Tag Archives: flowers

1992. Things that quickly fade

Annette loved flowers. She always had several vases of flowers in her living room and a little retro corkless medicine bottle on the window sill of the kitchen with a sprig of rosemary and a twiglet of this and that.

When her husband died the undertaker quietly asked Annette in the cemetery if she wished to have the flowers sitting on the coffin when it was lowered or would she prefer that the flowers were placed on top of the grave once it was filled in.

“Oh God no!” exclaimed Annette, speaking slightly louder than the undertaker. “I’m taking all the flowers home!” And she did! It’s not that she didn’t love her husband. But what use are flowers dying on a grave? Flowers from the funeral arranged in her living room were a much better reminder of her sad loss and a heart-felt tribute to her husband. That way too she could appreciate in full the kindness of the people who had sent condoling flowers.

Great-aunt Matilde paid a sympathy visit, mainly because Annette always served with a mug of coffee some homemade chocolate chip cookies that used ground oatmeal, nuts, and lots and lots of extra chocolate. In fact, Annette grated into the mixture several chocolate bars more than the recipe called for.

“I think flowers at funerals are a complete waste of money,” declared great-aunt Matilde surveying the living room bouquets. “When I die I don’t want people spending money on things that quickly fade.”

As occasionally happens, great-aunt Matilde was 88. She went home and sadly passed away shortly after. Annette arranged the surviving living room flowers and took them to place on great-aunt Matilde’s filled-in flowerless grave.

Not a dime was spent on things that quickly fade.

1968. Planet of Flowers

(This is the seventh and final Science Faction story in Science Faction Weak).

Floranarcissus was known on earth as “The Planet of the Flowers”. Space travellers had landed on Floranarcissus and taken photographs. Of course no one was permitted to take seeds or cuttings as it was forbidden by interplanetary law. Introduced flora could create problems for the host planet. It was best to keep flora on the planet where it had evolved. But Floranarcissus! Oh goodness me! The flowers were unbelievable.

“Seeing them in the real is nothing like the photographs,” said Barbara Cheesebrick, one of the last astronauts to have visited Floranarcissus. “The flowers are a million times more spectacular. That is because Floranarcissus is an unspoilt planet. There are no intelligent beings to mess things up. The flowers simply evolved lovelier and lovelier over tens of thousands of years.”

There came a time when Planet Earth began preparing to celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of that systemic racist, Captain James Cook, getting stabbed to death in the neck in Hawaii. It was a special occasion. Could Planet Earth perhaps gather some particularly special flowers from Planet Floranarcissus? The cosmic committee decided it could. The committee was after all, in that particular year, chaired by an Earthling. But no plants must be taken.

A special craft visited Floranarcissus. Tens of millions of flowers were gathered, hastily shoved into vases, and speeded back to Earth. Not a flower was left. But the plants on Floranarcissus would rejuvenate. Flower plants do that. Every country on Earth, especially the country once known as Hawaii, were festooned with blooms.

By morning all flowers were dead; dead, dowdy, and frizzled up. It was so disappointing.

It was years later that Earthlings learnt the bitter truth: they had exterminated all forms of intelligent life on Floranarcissus. The planet’s extinct intelligent life had evolved as flowers.

1928. Church flowers

Barry was having an affair. The whole village knew about it. No wonder Melissa had left him. This had probably been going on for months.

No one had a clue who the woman was that he was having an affair with. Was it someone they knew? Was it someone from out of town? No one had seen her. What they had seen, and rather regularly, was a bump in the backseat covered in a blanket. Barry’s car was always firmly in his garage with the automatic door solidly shut before who-ever-it-was undoubtedly emerged from under the blanket in the back seat and entered the house.

The village was a tight knit community. They cared about each other, and not knowing the identity of Barry’s lover was driving them crazy. Anne proposed a plan.

Barry had a large garden. This was a remnant from when Melissa ran the house. “It’s my turn,” said Anne, “to do the flowers for the church this coming Sunday. I shall go and ask Barry if we can have some flowers from his garden for the church.”

It was a brilliant plan! While there Anne would poke around for clues. Perhaps the lover might be spied. Perhaps Barry might drop a hint.

Sunday morning came. The church flowers from Barry’s garden were gorgeous. Anne was to be congratulated. But did she find out anything of interest?

“Not a thing!” declared Anne. “Not a whiff of a hint.”

Everyone pretended not to be disappointed.

Anne breathed a sigh of relief. Her secret was still safe.

1911. How wonderful to be beautiful!

I am a butterfly. Not just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill butterfly. I am gorgeous! I am dazzling! I am one of those things when humans see me they exclaim, “How could such a thing of beauty evolve out of a mere pile of sludge?”

It’s quite extraordinary how all I have to do is flaunt my beauty on a flower and cameras start to click. I’m sure if I was epileptic the flashing would cause a seizure. All I need do is gently flap my wings to attract attention. I have heard, at least I have been told, that to flap my wings too quickly would cause many a photograph to become blurred. So I flap my wings in a slow and stylish manner. Of course nothing disappoints me more if a photograph captures the moment when my wings are closed. It is a waste of exquisiteness.

One other thing about wing flapping that I have learned over the summer is to be careful not to flap the wings in too seductive a manner. Once I did that and clearly it blinded Mr. Butterfly who accidently landed on top of me. What a kafuffle!

So as you can see, I am exceedingly content with my lot in life. I have only one unfulfilled desire. I suspect it is the desire of many a butterfly – even ones not as beautiful as me – and that is to have a pin stuck through my abdomen and be put in a glass cabinet. Such a wondrous fate happens to a few chosen. How brilliant it would be to have my beauty preserved for an eternity!

Here comes yet another admiring fan up the garden path. I shall gently flap.

Ouch!

1876. Cosmos seed heads

You see those white cosmos flowers stuck in a little blue bottle? That’s the last of the cosmos in the garden. My wife planted them back in late autumn. She didn’t exactly plant them; she scattered the seed heads in a bare patch in the vegetable garden. They grew apace. Cosmos usually do. And when they began to flower they were all white. No pinks or any other shade. Just lovely white.

Wilmott had collected the seed heads when we went for a walk in the botanical gardens. That would almost be a year ago now. Usually the staff at the botanical gardens don’t leave plants in for long enough to develop into the seed stage. Perhaps they left these plants because they wanted to save the seeds. Anyway, Wilmott took just half a dozen heads. The gardeners wouldn’t know they were missing because there were hundreds of seed heads in the garden plot. That’s why we didn’t realize that the flowers would be all white. We never saw the cosmos in flower earlier on.

It’s quite illegal to take seeds or cuttings (or plants for that matter) from the botanical gardens. Imagine if everyone came along with their secateurs. The place would be denuded. I don’t know what would happen if we had been caught. Wilmott simply snapped the heads off with her fingers and quietly dropped them into the pocket of her cardigan. “We’ll find out what colour these are in the late spring,” she said.

When we got home (we usually went for a longish walk each day) Wilmott scattered the seeds in the garden, as I said earlier. She did that even before we went inside. And when we went inside she died. Suddenly. It was heart.

So you see those white cosmos flowers stuck in a little blue bottle? That’s the last of the cosmos in the garden. I could save the seed heads and begin the cycle again. Earlier I had decided I would do that, but now I think, goodness me, I can’t not move on forever.

1824. Lockdown and the end of the golden weather

Miles ago, in fact last October 16, 2019, I posted a little piece about how I was digging up my front lawn for a garden. I promised progress reports, and one appeared on November 19 and another on February 12. With winter fast approaching in the southern hemisphere it’s time for a final report. So this report covers the lockdown and the end of the golden weather.

A Lombardy poplar tree blew over on the property in a summer storm, so I was able to use it to make little twig fences around the four garden patches. It looked semi-medieval (kind of rustic I thought). In fact it was to stop the dog from walking on the gardens and peeing on the peas. The dog was well trained and never once ventured across the twigs onto the gardens. High fences for climbing peas, beans, and blackberries were also constructed.

Before long there were poppies and petunias, dahlias and gladioli, cosmos and sweet peas. You’ll notice from the pictures that I have mainly white flowers and red flowers. This is a phase I’m passing through. Don’t worry, I’ve been passing through it for twenty years and will once day get over it. Anyway, red and white look very lovely, so for the time being I’m sticking with them. At least people know what colour flower seeds to get me for my birthday!

I wasn’t expecting much from the newly planted thornless blackberries, but we got several desserts from them including one big blackberry pie! Roll on next year!

There was a bumper crop of peas, beans, shallots, tomatoes, turnips, leeks, zucchinis, and capsicums (bell peppers). The photos show just a small portion – the freezer is full! It wasn’t a good year for potatoes and cucumbers. There’s never telling why. The silver beet (chard) kept going to seed.

The sunflowers provided cheer and enough seeds to hopefully feed the wild birds through winter. I’ve just got to make an artistic bird feeder.

I wasn’t greatly affected by the lockdown because there was so much to do and so much space. I am at that age where my nanny-state government wouldn’t let me go anywhere lest I die. What a consolation that they cared! Fortunately the landlord’s daughter-in-law was the pharmacist and sent prescribed life-prolonging pills via the landlord, and the farming neighbours on all sides plied the house with eggs and meat while we provided them with vegetables. You had to check the mailbox daily because you never knew if someone had stuffed a leg of lamb in there! All was a blessing because there was no money coming in for two months!

The dog walk was a regular fixture – demanded by the dog in sunshine or rain. He likes a daily swim in a nearby lake – he thinks it’s his duty to clear the lake of geese and ducks.

For 8 weeks on these walks we gathered enough wild mushrooms for a decent side dish each day. (Eight weeks is enough!) I also made pickles and chutneys and soups for canning and freezing with stuff out of the garden.

I’ve been going to a local farmer’s sheep-shearing shed with spade and buckets. By going underneath the slats in the shearing-shed floorboards, I can fill the buckets up for the garden with sheep manure that had dropped through the gaps in the floor over the years.

The landlord/farmer asked if we would like two dying trees (lawsoniana) for firewood. So a good deal of several weeks was spent cutting them down, chopping them up, and stacking them. Still haven’t quite finished.

The landlord also asked us if we would mind knocking down an old house on the property and smashing it to bits. It’s quite fun! I go there nearly every day to wreck away. The problem is the old house is plagued with fleas. So don’t come driving past while I’m standing in the open-doored garage throwing all my clothes in the washing machine before coming into the house! Your mind undoubtedly boggles!

These days the garden is looking tired.

I have scattered thousands of poppy seeds along the sides of the road outside my gate. If luck would have it the roadside next spring will look like Flanders Field. I’ve also sown nitrogen-fixing lupins in the gardens. They look quite pretty so it seems a shame to cut them down and dig them in, but that is a job to be done this week.

Here’s a picture of the sad and lonely last dahlia of the season.

Thus ends the closing days of autumn; the end of the golden weather. This final photo is taken today through my office window! I’m feeling rather pleased!

1804. Hilarious

It was hilarious! Old Farmer Cedric was a fanatical gardener. He’d gardened for years on the same plot of land next to his house. If the truth be known, it wasn’t his land. The land belonged to the Town Council. It had been put aside for a park, but as the years went by everyone forgot it was meant to be made into a park. At least Old Farmer Cedric’s garden kept the place tidy.

No one knew exactly what he did for a living. He was out in his garden most days so the presumption was that he didn’t have a job. In fact, the presumption was that he didn’t need a job. Some people are like that. They have money coming out their ears.

Old Farmer Cedric always collected his own seeds. He would sort them into little jars. There were seeds of all sorts of vegetables and all sorts of flowers. He was so proud of his seeds. He would bring them all out on trays and place the trays on the ground as if they were a museum display. He would do that even if he was going to use just the one variety.

One year a wag – it was so hilarious – replaced some of the seeds when Old Farmer Cedric wasn’t looking. The wag took out the real seeds and replaced them with some weed seeds! Everyone waited to see what would spring up. And all he got that year was weeds. It was hysterical.

That was the year the church didn’t get any flowers at Easter and Old Farmer Cedric’s family had nothing to eat.

1730. The plot continues

Sometime ago I didn’t exactly promise but said I possibly might give a running report on my garden. So here it is with pictures. For those of you who don’t have the slightest interest in my electrifying private life, there will be the usual story tomorrow – far more coldly objective but just as true.

Thus far, our summer has been fairly cold and cloudy and windy.

You might remember, last September/October I started digging up bits of the lawn for gardens.

We made tall fences for climbing beans, thornless blackberries, and sweet peas. The blackberries will take three years to mature, but already they are laden with hundreds of yet-to-ripen (yet-to-be-stolen-by-birds) berries.

We made little fences out of poplar twigs around each garden. People say “It looks very French!” but basically we did it because the dog knows it is not allowed to step over these fences!

The cold, wet weather meant the bush beans got some sort of fungus and I pulled them out. I planted some more bush bean seeds, but the wild rabbits came in and dug most of them up! However, it has been a fantastic year for peas and capsicums (bell peppers). I have frozen a good dozen batches of peas, and lots and lots of my second favourite soup which is Peapod Soup made out of… (you guessed it) peapods!

With the colder summer weather the mâche (corn salad/lamb’s lettuce) lasted longer than usual. We now have lettuces and cucumbers coming out our ears so there’s salads salads salads. The zucchinis (courgettes) are being harvested. Swedes (rutabagas) and silver beet (Swiss chard) have been producing. The globe artichoke season is over – we devoured over 60; the Jerusalem artichokes and Chinese artichokes are coming along! (None of these three types of artichoke are related – same word, different plant). Broad beans (fava beans) are finished and frozen. Corn is in flower, as are the sunflowers, dahlias, petunias, cosmos, and sweet peas.

Incidentally our Number 1 favourite soup is Jerusalem artichoke soup! Potatoes were pathetic this year, as are beetroot (beets). Borsch is a nice winter dish so I might have to buy some beetroot. Here’s my freezer – it’s already full!

The cabbages have gone berserk and I’ve been making piles of cabbage stews for winter. Cauliflowers are coming along. Celery and celeriac are producing. We’re letting the leeks go to seed to collect. And besides, the leek flowers look very pretty in the garden! The flowers are slightly bigger than a tennis ball.

No onions. There are two things we have never been any good at growing: onions and spinach. We have no idea why. No matter where we’ve lived it’s always the same – onions and spinach don’t like us. But the garlic and shallots have been harvested and are drying in the sun (since removed to the wheelbarrow to facilitate quick removal when it rains!)

Having got a new lawn mower for my 70th birthday (the birthday I share with Saint Nicholas’ Feast Day) and a long garden hose for Christmas, life is much easier. The house water is rain water, but the garden water we share with the farm animals which is pumped to troughs and our garden tap (faucet) from a creek. So we don’t have to go easy on watering the garden. Here’s a trough just out the kitchen window!

And tomatoes! I almost forgot! Lots and lots of tomatoes! And I’ve taken to making wine, but so far haven’t used anything home-grown in the process.

Here endeth the report. Oh! And lots of rhubarb!

Also been making pickles, chutneys, jams, and stuff.

Incidentally, the best book is one I found in a second-hand shop in Asheville, North Carolina. It cost a dollar. It’s got everything you need to know about growing, canning, pickling, drying, and freezing. It’s called When the Good Cook Gardens. It was published by Ortho Books in 1974. I believe it’s available on Amazon.

1704. Snip! Snip!

Cornelius was in a good mind to ask for a divorce. He was an avid gardener and had told Constantia again and again, DO NOT CUT THE FLOWERS.

“What’s the point,” Constantia would say, “of growing flowers if they’re not for cutting and putting in a vase to brighten the day?”

“It might brighten the inside of the house,” said Cornelius, “but what about the outside?”

Cornelius did all the gardening. Constantia could have helped, but she didn’t. All she did was gather the secateurs, or sometimes the kitchen scissors, and go snip, snip, as if she didn’t have a care in the world.

Cornelius talked to his plants. They were his friends. He was convinced that talking to his plants increased their vigour, their beauty, their desire to please. Besides, they were much better company than Constantia. All she did was go out and kill the blooms.

Cornelius conceived a plan. It wasn’t one that Constantia was expecting. It came out of the blue; like a blue hydrangea or a blue larkspur. He filed for divorce.

It came as a massive shock to Constantia.

“That’ll teach you,” said Cornelius. “At least Suzie-Lou appreciates everything I do and won’t annihilate my flora.”

1619. Such a pretty garden!

Monica had what could only be described as “a pretty garden”. It wasn’t very big but it was perfect in every detail. It was all flowers, and through careful planning Monica managed to get it to flower (prolifically) for a good ten months of the year.

Monica didn’t let the time she spent on the garden come between her and having a tidy house. It was neatness to the core. Even the books in her bookshelf (which contained mainly well-read classics) were carefully arranged on each shelf from tallest to shortest. To say nothing of the cupboards! The pots were a picture. And the pantry! Oh my word! One quick peek at the rows of carefully labelled spices and herbs was enough to convince one that God had put the alphabet on earth for a reason.

And yet, Monica wasn’t a fusspot. Nor was she neurotic in her tidiness. She would enjoy making a mess as much as you and me. It’s just that, unlike you and me, she always cleaned up afterwards.

As happens to most people, she eventually died. And what a pretty cemetery with well-kept gravestones! The flowers placed on each grave were removed once the bouquet had wilted. Honestly! It was a pleasure to stroll down the row upon row of dead people and simply take in the orderliness and (dare I say it?) beauty.

And then what happened? Progress doesn’t step aside for anything. All human remains were removed to a common grave (with relatives permission of course) to make room for an extension to an industrial plant. They were reburied (in bulk) in a park nearby with a makeshift memorial saying that a list of the names of people reburied here was available for perusal at the city council office.

Eventually the makeshift memorial rotted away. Long grass and brambles took over the entire park. It was an utter mess. It was a jungle. Few remembered it was once a burial site. The world moves on.

If ever proof was needed that there is a life after death it is here… Monica was clearly pulling strings. The local community got together and created a community garden on the site. It was all flowers, and through careful planning they managed to get it to flower (prolifically) for a good ten months of the year.