Garden visiting is often pretty fun (if you've done your homework, the gardens are good, and also interesting to you), and maybe most fun when you take a buddy - and your buddy is a gardening sister.
One of my sisters is an artist, so we talk design; and one knows plants; how good is that? And both, both are free for some serious garden-visiting (and plant-buying, I suspect) this spring. (Will Digger's run out of seeds? Let's hope not.)
But there's another level to having my garden-loving sisters - and it's happened twice now. S came over yesterday (she is also a chef, is that good? Only fantastic) bearing not only mandarin and almond muffins (yum), but also, from her little flower-filled city garden, a bunch of winter flowers for me: Mum-style flowers (which is pretty darn generous). Mum spent nearly 30 years in Emerald - pretty cold compared to Melbourne, really, so it's a September-like bunch: Leucodendron, red Alstroemeria, and jonquils in white and yellow and a little orange. `Mum used to pick these flowers to put with her Leucodendron' I was told. How did I not know this? I think I'm just too focussed on gardens, really, and have less interest in cut flowers, and simply didn't notice what Mum did with the wealth of flowers from her country garden. Even though, city or country, Mum had flowers in the house, always, and at all times beautifully arranged. That I do remember.
And how wonderful to be told (again) about one of Mum's arrangements, that she loved, and to have it in my home, where I can almost caress the blooms.
Mum had an eye for artistry; honed by discussions with her painter-father. (His quintessentially English landscape paintings, say family lore, enrich most British embassies around the world.) She had a good eye for colour and cared about height and texture in the garden, too. In her country garden, my sister reminds me, Mum might let us pick flowers (we were adults by then) but they must be beyond sight of the house. The flowers in view of the house might not be sacrosanct, quite, but were certainly more precious.
S seems slightly bemused by this, still. In her city garden it's all visible from the windows, and winter flowers can be picked for a vase, maybe denuding the garden...
But I totally agree.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)