Every year the garden lights up lilac candles atop giant stalks. Always, reliably, from mid-May onwards, so by today it's dramatic & spectacular, a ring of tree dahlias (above) 6m across and about 4 or 5m high.
Now, I say that this is the garden wishing J a Happy Birthday. But J is an indigenous-plant-loving man...so he doesn't agree. More shy chocolate lilies than hydrangeas; or dainty climbing apple-berry (Billardiera scandens) over...roses.
It's not just that, with my bad eyesight, I can see roses from the kitchen window; it's also trying to create a garden that's photogenic (I can dream).
I'm fond of apple berry, (obliquely & literally, above) actually. There's the palest green flowers, hanging, dainty, tubular with elegant flaring tips, rather like tiny tutus. They provide nectar for many petite avian visitors. Green, sausage-shaped fruit are edible, and we must try them. We have a plant of this shy climber on the wiry orchard fence, slowly greening up about 2m of fence. One of those rare climbers that don't take a mile when given an inch! I'm tempted to call it by another of its common names, apple dumplings, which shows its roots as a traditional bush tucker plant: when purple, the fruit can be eaten raw, I'm told; but if picked green they require roasting.
But I also like the Latin moniker, named for French botanist Jacques Labillardiére, who published the first (Western) flora of Australian plants, between 1804 and 1807.
Being a white person who grew up in the 1970's, it seems surprising that Joseph Banks (who named Botany Bay), who sailed on James Cook's Endeavour expedition (1768 - 1771) wasn't the first botanist to publish an Australian flora. But Banks was notorious for collecting, but not cataloguing, the masses of plant material he...amassed. (Of course I was taught that Cook `discovered' Australia, ignoring 60 thousand years of local inhabitants, with the oldest living culture. That, thankfully, has changed.)
No, it was Labillardiére who published the first work, including exquisite prints of Australian plants. Whatever you think of dismantling books, it has been done, and I have been a lucky beneficiary. From one (hopefully, a late edition) is a print that J gave me for my 30th birthday; and it's of one of my - our - favourite indigenous plants, butterfly flag (Diplarrena moraea, above). It's not just that it's a pretty, white irid (iris relation); it's not just that the flowers hover like butterflies nearly 1m above the ground in spring; it's also that when we bought our piece of heaven (5ha/ 13 acres of bushland on the edge of Melbourne), butterfly flag, along with pink trigger plants, were prolific and flowering in the grassland below where we'd build our cottage. That area is now orchard-and-septic and most of these wildflowers are long gone. But I love a meadow, and flowers amongst the fruit trees, too. We Must grow some of these sweet spring bloomers from seed collected on our `block' and plant them in the orchard.
This is a planting scheme we are both passionate about!
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.jillweatherheaddesign.com.au)