The Eloquent Garden

The garden you create or dream of creating is a mirror of yourself

Category Archives: writing

crazy little thing called change

Humans seem  fascinated, sometimes obsessed with change. In the name of change, humans embark on some fabulous,  interesting, and some might say quite crazy behaviours.

I’ve just read “Maddadam’ by Margaret Atwood. Now she’s an author who’s  terrific at imagining change. She  takes our fantasies, our dreams of change and details them in dystopian comedy-dramas. “God’s Gardeners” in charge of the world. Hmm. Not so practical, it turns out. And that marvelous  fantasy that males and females have –  ‘if only we knew exactly when someone wanted to mate with us’ –  that would save us so much time and heartache we think. It’s wonderful what Atwood does with that one. I won’t spoil it for potential readers, but it does involve spontaneous colour change of body parts.

And plants and animals  change too in surprising, fascinating ways.  Convergent evolution, where two unrelated species take on the characteristics of one another. Scientists suggest this may be explained by such things as shared climate which accounts for similar changes in both the species.

Then, Plant Chimeras, the shape shifters of the plant world are spontaneous mutations that create a bloom pattern called a pinwheel. This pattern is genetically unstable, but sometimes if you take a stem cutting,  a plant with the same flower can be reproduced.IMG_5354

Or you could take a cutting from a variegated plant and see what happens. What fun, being the creator.

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You could deliberately try to replicate nature’s changes. And  perhaps you could also take an early morning garden walk and see what change has happened in your Garden, think about that change and how it relates to your life?

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For isn’t our garden a projection of our dreams, fantasies, desires for change, desire for self-sufficiency, desire to control our environment or be at one with it.

Clare Marcus Cooper believes that our house is a mirror of our selves. Certainly a garden is an extension of that house.

A therapeutic gardener may ask you “what do you like in your garden? Why have you planted this? What do you like? What do you want to change? And in answering these questions, you will find some interesting questions and answers about your life. It’s Rainer Maria Rilke who says “we should try to love the questions themselves”, not only the answers.

Let’s see what my garden tells of. Last week I discover a delicate, yet at the same robust-looking trailing vine has mysteriously appeared under my papaw tree.  Its bright green heart shaped leaves and  clear white flowers surprise me, but  I welcome it into my garden and wait to see what it will do. Will it blend with my garden amiably, will it fit nicely with my other plants? Will it need curtailing, or shall I be happy for it to twine its way among the slightly restrained experimental wildness that is my back garden. Time will tell.

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And there’s a new  dwarf zinnia, from Spring-scattered seeds, now a compact bush surprising me with many coloured flowers. Unlike the parent plant which, from memory, was pink. I think of Wally, now gone from this world, whose garden they came from. I think about him, wish I’d asked more questions, different questions.  Changes like this often bring regrets. But also the chance to change the way we are,  ask the questions while we can.

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Twelve months ago, I put up a wire mesh frame so my outdoor sitting area could have a green wall to shade from summer afternoon sun. I chose to plant a honeysuckle vine, symbol of enduring love and loyalty in friendship and love. And now it’s lush and twining, fulfilling my imagination in planting it.

I placed a seat in my garden right in front of the wall of honeysuckle, for when I want to contemplate this vine and its meaning for me. What’s important in friendship, in loveship. What things help friendship stay through life’s changes.

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And what of my cute, maintained front garden? I had to take out the pepper scented geranium, it just wasn’t suited.  Which left a space for something…..What a change in my garden two Flamingos make!

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How else can the garden help us change? As Sarah, fellow blog-hopper of the Health and Happiness Collective  quoted in her blog the Wellness Ninja “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’ If work weighs you down, would a bunch of flowers on your desk help you and others change the way you look at situations? Would humming a song, my favourite for such occasions “Blue Skies,’ not only cheer you up, but confuse those workplace bullies? Would buying a new house plant while on your lunch break help your mood?

Perhaps planning to get your garden project moving along would give you a new outlook, get you in touch with what’s important for you. With what your dreams and desires are.

Would starting your day with a short garden walk help you change the way you look at things? Would planting a passion fruit vine be what you need?IMG_5298

Not such crazy ideas for change, I think. What about wearing a green wig? A little shape shifting?   Oh maybe that’s going a little too far.. but then again maybe not…….is seeing the world from another perspective,  shape shifting our brains?

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Versatile..what a relief!

How wonderful!

…After years of confusion, thinking I am scattered/focussed; intense/frivolous;  nutty/sane;  intrepid/fearful; cool/excitable; blunt/subtle;  honest/dishonest; imaginative;  conservative/ lateral; dancing to distraction/introspective; flexible/stubborn; and Overly Fascinated with — the meaning of gardens, irony, alliteration. With history, mystery, strange dark Finnish films, chocolate scrabble, idle and not-so-idle chat……..

Kevin at Nitty Gritty Dirt Man has solved the mystery, and set my mind at rest…..

………………….apparently I am VERSATILE!

Thanks Kevin for being on his list of those nominated for the Versatile Bloggers Award. I don’t know if this nomination had Capitals, but for here, I have chosen to give it some.

Anyway,  here are some of the many things that I find Overly Fascinating, just on the verge of full moon early in February 2012……

The Language of Flowers….Once there were no Texts or emails and people relied on letters and words to stuff up communication between the sexes. Before that, writers claim, would-be lovers communicated their feelings with bouquets of flowers, with each flower having a specific meaning.

These bouquets were called Tussie Mussies. I can only imagine the monumental  miscommunications these must have caused! A peony posy and a few dandelions misinterpreted and you could have found yourself married to the wrong man…or a woman! Or two men! Or celibate for life! Gosh! …Makes my love life seem tame really……

What inspired these thoughts? A book by Vanessa Diffenbaugh  ‘The Language of Flowers’ …about love and fear and flowers. Vanessa wrote “My skin lifted under his gaze as if the surface of my body were reaching toward him without the permission of my mind.’  How I wish I’d written that!

A fine way to begin the weekend with The History of Madness in Brisbane a local history session at Brisbane Square library this Saturday…

Hmmm, I’m thinking of differing historical views of madness….

Friends Hospital in Philadelphia described madness as ‘people deprived of the use of their reason’, and treated patients with active therapeutic gardening.

Yet Sam Harris, after publication of ‘The End of Faith’, received tens of thousands of emails and letters from people of all faiths and doubt, ‘who believe that the most important moral questions facing humanity today are not able to be answered by reason.’

What about the passion of Luang Pu  Boung Leua Souriat who depicted his unique vision of spiritual life in an astonishing giant size cement statue garden near Nong Khai in Thailand. Do you find this reasonable? And what of his devotees who continue to maintain his vision after his death?

And Edward Wilson’s Biophilia Hypothesis described our affinity with nature as innate, essential, part of our biology.

So maybe those who don’t regularly go into nature are in danger of madness?

Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in The Woods’, describes children who don’t spend time in nature as having Nature Deficit Disorder…

And Gardeners….what of our madness? We lose sense of time and probably reason, as we give ourselves over to the passion of gardening. We believe our plants communicate with us. We fall in love with plants,  wonder where and how l they’ll fit in our gardens? But we love them,  find a place, learn their needs.

Sometimes gardens have their way. They create a living work of art. This one’s at Ayutthaya in Thailand, the head of a statue enclosed within the roots of a Ficus tree.


Gardeners are taken with strange ambitious projects that consume us and make our friends smile fondly (mostly…) and maybe wonder just a little, as we confess our sudden inspiration to grow a…

Frangipani Forest ! Yes indeed. I had many frangipani cuttings, and a sudden vision overtook me! Of a colour wave of  frangipanis, kept to 2 and a half metres high, a perfect canopy of fragrance and colour, their deciduousness to remind me of cooler climates, and maybe my Grandmother who grew them…. Madness?  Memory?  Inspiration? …Sometimes inexplicably linked.

And People with Passion ….inspire us to lateral or amused thoughts, to keep us mainly sane….

Think of visionary gleam, one of my fav bloggers, who honours plants and flowers that look like football teams. Oh, have a look at that one! Fabulously nutty!

And me so thorny……now he ‘s a funny one! But is he mad?  Not in blogging world…maybe blogging is  therapeutic? And if therapy is needed, is blogging madness? Oh I can see where this is heading….

Then appreciation of delicious, a blog by a Filmmaker, of things pleasing to her eye. Some quirky, amazing finds from creative talents in art, photography, fashion. Keep an eye on the progress of the author’s films, too. Think on ‘The Storymaker”  and latest ‘Campers’ – Art that ‘has the capacity to generate different meanings without ever being completely consumed.’ (Umberto Eco.)

Now over the last few months, I have come to appreciate the concept that neighbours may potentially become confused when aspects of adjoining lives are glimpsed in cosy moonlit backyard…chocolate scrabble playing, idle and not-so-idle chat, pumpkin picking rituals, memorial ceremonies for my Companion Animal, practicing Modern Jive, other such fanciful-ness.

So, to avoid neighbourly confusion,  I have become Overly Fascinated with…

                          Garden Rooms, the concept of creating private, enclosed spaces within a garden..using hedges, vines, green walls. Now I believe I read that in Germany and Switzerland it’s mandatory for all roofs that are flat to be Green Roofs, now that’s just sensible, and lovely.

                                                 My Garden Room is to be purple Honeysuckle climbing sides of a pergola, with a golden Duranta hedge on other side.

Another has begun to be walled with jasmine and passionfruit, completely climbing over this immovable

children’s fort that came with my new bare backyard. My very own Folly, complete with Ship’s Wheel.

And as there are other things in life than gardening….

I am also Overly Fascinated with…..

Becoming a versatile, playful Ceroc dancer..maybe even sultry if I can be bothered going to any workshops.

And swimming in a tidal swimming pool to cool this Summer Heat.

And making Alzira’s Russian Salad

mix together: 1 cup beetroot, cooked & sliced. 1 kipfler potato, cooked & cubed. 2 hardboiled eggs, cubed. 2 tablespoons pickled cucumber.  few drops of lemon juice. approx 2 tablespoons salad cream.

and reading  ‘Damned’ by Chuck Palahniuk, which begins ‘Are you there Satan? It’s me, Madison. I’m just now arrived here, in Hell……’. Hilarious, contentious. And he wrote ‘Fight Club’ too, among many others.

This has reached the tipping point of versatility…..I hope you enjoy this in several readings and tell me what you think……

What are your earliest garden memories?

Before I tell you something..I wonder if you’d like to write down your earliest garden memory? Get a  largish piece of paper, perhaps a hand-made paper, or something very lovely. You may even want to frame this one!  Now sit, preferably outside, gaze at the horizon, remembering. Then begin writing. Be as detailed as you can….flowers, activities, people, scents, feelings, colours, places, gardens, kitchens, there may even be memories you may think bad ones. Anything garden or nature-related.

Then, put your memories aside for the moment. Right now, I want to tell you about a morning in Brisbane, at a retirement village. We sit around tables with little terracotta bowls of dried rose petals, others with lavender flowers sitting on embroidered lace tablecloths. There are tiny drawstring bags in pink, purple, orange, white.  Huge bunches of rosemary and of roses in old-fashioned vases in the centre of each table.

I ask this group of about 15 elderly retirement village residents, ‘What’s your earliest garden memory?’

Dorothy says ‘It was during the War. We had to grow veges or we had none. My job was to water the veges..heaven help me if I forgot, we depended on that food. My father made me a watering can. He punched holes in the bottom of a tin can, put a wire handle on the top so i could carry it. I had to fill it with water and walk up and down the rows of veges, make sure they got enough water.”

Joan ‘We did too, had to grow our veges. We lived in London. Where were you?’

Dorothy says “We lived in London too.”

‘Gosh! Old neighbours!’ I say. Everyone laughs.

Joan and Dorothy live in the same retirement village, a slow 10 minute walk from one another.  They have never met before, never spoken. Amazing? Somehow sad. Yet now that they have, somehow hopeful!

Alcea has exotic tales..a life lived in Peru, South Africa, Europe, travelling as her husband was employed with a mining Company. A fabulous tale of the ‘Tropicana Nightclub, with a glass dome ceiling, with trees and swings and girls swinging on these over the heads of diners!  Whew…no troublesome workplace health and safety getting in the way of Big Fun there!

But today-  together we make lavender or rose bags. Small, coloured chiffon bags to hang in wardrobes. Or to hang in the shower so the smell is enjoyed while showering. Someone’s inspired to make an extra lavender bag for a beloved great-grandchild when she visits next. ‘Great idea!’ Others do too.

I take Photos of everyone enjoying the morning. There’s much laughter as everyone wants their “best side’ shown! Me too!

Two of the residents discover they’re both named Rose. They also have never met before. One talks of her now dead mothers rose garden..tears come to her eyes. The others nod, remembering too…

Margery remembers playing with a friend, making ‘perfume’ with rose petals and water, giving some to  her mother for her birthday. Her mothers joy at receiving this.  Margery laughs, with the knowledge of adulthood. We join in.

So many memories expressed in these answers- old friendships, fun, family history and secrets, lives led, plants special to certain people, events forgotten, now remembered.

I suggest that over the next 6 weeks we could do ‘Garden Walks’- visit everyone’s garden. Have a cuppa at each garden, morning tea, warm the friendships begun today. Ask one another “where did you get that plant?’ ‘What’s your favorite plant?’ Enable time to tell more of themselves. More of their garden histories, gardens remembered, garden companions,  garden loves.

In this lovely activity today, I see the seeds of friendship sown, hear laughter, reminiscence, enable arthritic fingers to move and exercise, stimulate  memory and imagination, be involved in meaningful activities. I record all this-with photos to be given to each, at our next time together and to put into a new photo album.  A garden history together, to be added onto their life garden history. Everyone takes some roses or rosemary home.

So what was your garden memory?  What did it say about you? Your philosophy on life? Your family? Relationships? What’s in those memories for you today, to think about?

My memory is of visiting my grandmother, a quirky, slightly radical soul- yes, a gardener! I was wanting desperately to climb the very high trellis to pick beans. How daring! How forbidden! My mother would have had a fit!  ‘Why not!’ was Grandma’s response.  Something that’s stayed with me all my life. Yes indeed ‘Why not!’  Have fun, take risks, climb high. I’ve had so much fun!

Then another memory. Sadder perhaps….but maybe not, depending on how its perceived.  Shutting myself into my room.  Dramatic family life, events that were definitely not ideal, swirling around me.  Climbing out my bedroom window, picking grapes, and swiftly back in the window undetected, to read for hours. Grapes from the garden and a good book..what a great escape!  What a comfort.  Some may say, and I agree, that I learned to comfort myself when life was sad.

Blog in Bloom

Welcome to my first foray into blogdom. As my profile suggests, this blog will be an outlet for my experiences, stories, images, ideas, reflections and findings relating to therapeutic gardening, horticulture and the enjoyment of the natural world.

“Gardens are not innocent spaces” – Holly Kerr Forsyth

Eucalypt, by Holly Kerr Forsyth

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