Names of flowers and plants remind me of people

Last week while dead-heading my roses (David Austen Heritage – very delicate pink old fashioned type of rose), I kept thinking how much roses reminded me of my mother. My mother was not an avid gardener. She left all that dirty and hard stuff to my father, her brothers and me. She loved her rose bushes that grew so well in the front garden surrounded by gerberas and pansies which she adored also. When I was about five, someone convinced my mother to enter one of her red rose blooms in the local Agricultural Show and with many protests she more or less threw a hastily picked rose on the table of the judging panel and filled out the entry form. That rose won first prize. For the following years till her early death, her deep red roses (no particular name that we knew of) won first prize. The rose garden was cherished and loved forever by our family, and red roses always bring memories of my mother to mind instantly.

red roseThe favourite flower of my Gran’s was the violet….she grew them under the big water tanks where it was cool, shady and nearly always moist even during the hottest summers of Queensland. Well fertilised and weeded by the hens as they picked and scratched their way around the clumps of violets, they were very hardy in spite of the delicate and sweetly perfumed flower. Gran’s old dog (called an Alsatian back then, being German Shepherd) Towser, loved to sprawl on top of them on hot afternoons in an effort to keep cool. He was actually bitten by a black snake under there during one of his siestas – the snake had the same idea in mind and didn’t like his space being intruded upon. Towser didn’t die from the bite though. Gran cut and bled the bite and poured lysol on the wound – he was sick for a few days, but the only after affect was a huge lump that formed on the top of his paw where the bite had been.

violetsNot only pretty flowers can bring back memories of people from our past though. Vegetables are just as powerful when it comes to producing a quick snap shot of someone long gone into the mind. My ex-husband was lucky enough to have a lovely step-father Jim who hailed from Glasgow in Scotland. Jim and my ex’s mother sailed out to Australia on the same ship as 10 pound poms, and met while exercising on the decks. Jim was headed to Sydney with his family and Beatrice was headed to Perth with her two sons. She had distant family in West Australia and thought it would be full of villages just as it had been in England. After a few years apart, Jim moved to Perth where he worked in Fremantle Prison as a guard, until he was offered a very good position in the South Island of New Zealand. They left together leaving her two teenage sons in Perth with relatives and friends. Jim promptly fell in love with Southland. the cold weather and good soils, and they bought a few acres out of town where he could experiment with a garden. His first attempt to grow anything was spuds and peas. The feel of dirt on his hands was exquisite he told me once, and the joy of digging up the spuds in time for Christmas dinner along with picking fresh young peas was euphoria. Jim said he had grown up where there was mostly concrete in Glasgow so the luxury of having a few acres of good gritty, dirty dirt to plunge his big hands in was like Christmas Day every day. Jim died about 15 years ago, but I quietly thank him for teaching me how to plant and care for my spud crops, and if there is ever a year I don’t have the chance to grow them, I feel as if I have missed out on something very dear.

spuds and peasIf anyone who knows me and my garden think to choose a plant or flower to remember me by, I would think they would have to think of the daisy. I adore them and have many of them in my garden. I grow them as hedges defining garden beds, I trim them into round balls as a feature of other beds, and I fill in those awkward gaps in the garden where nothing seems to want to survive, with a daisy bush. Mixed with my roses and other bits and bobs from the garden, they look stunning in a vase in my kitchen.

daisiesLastly but certainly not least, my other flower memory is of my mother’s best friend who was from England and rather a rare specimen when I was little. We didn’t have too many English folks in our town due to the heat of the area and back then the remoteness of it also. My Gran was English but she had lived on the family cattle and dairy property since she was a young bride and was always an Aussie to us. Mum’s lovely friend who always wore pastel suits and gloves and who I always thought looked like the Queen, grew the finest gladioli anyone in our region had seen. She and her husband lived on a half acre block with a high set Queenslander in the middle of it. Every spare inch of the yard was taken up by gardens…vegetable in the back half tended lovingly by the man of the house, and gladioli, roses, gerberas, asters, sweet peas, and one winter this fine lady successfully grew daffodils and tulips. Unheard of by the locals as the climate was far too hot for these types of bulbs. Her name was always Mrs Asling to me, but my mother called her ‘Glad’ because of her gladioli. Mum had a huge urn type vase in the lounge which she would fill with the blooms from Glad’s garden. Mrs Asling died when I was away doing my nurses’ training, but I was told by the family that her coffin was covered with her ‘gladdies’ of every colour. Whenever I see Dame Edna throwing gladioli blooms into the audience, I think of the lovely lady of my childhood.

gladdiesMy father taught me most of what I know about gardening, both vegetable and flower gardens. He had a wonderfully green thumb and could get anything to grow from seed or cuttings. In his later years he grew and cross-bred the most amazing orchids and won accolades in North Queensland for his blooms on show. By far Dad’s favourite flower was the Banksia. He died under a Banksia on a very hot day in Perth and I like to think he chose this spot because of the flowers in bloom at the time. banksia






23 thoughts on “Names of flowers and plants remind me of people

  1. March 7, 2013 at 9:49 am Reply

    That was very interesting Jo and well written. Someone once said that if you don’t have a garden, you don’t have a soul.

    • joskehan March 7, 2013 at 11:55 am Reply

      Hi Jack, I think I agree with that person! I often curse the garden when it’s full of weeds and lately thistles….they make my arms itch as I pull them out, and those horrid green leafy weeds we have here with roots that go for miles…I’m sure if I tracked one down carefully, I’d end up in China!!! But then once it’s looking good and the flowers are waving at me in the sunshine (of which we are getting our fair share at long last!), I can’t help but smile and feel happy to know I have a garden to get dirty in whenever I feel like it. Hugs. xxx

  2. George Rigby March 7, 2013 at 11:15 am Reply

    What a lovely story, Jo. I earned my living as a contract gardener for many years and can appreciate your feelings about flowers. Your dad picked a beautiful flower as his favorite, the banksia would do any garden proud. Margaret’s dad ‘s favorite flower was the pansy, of which the violet is a sport. So you’re right, flowers do bring to mind nice things. I have a David Austen Heritage rose growing in my garden. It’s called Geoff Hamilton after probably the greatest gardener this country has seen. He was a favorite of the nation. It’s been a pleasure reading your blog, Jo.

    • joskehan March 7, 2013 at 11:53 am Reply

      Thank you so much George. Gardens have played a huge part in my life…there was a period of 2yrs when I was divorced from the first husband, that I decided to live in a town house with a paved courtyard at the back and front….no garden. For the first year it was ok because I was so busy with work (I worked for the Dept Health Commonwealth at that time and was setting up the computer systems), but the following year I was almost going insane with no dirt to get my hands into. I visited my friends with gardens and weeded like a mad woman on weekends. Then I decided enough was enough and had a home of my own built where I grew lots of different daisies and wisterias….hibiscus, diosma, bottle brush, kangaroo paws, and all things native lol. It was bliss. Thanks for the info about the name of your Heritage rose too…very interesting. xxx

  3. Susan Flood March 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm Reply

    Hi Jo, I really enjoyed reading your blog; so much so that I was engrossed, completely took my mind away from some health issues I’ve been having. You’ve encouraged me to get back into the garden, which I have been neglecting for some time. A joy to read.

    • joskehan March 12, 2013 at 2:24 am Reply

      Hi Susan, that is really a lovely compliment! To think my piece about how I feel about flowers etc helped you feel a little better and take your mind off the dire condition you have had to endure. I hope you are feeling better now, and it would be great for your new diet to grow a lot of your own veges…they will be fresh and poison free which is a huge step forward. Big hugs. xxx

  4. Dave Wise March 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm Reply

    Hi Jo,
    Writer Dave Here!
    I have a Chicago Peace Rose(strawberry red and peach).
    It is beautiful! I reminds me of people I knew years ago in Chicago.
    Of course, I’m Writer Dave from Chicago!

  5. dougie March 7, 2013 at 6:05 pm Reply

    Terrific blog , Jo. Associating people with flowers is one way of making sure their memories never fade.

    • joskehan March 12, 2013 at 2:22 am Reply

      Ah thank you Dougie and your owner Mary….you must see many beautiful flowers on your daily walks. It amazes me how many of the same types grow in so many countries. Hugs. xx

  6. Jane Risdon March 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm Reply

    Lovely Jo, I shall pop back later as I want to read this again. Love the photos too…x

  7. margueritequantaine March 8, 2013 at 2:40 am Reply

    What a lovely sentiment and gentle read. My mom was forthysia and daffodils, I am lily-of-the-valley and violets, my sweetheart is Gerber daisies and pansies, and we both go ga-ga over magnolias and gardenias. Oh the list is endless, really. Thanks for inspiring such fond memories of old friends and loved ones.

    • joskehan March 12, 2013 at 2:32 am Reply

      Hi Marguerite, I agree the list is endless…in fact there is no flower that I can honestly say I dislike. Even some of the weeds with little flowers on are pretty. I’m waiting for the weather to get a bit cooler so I can plant my daffodil bulbs again. Usually I leave them in the garden, but I have done away with the garden bed they were in for the past few years, so had to life the bulbs. Because they multiplied in that time, I have three times the amount of bulbs to re-plant. There new home will be in the garden along the drive, which is long, so there is plenty of room for them. Hoping for a wonderful display in spring. xxxx

  8. annieye March 8, 2013 at 5:33 am Reply

    What a lovely account of memories linked to flowers. I, too, like daisies, but I think my favourite flowers are freesias. The smell always reminds me of my mum, as she loved them, too. Her favourite flowers were African violets and she used to grow new plants for her kitchen windowsill by propagating a leaf. I wish I had kept one of them when she died, but I gave them all away to her friends.

    My favourite flowers are spring flowers – daffodils, tulips, crocuses and snowdrops. Snowdrops always remind me of my dad – he used to go for long walks in the countryside and would always report the first snowdrops to appear on his route.

    This is a lovely post, Jo, and so fitting for spring in England, reminding us of (hopefully) a decent summer to come after the dismal rains and miserable weather of last summer.

    • joskehan March 12, 2013 at 2:29 am Reply

      I envy you the spring that is on its way Annie…we have summer (somewhat late) here at the moment which I’m really enjoying, but I’m wondering if we will get any autumn before the dreaded winter or not. I detest the cold and although some folk say it’s ok if you wrap up warm, I can’t get used to wrapping up warm and feel claustrophobic with so many layers. Enjoy your spring and your summer. Hugs. xx

  9. adrienneauthor March 8, 2013 at 5:32 pm Reply

    What a lovely thought-provoking piece. I was brought up in Dublin, and years ago my husband bought me a rose bush, very like your mother’s deep red one, and it is called Dublin Bay. We moved away from our house – and I insisted it came with us – and when we moved back, back it came. It didn’t do very well last year…and just today, coming back from our Romantic Novelists’ Association meeting in Leicester I looked at it to see if there were signs of life. And YES! two tiny leaves. Things are definitely looking up!

    • joskehan March 12, 2013 at 2:21 am Reply

      Thank you Adrienne…so glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment – I know how busy you are. Take care and I hope to see more comments from you on future blogs (when I actually put my butt in a chair and write them lol). xx

  10. roisinmeaney March 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm Reply

    Lovely post Jo – nice to have such memories as you garden.

    • Jane Risdon March 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm Reply

      Jo, sorry it took longer than anticipated to get back and read this properly. I love the photos and what you have written. You know I love flowers and gardens and the countryside (nature in general), so reading this has been a joy. I miss our garden a lot. We went up to Dad’s grave and My maternal Grandmother’s yesterday, Mothering Sunday, to take flowers. It was amazing the number of daffs and snowdrops out and along the banks on the way up to where they’re buried. Lots of violets and primulas out too, yet some areas they are not showing at all. There is a little blossom on some trees but I am told it is not apple or cherry – some sort of winter flowering blossom – and so we are feeling a little Spring-like (apart from the bitter wind from Norway and the snow flurries). My mother has two roses by her gate, a yellow one and a red one – names long forgotten – which were her mother’s, and were planted in her Mother’s garden by her father back in the early 1920’s. When Nan died, 1968, Mum took them and planted them on either side of the gate to the driveway and there they flower year in year out…they are budding now. A visual memory of Nan whenever we pass through the gate. Loved your descriptions.

      • joskehan March 12, 2013 at 2:26 am

        Glad you liked it Jane. Yes, flowers bring back more memories of those we have loved and lost, than we know. Like songs, they just keep on keeping on, and the memories are locked into that particular song or plant forever. xx

      • Jane Risdon March 12, 2013 at 9:27 am

        Well, thanks as I really enjoyed it and it made me think of my Nan, who would be 127 if she were still alive! Hope life is good in Oz today. Flipping freezing here.

    • joskehan March 12, 2013 at 2:27 am Reply

      Thank you for taking time off your busy writing schedule to read my humble blog and leave a comment…much appreciated. Have a great week.

  11. thenewromantics4 March 13, 2013 at 8:54 am Reply

    Hi Jo, your blog is so attractive and has variety. I love my garden and Im sad that its too small and shady to grow half of the plants I’d like. I grow lots in tubs so I can nove them around to catch the sun. Two winters ago the snow wiped out nearly all of my agapanthases – and some of the species bulbs had cost me upwards of £25. Now I keep things a lot more simple and plant things that attract the bees and the birds. On a separate note, thanks for mentioning Nettie, were very pleased with the blog she’s created for us.

    • joskehan March 13, 2013 at 10:32 am Reply

      Thank you Lizzie…gardening is my ‘therapy’ when life becomes shitty. At times though, like your problem with the snow killing your aggies, last year the frosts here killed so many hedge plants and daisy shrubs it was heartbreaking, and this summer some of the native plants have given up the ghost…..makes me wonder what will survive in this strange country where I live right now. Victoria is very cold in winter and for the past 5yrs that I’ve been here, summer has been like the autumns we had in Perth WA. Probably because the climate is so different to what I have always known, it has been harder to work out just what to plant that will survive! I’ve started doing what you are doing too, planting simple, cheap and hardy things that the birds love. Gardening can be so rewarding but at times it can be soul destroying too. xxxx

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