Friday, May 31, 2013

King Faisal of Melbourne - Florist to the Newlyweds

I'd been asked to do the flowers for the reception of two friends of mine getting married tomorrow. The wedding will be at St Luke's Hungarian Reformed Church, in St Georges Road, North Fitzroy. Mind you, none of us is Hungarian, but it's a very cool sort of sanctuary to be married in!
On site, here's what I'd got up to half-way through. It'd taken the morning to find all the foliage I needed. I wanted to use natives as much as possible ( as did the bride, and the bride's mum ), with some succulents thrown in for their steadfastness. Colours were silver-green, with some lime. Here I've used some Banksia, olive, Centaurea, Pittosporum, 3 different Eucalypts and Dusty Miller ( Jacobaea maritima ). There were people everywhere, people doing tables, people doing food, people doing a sound system, people wandering in and out, putting up bunting, people getting exhausted, people willing.
The bluestone church was built in 1879 as St Luke's Church of England. Quite impressive. It was re-established in its current denomination in 1949 by the Reverend Francis Antal, presumably a Hungarian refugee. You can see that the autumn dusk is rapidly falling. Though it's been a mild day, tonight, the rain is coming down softly; there is thunder and there is lightning.
A true king serves his subjects, as I must do. What a lark, to be making up flowers for people you love. I could do it all day. But it's night now and I'm glad the preparations ended and I got off on a tram.
It may look a little forbidding, but inside, the church is wonderfully inclusive, exuding a rounded air, with tiered seating. Fingers crossed, tomorrow is a day of beginning new for Antony and Alica. This is my bouquet for them.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The South Australian government has released this 'Barossa Be Consumed' clip to promote the famous Barossa Valley region. It comes with the song 'Red Right Hand' by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.
My family's from South Australia. It, South Australia, is in my blood as much as Melbourne now is. I hope you love this as I do.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Night Anight

It's usually quiet for me on a Saturday night. No more discos. With a window of opportunity in my line of sight, I ducked out, without the glitter, to see what was what on the back porch. The frame above had belonged to my grandparents. I hope they don't mind what I've done to it.
Opposite my back door is another of my assemblages, littered as the property is with them. It is not 3 pm, by the way, but after 10 pm. The full moon out beyond is beautiful. Branches of olive can be difficult to fit into a pot, twisting as they do their own ways, but then, who of us hasn't?
Call me bored, but in your 50s you get to do stuff like this, nip outside into the bracing air, take pot-shots of whatever bits of elaboration you encounter. Home is an adventure.
A non-functioning lamp. So much of what I have is non-functioning, a situation I prefer to one where I'm sort of beating everyone, skipping the light fantastic on the top floor, as may have happened in the past.
Once in a while, he suggests, a night-time photograph comes out better than a daytime image. I was not given any orchids tonight, but I found this at my back steps.
And this, one of my favourite flowers, nicked from a neighbour's garden, where it hangs over the pavement so fully Zara and I have to wend our way under/around it, Hakea laurina.
 No, there's no fever here, this Saturday night. Just a photographer snooping. Who doesn't like Cyclamen? Much better to find outside your door than a strobe light.
This is Zara's semi-outdoor snooze-box, used only when she, patient doggy, is feeling the dance is sort of done.
 We're inside now, not wanting wild flings. A night is passing on tip-toes, not flashing any lights, not a scream to be heard.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Port for a Tawny

When I consider my reasons for gardening, it has to be said that it simply feels right, to be gardening. 
Without a connection to nature, to natural forces, I'd feel I wasn't living in this world.
Since I was young, however, I've witnessed a disrespect for nature that shocks me. So, in gardening, I make some attempt to rectify that, to rectify what I see as the damage done in this world, by human beings. I want my garden to offer space to creatures pushed out by our development.
I'm thrilled then to have found this Tawny Frogmouth ( Podargus strigoides ) sticking around, at his station in our apple tree, for a number of weeks now. Related to owls, frogmouths are largely insectivorous. I was sort of hoping they'd be after mice too, for they, the mice, have been making their presence felt here!
Not to matter. You somehow know the world's a better place when wild creatures feel quite OK living beside you, so discreetly, so unperturbed.

Friday, May 17, 2013


It was the poetry that came out of the First World War that first got me interested in that catastrophe. It spoke of a profound and absurd waste of life. That war was the first in which modern weaponry and in which mass destruction were implemented. To me, as I'm sure to others, it's the saddest of wars.
More recently, I've got interested in the Second World War. Perhaps because it was the war my parents' generation endured, or perhaps because its mechanization reduced its participants to data, I'd not felt it to be as aching as the First.
But my feeling has changed. Any war is bad news. In any war there's ridiculous suffering. There can be no such thing as a necessary war. To think that any of us has to have war as their life experience is to me horrendous...war does nothing but destroy humanity; its purpose opposes what we're really meant to be doing.
Reading John Verney's account ( Going to the Wars ) - he with such a light, humane, candid touch - I know now that being caught up in that war would have been ineffably painful. This post honours all who suffered in it. My excuse for posting it here is that, to me, gardening, as an act of constructiveness and peace, of continuity and well-being, challenges and resists futility.
For anyone interested, John Verney's obituary in The Independent is excellent. He is described there as a "painter, writer and illustrator," a man devoted to his wife and children, and to his friends.
Sir John Verney ( 30/09/1913 - 02/02/1993 ) wrote, in this, "one of the best memoirs of the Second World War."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Plans and Maps: the Done and the Undone and the Yet to Be Done.

I'd been planning to visit Victoria Gardens in High Street, Prahran for some time, passing as I frequently do on the Number 6 tram. Hidden from the street, I didn't know what I'd find there; I imagined it might be dull, municipal, under-used. It is, in fact, a 5 acre oasis, bordered along its length by the back fences of neighbouring homes, which homes capitalise on their privileged views.
 Many locals came and went, with their dogs, with their friends or alone, while I was there. Without what you'd call an exceptional design or planting palette, it is nonetheless much-used, tranquil, easy on the senses.
I'm reading Paul Theroux's The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean ( 1995 ). His intention was to circle the Mediterranean, clockwise, from Gibralter to Ceuta. He appears to have had no distinct plan other than this, over 18 months; I marvel that he just takes me along with him as he bumbles along the coast. He is erudite, open-minded. He isn't drawn to ruins or to sights or sites. He talks to you, the reader, as his confidant.
One of the delights of blogging is finding your plans undone. I'd intended to report on Victoria Gardens in a thorough and considered way, reporting on it as if it and my experience mattered. What happened was that I found my garden photos were of little use...the gardens themselves were not especially arresting, or the unusually strong sunlight bleached my images, or I wasn't particularly interested in yacking on about a place no-one will go to.
Paul Theroux didn't much like Taormina in Sicily and didn't visit its Greek theatre. ( "Nothing held me in Taormina." ) Though favoured by the Edwardians, and visited by a poetry-writing D H Lawrence, "...these days it exists only to be patronized and gawked at. It was not a place to live in, only to be visited, one of the many sites in the Mediterranean that are almost indistinguishable from theme parks."  ( P 179 )
I, however, would probably traipse here, being fond of ruins, if they are not tourist draw-cards. Above is an image of the theatre itself, taken from a little book I've found, Provincial Art: Southern Italy and the Islands, published in 1957 by the Italian State Tourist Office.
But I am in Melbourne, and I'm recording pictures of statuary, garden furniture. So far, almost 2/3rds of the way through The Pillars of Hercules, it's Corsica I'd most like to visit. Its fountains would be older than this bit of Victorian Neo-Classicism, but it's graceful here, this fountain, in one of Melbourne's inner suburbs.
Victoria Gardens were " formally dedicated for public use" on 07 August 1885. They were laid out by William Sangster, "well-known gardener and nurseryman of the firm Taylor and Sangster." He was "once the gardener to John Brown of Como and was responsible for landscaping works at Stonnington, Rippon Lea, Daylesford Botanic Gardens and Wombat Park," so a little sign informs.
The gardens include this pergola and some stone shelters of a simplistic nature. There is a large "oval depression in the centre" the size of a small soccer field "and a symmetrical layout of paths." There are London Plane, Macadamia, Jacaranda, Plum Pine, Cape Chestnut, Prickly Paperbark, French Hawthorn, Lombardy Poplar, Yew, Lemon-scented Gum, Southern Magnolia, among others. Anything tough, vaguely Victorian.
I decided there wasn't much point elaborating on a garden whose chief merit was the joy it gave to all those bumbling in, if, from a visual point of view, its plantings and design were unexceptional. So, assuming some of the cheek of a travel writer who takes you where he wills, here above is one of the entrance gates, spearmint green, sort of Art Deco, just right against the treescape.
Beyond the Pillars of Hercules was the Unknown, the world beyond the Mediterranean, all that was chthonic. My plan had got skewed. I was somewhere unknown, but it was local and it wasn't frightening. I find that Paul Theroux doesn't exclude the tedious or ugly. He takes you where he goes, awkward or sublime, without judgement. He believes he's traveling alone, but I feel I'm looking over his shoulder.
Above, the statue of Victory, "supposedly a copy of one erected in Berlin to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo," or the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War, depending where you read. Victory, to me, REAL victory, entails a dissembling of self, a preparedness to 'get lost', an acknowledgement that the places we go to, whether they are far or near, have the propensity to shake us up a bit out of our known self.