Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Liberté, ÉgalIté, Fratenité

Liberté, Égalaté, Fratenité. How the mind does leap to rationalise.
Amidst blue and white windflowers and blue Aguga my white tulips are red and I could say that my garden is ruined, yes, ruined, but I’ve had a little chuckle and decided that the bulb farm which mucked up big time has created an interesting tableau.
(And yes, they are amidst the pumpkins painted red in the bleak winter months – still there - that I love and am finding hard to toss.)

It’s not the garish blue-red-white you sometimes see in English gardens - in their council bedding schemes and `best’ hanging baskets of the year, flower-packed, overwhelming. No, it’s some blue-red-with-a-little-white and lots of green to soften the impact (though it’s still a bit strong, and a damn good thing it won’t last long).
 Some of the windflowers (Anemone coronaria), too, have not lived up to their description of purely single (this white, above, is a wonderful simple single flower – lovely), and have extra wimpy petals which I don’t find attractive...but it’s hard to actually pull them out when this bed needs – or will need - the colour.
Take away the blue and the white and the garden could be really exciting, like this field of Flanders poppies (above), bright, ushering in spring with a giant welcome mat. But this area is near my sun and sky bed so...the red tulips will be enjoyed, and then dug up, and the long-blooming windflowers allowed to do their thing, bridging winter bulbs and summer perennials.
The blue-red-white colour schemes are, I believe, patriotic in Britain. For me, here, it’s a very different story; it’s a statement (albeit completely accidental!) of rebellion, of the French cockade, of wanting a republic for Australia, of my strong conviction that we are all equal. (Incidentally it’s been 2 centuries since publication of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park with her protagonist constantly, painfully browbeaten in the name of social order; a horrid placing of cousin above cousin. As one who believes I may call my Governor-General (and Prime Minister too – should I so wish) `mate’ – I can’t handle this hateful inequality.)
I like a garden that tells a story but, with these bright clashing colours, all cymbals and strobes, however passionate I am about egalitarianism, I’m glad this one won’t tell it for long.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design and garden writer who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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