stay together, learn the flowers, go light

This is the last line of a poem called ‘For The Children’ by Gary Snyder (b. 1930). I first saw it a few months ago when Anaïs Mitchell tweeted it, and it struck me as a beautiful idea. I have had a soft spot for the idea of togetherness for years, and a cleaner, uncluttered life is something else I aspire to; the central idea of Snyder’s philosophical trio was the one that really sprang out.

I’m in Australia and the single most striking difference between this place and home is the variety and abundance of plants. Everything is just so lush, and plants thrive in the glorious sunshine. The call to “learn the flowers” came just at the right time. I borrowed a fascinating and delightful book from the library called ‘The Old Country: Australian Landscapes, Plants and People’ by George Seddon (1927-2007). Seddon’s passion for the subject shines through as he recounts the history of this great island continent through its plants and its human “gardeners”. Studying anything usually brings out something interesting about humanity and our species’ relationship to plants is a shiny mirror indeed. (A big issue in Australia, for example, is water supply. Melbourne’s reservoirs, for example, have only just crept above the halfway mark again after years of drought. Many of the European plants that thrive so well here, and that were imported by homesick ex-patriots, require European amounts of watering. Seddon raises this serious ethical question and extols the benefits and beauties to be found in native flora.)

I hope to learn a few of the flowers during my stay here and to keep a diary of them here on the blog. Where better to start than one’s own front door, and a plant I pass every day as I leave the house.

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Nerium oleander ‘Docteur Golfin’ or ‘Delphine’

‘Docteur Golfin’ is described as having mauve-tinged, cherry red flowers and ‘Delphine’ as having purple-ish red flowers. I can’t decide, but I’m fairly certain it’s one of these two varieties. Nerium Oleander belongs to the dogbane (Apocynaceae) family and is an evergreen shrub. It is often used for street planting because it is “astonishingly resistant to neglect”, although it is extremely poisonous and should be handled with care (i.e. gloves, and shouldn’t be disposed of by burning).

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