End of term approaches

creativity, Floristry, PhD, Roses

It’s the downhill run to the end of term and I confess to being a very tired little bunny. Between the book contract, two part time jobs and full time study since January, all I want to do is take long naps with the Iron Paw and watch 70s sci fi repeats.  Perhaps then I might find the whatever-it-is I need to care about the flowers again.

in the interim, samples of class assignments.

Clockwise from the top left…

My take on a hamper, called ‘How to survive your PhD submission’. This is what some kind soul needed to give me about three weeks out from submitting.  It’s got appropriately dark and moody flowers along with anti inflammatories and painkillers, because you back or your neck or your wrists will have gone out in protest.  Rescue remedy and vodka to deal with the panic.  Couscous, chocolate and other forms of carbs.  A memory stick because you can NEVER have too many back ups and finally, a novel, as a gentle reminder that one day before you die, you will learn to read for pleasure again.

A bridal bouquet with buttonhole and corsage in purples, a practice run for a bride who has since changed her mind about the colour scheme.

A floral response to a place, the heritage listed University House at ANU.  The recycled cake tin echoes the lean times of the post war era, and the placement of the flowers echoes the traditional university enclosed college transplanted to the Australian landscape.

An ‘alternative’ bridal bouquet.  Built on a structure of kitchen implements, it is entirely edible with roses, lavender, brussel sprouts, spring onions and a variety of herbs like bay, rosemary and curry plant.  The bride got the sieve and the bridesmaid carries the spatula.

My task for next semester? To get better at photographing my work…

A year older…

creativity, Floristry, PhD, Uncategorized

Yep.   Had a birthday.   I am now perilously close to fifty.

It was a good day.   I jumped on a bus and went to Sydney.   Interviewed a lady who was described to me when we were introduced as the Constance Spry of Australia.   So I’ve now found a postdoc project!

The following day I had my very first trip to flower market.   I thought I did very well to only come home with two bunches of double tulips, given I was navigating sydneys trains and the 3 1/2 hour bus trip back to Canberra.   Miraculously I didn’t break a single head.

The flower market was like nothing I have ever seen before.  A ginormous shed stuffed to the brim with flowers that made me cry with happiness.   Whole stalls just devoted to orchids.   The biggest tizziest disbud chrysanthemums in readiness for Mother’s Day,  and the sexiest purplely black callas.  Droooooooooooooooool.

I maybe perilously close to 50 now but it is deeply comforting to know that I finally found my thing.   It’s better that I found it now rather than in 10 or 15 years time, when I’m still relatively young and fit enough to do the work.   Course it would have been nice to have escaped the misery of the last 10 years,  but I can only hope there’s gonna be some unforeseen pay off from the sweat and tears that went into that PhD.

In the interim I’m going to practice being grateful for all the good things that I do have.  The Iron Paw, my lovely warm house, my own garden, delightful friends, loving family.   The luxury and the beauty of flowers, and being able to learn from them.

 

Recent work

Floristry, PhD, Uncategorized

Just a few pics of my recent work in class and out.  It’s wreath season here in Australia so we’ve been practicing.  For the bottom right, I’ve been trying to get over my fear of lilies.  Not a good thing to have if you want to be a florist.

On the top are two wired bridal bouquets, one contemporary and one traditional.  Challenging but very enjoyable.

Finally a flower crown I made for my friend to wear on the day she submitted her Phd. I wish I’d thought of that when I was submitting…

 

 

Small (and scrounged) arrangements

employment, Floristry, Uncategorized

Having just lost my job, I have to review my approach to flower arrangement. Small arrangements with minimal purchased flowers and plenty of scrounging in my now abundant spare time would seem to be the order of the day.  This is my first experiment.

nut-dish

The vessel is one of those odd party dishes that only come out at Christmas. Never figured out what people use them for.  Nuts perhaps?  I selected this two dollar bargain from the opshop for its length (about 30cm) and shallow depth (about 4cm) and its fluted edges giving greater scope for keeping the material in place.

I bought one bunch of pure white chrysanthemums, because they are so long lasting, and everything else comes from my garden. I planted the pinks last year and they are still going strong.  The sea holly was planted in winter and the white one here has flowered.  I am still waiting for the blue.  The foliage is mostly herbs, springs of rosemary and oregano with its flowers, along the flower buds of the cotoneaster that hangs over the fence from the neighbours.

This is a very pretty pastel arrangement, dictated by the fact that after our odd weather of late there’s almost nothing in flower in my garden, beyond the trusty pinks, at the moment. Actually, there was one bloom on the radicchio that has gone to seed.  It’s the most exquisite blue colour and this year I will try to use it and see if it lasts.

The point is that with the white and green base, it’s infinitely variable. If you wanted zing you could try green chyrssies with orange calendulas, or bold red dahlias with scarlet perlargoniums.

The long slender shape makes it suitable for window sills and, I realise as I sit in front of my computer, it could replace the usual paraphernalia that clutters the desk.  Wouldn’t this little nut dish of flowers be a better sight?

computer-clutter

Year’s end

creativity, Floristry, PhD, Publishing, Uncategorized

I feel like I have a very great deal to catch up on!

It’s been a very busy spring. Between a major garden expansion, the continuation of my floristry night classes and getting my thesis accepted for publication, I have barely written a thing.  I also got my first floristry client too, and her reaction to the flower crowns I made for her gave me sufficient internal fortitude to enrol in professional floristry training.

My main priority between now and when classes start next year has to be revising the thesis in order to meet my publication deadline. This is a strange process.  I haven’t picked up my PhD since I submitted it and reading it again now in depth is highly illuminating.

Part of me is still astonished that I passed. I feel like I am falling into a tunnel as I read it, and that’s exactly what it felt like to write it.  I was in an ever shrinking world.  It is true what they say about specialisation. You get to know more and more about less and less.  I see how, as I leap from one highly esoteric point to another, how far gone I was.  Stress will do that to a girl.

It feels good to be making something more beautiful and accessible out of that raw material. But I still have to wonder.  Why does this process have to be so punishing.  I am currently watching two women friends walk this same path, and it’s not right.  Learning should not be this stressful and this painful.

Processes of learning are significant right now given that I am a student again. I went back to look at all the photos I have taken of what I made in classes this year and what I have practiced on my own.  Quite apart from realising that it was indeed a busy year, I also realised that for the VERY FIRST TIME EVER I kept my new year’s resolution.  I wanted 2016 to be a year of creativity.  It sure was.  And here’s a few photos to prove it.

Thanks to everyone who has followed my adventures this year, have a wonderful rest of the year and joyful start to 2017.  May all your dreams come true.

Enthralled

Canberra, Floristry, Work

I am having another bout of career angst. No, angst is too dramatic.  Maybe just plain old anxiety.  Of course it’s Monday, where many of us face the prospect of a week doing something that we really don’t find enthralling.

I use the word ‘enthralling’ deliberately. It’s an interesting word, one that has largely changed in its use between now and the early examples from the 1600s given by the Oxford Dictionary.  Originally, it meant ‘To reduce to the condition of a thrall; to hold in thrall; to enslave, bring into bondage; to ‘enslave’ mentally or morally.’  Its meaning has been extended in a more positive direction, as in ‘Now chiefly, to captivate, hold spellbound, by pleasing qualities’.

I think most of us would like to wake up on Monday morning and feel enthralled by the prospect of going to work.

A few weeks ago I had to take time off work because I had reinjured my back.  Unable to sit, my physio encouraged me to take gentle walks. I headed off to the Botanic Gardens with my ipad.  With great care and with lots of rest stops, I made it round the main path loop.  The rest stops coincided with photo opportunities, as I stopped to admire the winter flowers that I found.  In retrospect, I realise that I was enthralled.  Despite the pain, and the freezing temperatures, I was still enthralled.  It was wonderful!  As the poet, Mary Oliver, says:

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Here I am, telling about it.

From left, the wonderfully floriferous grevillea called ‘Lady O’, the prostrate form of Acacia baileyana, Banksia spinulosa var. neoanglica and a Geraldton wax called ‘Cascade Brook’.  I am definitely going to try and find ‘Cascade Brook’ for the new native bed that I am hoping to construct over the summer.  Lady O is pretty easy to find in Canberra nurseries, as everyone seems to appreciate how reliable she is, great flowers, bird attracting in winter and frost hardy.  I had her in my last garden and would definitely make space for her, even though she may not be a great choice for the vase.  I wasn’t interested in floristy previously so I never thought to cut her.  I think for my next arrangement I might try a banksia.  I am not particularly confident on how or even what I should do, but you have to learn by doing with floristry.  I still have a branch of this amazing something from the Protea family that I bought last week to make a birthday arrangement for a friend.  It has a seductive silky texture and combined perfectly with the apricot spray roses.

How do I find that same sense of delight and enthrallment in my working life that I get from writing about plants and flowers?  From arranging them and growing them.  The obvious answer would be to retrain in horticulture.  But not with a back injury and my cancer producing skin.  Retrain as a florist?  Well yes, but I can’t afford to live on a shade over the minimum wage, certainly not in this town.  I met a florist recently and she says she gets paid $19 an hour, or $39 520, assuming a forty hour week.  The Canberra Times (26 June, 2015) noted that ‘The average income of a full-time ACT worker is about $90,000 a year – a smidge above what a typical APS level 6 public servant earns. (And, in Canberra, more public servants are employed at executive level 1 than APS6)’.  Just for the record, my academic job is well below the average…

Still trying to figure out how to translate that sense of astonishment and communication into a career I can live with, and afford.  If you have suggestions, let me know!

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.

 

 

 

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.