For any of you interested in the botanical pursuits here is where you’ll find information on my curiously wildish garden (which exists in actuality now as well as in my mind), and the native plants (fruit bearers all of them, bless them), and vegetables which I grow. Information on gardening books, follies, composting, the many fabulous attributes of moss, and perhaps even some herbology will follow. Come on in, just don’t stand on my earth worms.

 

Rosehips and Crabapples

The most fabulous book I’ve come across on gardens and gardening is ‘Rosehips and Crabapples: a Rose-lover’s Diary’ which is the gardening diary of Susan Irvine, who owns a darling old Georgian house in Elizabeth Town in Tasmania called Forest Hall. It’s like something out of a Jane Austen movie but better, because the camera isn’t focused on silly, unremarkable things like a dripping wet Colin Firth, but on the plants and garden history of Forest Hall and wider Tasmania. Susan is an accomplished documentor of roses, but she is also a very neat writer. I got this book at Christmas after lusting after it for an entire year and making our poor McBooky order it for the shop with the promise that if it didn’t sell, I would buy it. Lucky for me it didn’t sell. I can understand that most people aren’t so rapturous about gardening (and the natural world) as I am, and at $59.95 Au it is a little costly. But with good reason. There are full colour photographs on every second page, and it’s not a thin book. As well as being a wonderful testament to the colours and fruits of Tasmania’s seasons, ‘Rosehips and Crabapples’ is also quite an interesting look at some of the previous owners, like the repressed, but very talented painter of a set of botanical gift cards, Sarah Bonnily Moncur (1847-1932), and forerunners in gardening documentation like Edna Walling.

There is incidental information about planting what where and when, about creating garden follies like lawn mazes and walls of colour, and the deliciousness of quinces, and quotes about loquat eating parrots,

“There’s not a fruit on any tree

to match their crimson green and gold

To see them cling and sip and sway

loquats are no great price to pay.” (Judith Wright)

If you love all things fruiting, Tasmania, or gorgeous, arresting photographs of nature, this is an absolute must.

(Rosehips and Crabapples: A Rose-Lover’s Diary by Susan Irvine and Simon Griffiths, 2007, Published by Penguin Lantern. isbn: 9781920989729. $59.95)

rosehips

Why I am so Fruity

The reason I love fruiting plants so much is because I grew up on a hill chock-a-block with volcanic soil, right next door to Bundaberg’s premier exotic fruit growers. I remember these two with some fondness, as they let me sit in their hollowed out log planters pretending I was pocahontas paddling down a river, and they allowed me (until the great discovery of a family of rock pythons) to play on their rockery. Up the hill they had quite a small block of land on which they managed to fit every exotic fruit imaginable. Shall I list them for you? You know I will. They had as far as I can remember:

Custard Apples, Black Sapotes (chocolate pudding fruit), White Sapotes, Peanut Butter fruit (which tasted remarkably like their namesake), Coffee Beans, Avocados, Brazillian Cherry, various species of guava, Star Fruit (Carambola) (the most bizarre rubbery textured skin, and translucent yellow flesh). There must have been a few more, but these are the ones I remember tasting.

I remember the stink of roasting the coffee beans from the tree in our garden and the amusing look on my parents’ faces when they drank the result. It was not the best they had tasted, but boy did we have fun getting them prepared. I remember asking (often) how many years it would be before our banana and coconut tree fruited, and being amazed that it took around 7 years for coconuts. “But we might not even be living here then!” I cried, “Why bother to plant it if we aren’t even here to eat them?”

I was right, we moved, but we moved to a house that had been planted out by a couple who owned a fernery. We had a whole new set of exotic fruit. Roseapples took some time to discover, as the possums got to them quickly. Cherry guava’s we’d seen before, and we tucked into those with gusto. Several times I made jam ( I say jam, it was more squashed fruit with sugar added) from lillypilly fruit, and every time it was more tart than sweet. But I couldn’t help myself as there were great head sized bunches of the fruit. There was a lychee vine growing over a tree that draped itself across our fence, and we had prickly picking sessions around Christmas.

I enjoyed coconuts from the palms on the walk to the beach. No one else bothered with the muscle work to get the fleshy husk off. Somewhere along the way I learnt that it is worthwhile planting trees wherever you go, no matter if you get to enjoy the fruits of your labours or not. I couldn’t stand living in sharehouses where there was no garden, so I looked for one in the houses I perused.  It’s never quite the same when you know you’re going to move before you can coax a few tomatoes out of the ground, but I tried all the same. Now I’m a bit more permanent I’ve got a proper vegie patch (which, as usual I stubbornly insisted on making with no help using those big sandstone interlocking pavers…was my back sore after that day!) and enough potted fruit plants to keep me happy. Last month I discovered that the big tree that shades my garden and drops junk onto my paved area is, in fact a roseapple. I haven’t yet been able to taste the fruits though I saw some there recently, because of the possums, but I’ll bag the next lot before that furry lot do. I don’t begrudge them the roseapples though, as they haven’t yet attacked my vegie patch.

I’m very grateful for my garden, and for the wider green spots of Brisbane, they are where I feel most at home in the city, and for all the bits and pieces I picked up about gardening on the way to where I am.

 

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