Friday, October 26, 2012

A Gate Left Open

I haven't got alot to say often and though I love gardening it can be an effort to find something new to say each week. Having written poetry since I was a teenager, it's only appropriate I substitute a regular gardening post with an evocation of what it is that drives me, in this world, a sense of taking care, where taking care may be entirely unfashionable. It isn't for fashion that a garden is made, however much a garden uses fashion. A garden, to me, is always a gateway, a promise of regeneration, a view of things.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Among the Trees...

To me, the landscape we grow in leaves an indelible mark of belonging. Charles Pearcy Mountford was an anthropologist and photographer whose body of work is imprinted on me. This volume was published in 1956 and features 30 Australian trees.
Above, Eucalyptus pauciflora, the Snow Gum, whose benign other-worldliness I felt, adrift in the Australian alps on otherwise agonising school camps.

This wonderfully craggy specimen is Hakea eyreana, the short-leafed corkwood, which inhabits "a country of blazing middays, of scorching winds and scanty rainfall". If we must endure, then we will.
This specimen, above, Eucalyptus maculosa, the red-spotted gum, comes from near where I live, growing "on the hillsides and stony ridges of the colder districts of Victoria and New South Wales".
This desert kurrajong ( Brachychiton gregorii ), appearing to stand in a Tuscan landscape perhaps, inhabits the "most inhospitable parts of Australia"... these two do not, this gum and this wattle of unidentifiable origin, planted on my verge.
The mulga ( Acacia aneura ) is related to South Africa's acacias. Its seeds have long provided food for our original inhabitants. See how they fade into the careful of tripping up into them and losing your feet!
This early Christmas beetle anchored his feet on the washing-line, having first bumbled through the air like a slow-time helicopter.
This Acacia Estrophiolata, Ironwood, is native to central Australia, and is as tough as nails. It is seen at its best at night, "when the camp-fire, lighting every leaf, twig and branch, makes it stand out in sharp contrast to the blackness of the desert night". Does anyone light camp-fires any more? Does anyone roam beyond their fence?
Another acacia, or wattle, Acacia sowdenii, the myall, grows best "in the country north-west of Spencer Gulf, in South Australia". Sculpted by the wind, by the air around it, chained to the dry earth, it sings, nonetheless...
as does this haggard soldier, full of rags and whistling, of nights over-slept, of a yearning for light, however costly. Casuarina stricta grows all over the place, as it needs to do, wherever there's a foothold.
The red stringybark, Eucalyptus macrorhyncha grows not far from me. On the hill behind this pair see the land I want to own.
Until then, this eucalypt on my verge sustains my hopes. This country will always remain untamed, I hope, not reduced to real estate.
It could not have been foreseen that a landscape that had survived quietly for an eternity could be overtaken by a new, self-centred world, one that judges all life according to monetary value. All respect is paid here to the Aboriginal man whose image has been copied here. If I were anyone anywhere else, it is like he I'd long to be, there, among the Xanthorrhoea, grass-trees.
The coastal banksia ( Banksia integrifolia ), named after the intrepid Sir Joseph Banks, grows close to home, here to me in Victoria, close to the sea. Like all our trees, it's robust but unexpectedly gentle.
So thankyou Charles Mountford, and thankyou Melbourne University Press, for taking me home and for letting a light shine on into the future, where there'll always be trees, and where I'll always be among them.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

In a Laneway, Flowering

I was off to a family birthday at the Flower Drum, Melbourne's most famous Chinese restaurant, established in 1975. Not so long ago central Melbourne was simply "the city". Now it's known as the CBD. Despite changing terminology and ceaseless re-building, much of what has been there as long as I remember remains. Above, part of the offices belonging to St Paul's Cathedral on the corner of Flinders Lane, seen on my way from Flinders Street Station.
When my mother would take us children into the city she'd be wearing gloves and  a hat and taking a handbag. Handbags, of course, are now an essential part of modern fashion armory, but a certain restrained elegance has largely vanished.
We are known now, in Melbourne, for our graffiti-splattered laneways, very much a part of the artscape. When I was growing up, graffiti was dangerously anti-establishment. But, above, a section of Hosier Lane, snapped at by tourists,embodies a greater jokiness.
Flinders Lane is known now for its art-ness, if there is such a word, though it was once home to Melbourne's industrious rag-trade. Above is a relic of the past, un-renovated.
And here, in ACDC Lane ( named after you know who ), a riot of greys where once there would have been an order of sorts.
My favourite shop in Flinders Lane is Craft Victoria, above, which does not, as yet, sell the Faisal Grant Collection, shame on it. 
And my favourite building there, in Flinders Lane, is Milton House, built in 1901. A sturdy Art Nouveau bastion, maybe, but doesn't it seem to smile?
Flowering in the streetscape, the work of its artisans would have been regarded as essential to the overall impact of the building, even if now, with our lattes tilting towards our throats as we rush onwards with our mobiles, it's only fleetingly noticed.
At its side, Milton House has a little garden,a sanctuary for the up-too-early, far-too-much-to-do office-workers needing reprieve from their endless toil.
Around the corner is this, which I had to include, my favourite building in the city, No. 1 Collins Street.
Here it is again. However our innovations allow us to invent new unlikelinesses, there is something about 19th Century dignity and balance that captures my heart.
My blog is meant to be about gardening. In going out to lunch, I was hoping to find some of the old bits of Melbourne's greenery, and some of the new bits of the greenery. Above is the backside of the Melbourne Club ( established 1838 ), this city's most august institution, the proprietor of the largest privately-owned green space in the city.
I couldn't resist this, further along, in Little Collins Street, this piece of circus signalling a pub...
or this trumpet, full of something verdant.
But I had come to lunch, here in the old Chinese part of town, and my family was waiting. More than anything, I'm grateful to this city's kick-starters for the laying down of foundations ( with or without gloves, hats, European handbags, capes, disco-tights or tattoos  ) that have enabled a multitude of citizens  to express themselves in ways both personal and public. I hope gardens, and the need for greenery, remain at the forefront of our hopes for this world, as I hope, in this world, love prevails...

Above, my brother-in-law, Steve, and his son, Lachlan, at Steve's birthday, and below, the clan, such as it is, flowering:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nothing To Report, Yum-Yum

 Sometimes, I hate to say it, it's hard to find anything much to say. Some chimney pots strain for recognition...
Is it anything to try to find something new to say, or to find a new way to say something old, or to say very little and rely on an image or two to rescue me.
Foiled in my attempt this morning to produce a would-be photo-shoot of imagined humanoid insect life, I was obliged to head off in to the front garden, where much serious work needed to be done...
He says. Well, yes, it was thus, but wasn't there a supposition a dream was being embodied? And so I got thinking about what it is that got me into gardening in the first place and what then it means to me when I could be doing other things Unquestionably, it's the quiet I find in gardening that draws me magnetically to it. It's a thoroughly absorbing type of work.
In it, this work, little talk, if any, is required - and that's how I sort of like it. There's too much noise in the world for me, too much wind carrying too many litigious voices, too much that cannot be pruned...
And so I've borrowed this illustration by Lionel Lindsay ( 1864 - 1961 ) from a bookplate produced by the National Library of Australia to say exactly what I think of words and their usefulness. See here, the cockatoo is chewing up a book, as I would only too happily do, in an act of dismemberment and then of spitting out, with significant disregard, to much of what purports to be communication in this world..
The garden has its sounds, but it doesn't talk. In gardening, I sift out all I don't want to know, whether it's harboured in me, or it's been buzzing around my ears.
 My disposition is such that I feel best and feel most free in a natural world. Working within it is not like work at all - nothing is a task, until my body is straining, replete. My heart is singing to be involved. It's rather nice to forget all I don't want to know...
I'm sure that genetics play a significant part in this. I belong to a branch of the family tree that feels perfectly comfortable pottering about among the greenery, ignoring time, or any insistence the greater world needs me. It does not. It manifests itself and multiplies itself without me.
And so, prevented from astonishing you with an original post, I found myself today having to fit in with the changeable weather, where fabulous scenery was only in my mind. When it rained I gave up entirely and came inside and listened to The Mikado, by the venerable Gilbert and Sullivan. Yum, yum.
Getting back to the point, gardening, to me, stops me from being insane. I can't believe most of what goes on around me. I smile and then I call Zara to come over quickly: there is too much out there darling we don't want to know.
In our little world, there are no gates and no intruders.I can take the burning and the freezing, but please don't tell me all I feel is only in my head. Feeling's good, and so are gardens.