Acacias, or winter beauties

Floristry, winter flowers

I was not expecting to post again so soon, but I find myself flat out, literally, largely immobilised with a tantrum chucking L5 disc.  The Iron Paw is pretty happy about having company, and despite the pain and discomfort, I’m relieved not to be at work.  (note to self: find new job…)

I very gently took myself down to my local shops to stock up on pills, and decided that I would get breakfast after.  Less standing for me, and besides, you’re not supposed to take these things on an empty stomach.  Looking at the view of bare branches beyond the car park, I found myself longing for the sight of a radiant wattle to lift my gloom.

The suburb I live in was developed well before the appreciation of native plants became more widespread.  Most of Canberra’s inner north is planted with European deciduous trees.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them, especially in summer during a heat wave.  But they make for a winter landscape that is less than cheering.

The wattles are just coming on now,  bringing their bright balls of loveliness into the coldest and bleakest time of year.  It’s now when they make the most impact, but actually, there  are more than 700 species of wattle so its possible to have a wattle blooming in every month of the year.  There are so many that I’m going to focus on species which also cut well for floristry, so you can enjoy them both inside and out.

A. baileyana, Cootamundra wattle: this is the only species that I have direct experience of using for floristry.  One self seeded in my former garden before I knew it was a weed here.  I’ve found the foliage to be long lasting, around two weeks.  I picked them in bud but they’ve not opened yet so I can’t make any comment about that yet.  It’s among the most popular of wattles, but unfortunately its also become rather weedy outside its natural range.

A. dealbata, Silver wattle: this is the species to plant instead of the Cootamundra wattle.  It is grown for the floristry trade.  As this can get to 8m they must have to pollard the heck out of it.

A. cultriformis, knife leaf wattle.  Spring flowering to a much more manageable size.  some sources say up 4 metres, while others say 2.5m. It  has grey, triangular shaped leaves, which do not look like knives to me…

I have also read that a. buxifolia, and A. floribunda are also grown for the floristry trade.  One source (Greig) says A. pubescens lasts well in a vase.  I wonder also about A. Myrtifolia, described as being upright with reddish stems and  lemon flowers over a long period in spring.

At this rate I am going to need a new garden.

NB: sorry for the lack of photos.  Still can’t wrangle why I can’t upload from the iPad.

Pruning, revisited

Floristry, Roses

Maybe this makes me weird, but I love pruning.  I was out there yesterday afternoon, brandishing my secateurs, and was only temporarily defeated by the hail.  Most people are scared of pruning and think they’ll get it wrong.  Wrong!  Roses are remarkably tough and resilient, and will survive a great deal of harsh treatment.  They will also reward you with abundant blossoms if you treat them nicely.  In short, roses and humans have a lot in common.

About this time last year I wrote a post about pruning called Symbolic pruning.  It summarised how to prune (briefly, remove dead and diseased material, remove crossing or inward growing branches and shorten by a third), and then I went to muse about how wonderful it would be if we could remove unhelpful habits as effectively as we can prune the roses.

I have been an epic failure on this front over the last twelve months.  No exercise program has been adhered to, let alone formulated, beyond my weekly attendance at rehab Pilates.  I do note however that I always feel better, both mentally and physically, afterwards, and I always note that I feel vastly better on a non working Wednesday, after two days of being trapped in front of the computer.

This means I am back to the eternal question.  How do I make a living?  I need a job which gives me the opportunity to exercise both my intellect and creativity, does not involve being in front of a screen and on my spreading arse all the time, and something which is comfortably over borderline poverty.  All suggestions welcome.

On the positive side, this unusually wet winter means  I now have a bounteous spring full of roses to look forward to.  I managed to control my rose purchasing this winter to only four new varieties.  Ashram, which I have admired at every rose show I have been to, and love for the thoughts of belonging and connection that its name evokes in me.  In a moment of pure homesickness for the mild  winters of my home town, I bought City of Perth.  Finally I bought two roses purely for floristry.   Julia’s Rose is also sometimes called the Brown Paper Bag rose for its unusual colouring that looks fabulous in the vase, and Soul Sister, which was marketed as an improvement on Julia’s rose.

I also transplanted three from last winter, which had sulked seriously in their original planting.  Joyfulness, Mirage and Addictive Lure have taken kindly to the move.  And when they grow up a little, I’ll be able to see them from bed.

Flowers really do make me happy.




Joy versus need

employment, Uncategorized, value

It’s Wednesday morning, my treasured day off.  I’ve slept till I was ready to wake and now I am lying back in bed, with the Iron Paw, contemplating the day ahead.  There are three scenarios.

One: Allow myself to drift, to respond to impulse and whispers from the multiverse.  Go here.  Try that.  Read.

Two: Clean the house, long overdue.  This would take the whole day, given how messy I am.

Three: Harking back to my last post, do some work.  There’s plenty to be getting on with.

Realistically, all three are needed.  Realistically, all three seem about as likely as politicians behaving nicely.

I had a productive day yesterday at work, nailing down some hard to verify facts.  But it’s not what I want to be doing today.  My academic work life is one of detail, fact and argument.  That’s the game and that’s how it must be played.  Endless criticism, questioning, and scepticism.  I find it exhausting and can never sustain it for more than two full days before I get, well, snappy.

In truth, I feel there is no place for me in this world of relentless productivity.  Do more and more and more!  No!  I value roses, and contemplation, quietness and kindness.  I value creativity and connections and gardens of all kinds. Things that may have absolutely no purpose other than sheer enjoyment.

No impressing.  No performing, no innovating.

Just me, and the Iron Paw, being.



Publishing and the (weight of the) past

employment, PhD, Publishing, Uncategorized

Last week I got a welcome email. It was from a publisher, saying that they would like to take my manuscript, my thesis, to the next stage of assessment.  Part of me was elated.  Part of me was prosaic, reasoning that it was my exalted referee’s name that got me to stage two.  Partly I felt dread.

Dread. Yes.  What’s going on with that?  Doesn’t every author aspire to be published?  Well, yes but…

Let me clarify that this is not fiction writing which I do for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m talking about work.  It’s all about the economics.  My boss returned from an OS jaunt recently with a story of how for one job in my discipline at a UK university they received a thousand applicants.  The only people who made it into ‘being vaguely considered’ pile had two books on their CV, in addition to their PhD.  It really is publish or perish in this game.  Basically I’ll be forever lurching from one insecure contract to the next at the lowest pay scale (which is quite low given how long it takes to get a PhD) unless I can get published.

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so gloomy at the thought of revising my PhD if I had found it anything other than what it was. Doing a PhD is like that proverb of putting a frog in a pot of water and bringing it slowly to the boil.  The cool water of the first year is quite pleasant.  You get to spend an whole year just reading and exploring.  There’s possibly no other institution on the plant that offers this luxury.  At the end of first year, the heat goes on.  By the end, which may be anywhere between three and seven years, you are boiled to a sodden mush.

Let’s not forget either that life on the outside goes on, and can be equally challenging. In my case, multiple deaths, including my own vitality and sense of meaning about anything, including and most especially work.

Reworking my thesis into a book takes me back into that deep gloom. I feel like I’ve only just escaped with my life.  Now that I may (I need to whisper this quietly so I don’t tempt fate) have gotten my mojo back after years of deep depression and grief, now I may have to go back to the that time.  It wont make any difference if it is this publisher or someone else. I am going to have to find a way to face this with creativity and intelligence.  At the moment I can think of nothing that would help me with the process.  I know I’m going to absolutely resent giving up my gardening/sewing/embroidery time on the weekends.  Maybe an end vision might help.

I survived this mind-altering-body-changing-soul-mangling process of a PhD and burying two parents, two grandparents, two friends and my cat, and I still managed to produce this book out of it all. Any you know what?  It’s a good book.  Not publishing it would make going through all that pain worthless.

Ancestry and adoption

Adoption, Belonging, emotions, Genealogy

I’ve had another moment of bibliographic grace.  You know.  When the right book arrives at the right time.  This time the book was called It didn’t start with you.  Even the title gave me a little taste of unwinding.  The author is Mark Wolynn and is readily available by which ever book buying method you prefer.  (I’m a paper girl).

i read it from cover to cover on Monday night, and it prompted a fresh surge of genealogical activity.  It’s been a while since I visited the biological family tree and with the speed at which material is being digitised, I hoped I might find photographs.  I’ve never seen any photographs of any of my ancestors beyond one picture of my maternal grandmother.

I found one.  Not who I was hoping for, but nevertheless a 100% improvement on where I was.  My great uncle was a pretty handsome guy actually, and his pre-embarkation photo made me weep for what lay ahead of him.  A fit and attractive young man who would be discharged from the army with neurasthenia, a difficult condition to describe.  It’s modern day equivalent in former soldiers is PTSD, but as I understand it, it’s not quite the same.

Perhaps worse was to come.  James was a twin, and in a few years time, his sister, my great grandmother, would take her own life.  I discovered that Gertrude had killed herself only after her daughter, the only person who could have told me anything about her mother, had died.  That’s how adoption works you know.  So many secrets, and such destructive silence. My great grandmother’s death in 1923 is still reverberating four generations down the line.

I hope that by trying to reconstruct this branch of my biological family, to tell Gertrude’s silenced story, I can bring some peace and healing, not only for myself but hopefully for them too.

Re-bitten by the gardening bug

Canberra, Cancer, Floristry

Here in Canberra we are in the depth of winter.  I’m not sure if winter is the worst season to garden.  There’s the killing frosts (goodbye to my Crassula ovata) and the winds off the Brindabellas that feels like its straight off the Southern Ocean.  On the other hand, there’s rain to soften our baked clay and the UV index is low enough that I can spend time outside without fear of growing more skin cancer.

If you’d gotten organised earlier this year and planted seeds, winter doesn’t have to be dreary.  Organisation, however is not my strong suit. So here Iam, planting ranunculus and chincherees in pots, hoping for a late spring wealth of blooms for the vase.i have a north facing patio where they soak up stored heat, and hopefully getting over their delayed planting.

This horticultural rashness reflects the impact of the short course I recently completed in floristry.  I really miss it.It’s opened a whole new aspect of gardening to me, as well as news ways of being creative in three dimensional space.  My house is now festooned in flowers and it feels wonderful, even if the bank balance is suffering.  But, money so well spent.  It gives me hope.

so, ranunculus.  Chincherees.  I’ve planted thryptomeme, flax, and eyrngium for foliage.  I’ve rescued hydrangeas from the discard bin to be planted in the spring.  Teucrium for its delightful silvery foliage.  Wondering if I have the space for a snowball tree and an escallonia.  Is it possible to find Euphorbia oblongata, as Sarah Raven recommends?  So much delightful dithering.

The only thing that isn’t dithering is my lower back.  It is very decidedly  against this gardening lark.  Realistically, a woman with a squished disc and nearly seventy skin cancers removed is not a person who should be outside, let alone gardening.  Stuff reality.  I can’t live without flowers.