Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Memories of Flowers

My Blueberry Ash tree is flowering again for only the second time in about 15 years. It's well worth the wait. They seem to appear suddenly and I greet the flowers with a gasp of joy when I first notice them.

En masse they appear like a pale pink cloud against the sky. Up close their detail is miraculous, each individual flower a tiny frilly skirt, a dancer's dress, a fairy costume.

That's what I decided when I was about 5 anyway, and first discovered such a tree on Mrs Brown's hill.

We lived out in the country with money and transport both in short supply but I had, since the age of about 5, a best friend, Denise, and together, even at that age, we were free to roam and explore as we wished. No-one seemed to worry much as long as we showed up before dark. So I think I was with Denise when the blueberry ash tree first showed itself.
Mrs Brown's hill was also home to the sweet-scented pittosperum,
wild raspberries and finger limes that made us
screw up our faces and shriek at their sourness when we peeled off the bumpy green skin and sucked out the little spherical beads of juice. (Denise and I and 6 other friends from school hiked in northern Italy together a few years back, so those country friendships endured.)

But is there anything like flowers to bring back memories? Smells, yes, but the sight of flowers remembered from long ago is something else again.
My mother wasn't much of a gardener though she kept cut flowers in vases in the house at all times, as my sister and I still do. (She thought nothing of lopping off a few branches of the blossoming Anzac peach tree to fill a vase in the kitchen.) My Dad was the gardener, cultivating huge terraces of multi-coloured dahlias, a bright blue hydrangea hedge, climbing pink cottage roses and an enormous featured white azalea bush in the middle of the front lawn.
Mrs Brown, who owned the hill and the farm down on the flats, was the only person I knew who cultivated annuals in neat borders and artistic clumps. Frequently she invited me out into her garden to pick posies of purple bachelors buttons, violas and pansies to take home.

I'm transported when any of these things bloom for me now. Even the pittosporum, which I was told should be chopped out post haste, brings pleasure with its heady perfume and its flower heads full of bees.
Is it any wonder then that I spend much of my time in the garden, exulting over the offerings there, ignoring the broken, dirty fingernails and the detritus in my gumboots? It's all worth it when something like the blueberry ash decides to bloom, bringing with it memories of 2 bare-foooted five-year olds loose on Mrs Brown's hill.