When I was growing up in Tasmania (1950s) there were always fresh flowers on the mantelpiece above our open fire in the lounge room. Among those I remember best are carnations, stocks, sweet Williams, dahlias, chrysanthemums and asters, none of which I grow myself, oddly enough. The climate where I now live in the Blue Mountains of NSW would be suitable, but I’m more into shrubs and trees. Of course that doesn’t lessen my nostalgia one iota!
Oh yes, and my mother grew Iceland poppies. What a joy it is to see a fat poppy bud splitting open. We kids loved burning the ends of the stems to make them last longer. Did that really work?
My mother didn’t plant many spring bulbs, I really don’t know why this was. We had lily-of-the-valley and snowdrops, but not many daffodils. It led to great embarrassment on one occasion, thanks to me and my older sister. When we were about 7 and 8 respectively our lovely neighbour Mrs Dobson said, ‘ Why don’t you send the girls over to pick some daffodils for you? I have so many’ . Well she did have ‘so many’ , until Robbie and I picked almost every one in sight. We arrived home with our arms full and poor Mum was horrified.
We didn’t have many flower containers in those more frugal times. I can barely count all mine, but Mum only had about half a dozen. There was a pair of green glazed vases with large, applied leaves and overblown pink roses, which we kids loved. Then there was the obligatory cut glass one (not crystal I’m afraid), A green pottery vase may have been Tasmanian made. Finally, we had something tall enough for foxgloves, gladiolas and the like.
There must have been a deep bowl too, because we had a plastic gadget with a rubber suction cup, and holes to put the flower stems in. I found one listed on eBay after a bit of searching. Apparently it’s called a flower frog;
Peony roses went into the bowl with the frog and decorated the dining table. Surely we had other roses, but I can only recall the cool climate peonies. I did try to grow these….without success.
By the way, that blackwood dining table is now in my sister’s home in Tassie. And yes, she still puts fresh flowers on it. 😍 Sorry, I have jumped down from the mantelpiece.
Most Tasmanian homes had old-fashioned cottage style gardens. Mind you, my sister and I brought home a good many flowers from around our farm. Some were from the bush, such as prickly pink and white heath, wild yellow boronia (that’s what we called it anyway) and erica, that made a tinkling sound when we shook it.
We loved to pick something we called ‘basket fern’. You could thread one stem inside another and form the perfect base for a bouquet, which we filled with flowers from the garden and presented to Mum. This fern grows in the woodland areas of my garden in the Blue Mountains and it’s still fun to make a bouquet if a young child visits.
Around the dams and the old gravel pits there were bulrushes and pussy willow. Robbie and I adored the velvety spires of the bulrushes, but Mum’s dear face fell at the sight of them. There had been instances of them bursting, and the fluffy white seeds ending up all over the lounge. Nevertheless, she would thank us and put them in a vase; that’s what mothers do, bless their hearts. 💛
In a cool climate such as Tasmania enjoys, the flowers in our home marked the seasons and ‘high days’ of the year. There were white chrysanthemums for Mother’s Day and red for Father’s Day. At Christmas time there would be fragrant lilies that grew in an old iron boiler pot. The soil was rock hard, a point which our paternal grandmother was forever pointing out when she visited. However, somehow they bloomed beautifully. It was as if they were sticking up for Mum and defying our overbearing Grandma . 😎 The fragrance of them mingling with the pine scent of our Christmas tree is one of my strongest and most poignant memories of the festive season.
I should add that Grandma too always had flowers on the mantelpiece at her flat in town.
OK, here is proof that picking flowers is in the blood. My mother Myra (far left) and her siblings were photographed at Reedy Marsh near Deloraine. It’s difficult to see, but they are all holding a flower from my grandmother Larcombe’s garden, circa 1920. Oh dear, the little girls aren’t displaying theirs to the best advantage.
FOR INFORMATION ON CARING FOR CUT FLOWERS, CLICK HERE.