the cherry tomato plan that sprang from the same soil and has since spread to other sites in the garden where it is allowed to prosper.
Then there is the geranium cutting taken from plant at Diane’s, showing all manner of hardiness as it thrives and expands, regardless of the weather, making a fine showing against the stark rock wall. The golf stick plant, bought in a pot from the Rocklea markets years ago, has been released into the soil to fill gaps in the foliage, along with donations from neighbor Joan, making pleasant, memorable viewing, and an orchid taken from a cluster at Uncle Pat’s has thrived over the years, putting out spectacular canes, despite birds stealing its copra basket for their nest and Uncle Pat having passed on at 101.
Bromeliads from a pot given by Jane made a fine display, turning a glowing red under the fig trees until favoured by crows, pecking energetically at the leaves for the water, dislodging and disfiguring the show. Other pots and plants marking birthdays and special occasions are opportunities to remember the givers fondly, memories sometimes outlasting the plants.
Similar tussles have been waged with the possums which, in their evening ramblings, pounce on any new plantings, causing frustration (to me). A hanging wall herb garden gifted by brother-in-law John was not safe. Overnight parsley and lettuce were chewed to the nub until John fashioned a mesh cover. Even then the possums climbed on top and reached through the mesh, which is now held aloft by a length of washing line, unreachable by the natural predators. Bless John for his thoughtfulness.
Ecosystem of garden memories
Though the whole ecosystem of plant and animal life that sustains in my garden of memories may not be a substitute for a much loved pet favoured by others, to me it is an enduring reminder of valued people and experiences of the past, their contribution to the pleasures of the present and part of the hope in continuity in the future.