Thursday, 21 June 2012

A woman’s house is her castle but today we have a full blown moat as well. Seriously.
Yesterday was the year’s shortest day and the gods knew it: heavy rain – over 20mm - ushered in the winter solstice after a day when scarves were flung horizontal and the cold wind ate into the soul. After torrential and constant rain yesterday the dams are fuller but again we have floods in Victoria. Our moat is nothing to complain of and even the hens don’t seem to mind cold feet today as the rain has slowed, the white clouds brighten and – joy! – a little blue appears in the west. Spring will return; superstition seems normal today; my offering is a few winter flowers (what else?) from the garden.
Dazzling white snowdrops (Galanthus) brave the sleet each winter and I pick one and study it: petals are narrow, it’s green blotch unusual, my breath catches. I pull down my mother’s Galanthus monograph from the shelf: it’s G. rizehensis surely, she spoke of it! Or, heart drops, just G. ikariae? No, it’s G. rizehensis! Mum was a botanist (I am not) and she spoke of G. rizehensis with pleasure after collecting seeds in Turkey. Like most bulbs I expect it took 7 years to grow from seed to mature, flower-producing bulb; I know it gave her joy. Was this the one she collected that she spoke of as hanging out over a fast-running stream? I wish I remembered.
My offering also comprises two winter clematis, `fern-leaf clematis’ (C. cirrhosa var balearica, `Freckles’) with dainty, dangling 4-petalled (sepals to the pedant) flowers which sway in the breeze; and – seemingly more vigorous – C. nepaulensis, unscented, flowers perhaps interesting rather than beautiful. Of the two I prefer the first and prettier still is C. cirrhosa `Lansdown Gem’, cream without, claret within, as if those red freckles have all joined together. But in a month the demure blooms of C. nepaulensis will be open and their reddish-purple stamens burst out from their cream petticoats, if temperatures remain above freezing. That’s my kind of girl. And like a Melbournian at the beach, she oftens loses her clothes (leaves, anyhow) in summer. No manners at all.

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