Anyway, it has been in my mind for a while now, as this stopover loomed closer, how to decide on a representative plant or flower.
The National flower of Australia, and of the Australian Capital Territory, is Acacia pycnantha. Each of the Australian States has a floral emblem, and of course there are very many endemic plants, some very beautiful...so, yes, I was spoiled for choice once again.
Until I got to think about what was my own preference, and the answer came to me immediately...the Banksias! A plant that I have known all my life, almost as common a sight as the eucalyptus and acacias in the environments I have known. I have never been someone who appreciates celebrity status and the rather retiring Banksias, named after Sir Joseph Banks, are really very appealing in their rough, unsophisticated way, just ask any nectarivorous bird, insect, bat or possum.
Besides, May Gibbs' bush land stories and gorgeous images, including the Big Bad Banksia Men were an integral component of my young childhood, a reminder that despite friendship, comfort and happy times, life always has an element of danger lurking in the shadows...thank goodness for Mr Lizard!
They are not pretty plants, generally speaking, in the wild, being bushy, scraggly and untidy in their growth. Available modern cultivars, some quite neat and small, are very different, as Banksias respond well to pruning and are popular in gardens due to their showy flower cones and the wildlife they attract to the nectar they produce during flowering.
These plants often rely on a good brisk bush fire to release their seeds from the woody seed case, or to resprout from the burned stump. Controlling fires around habitated areas, or the too frequent use of fire for land clearing, can actually put species at risk of extinction in populated areas, as they are often very slow to set viable seed.
I remember these shrubby trees from my childhood holidays spent at the family shack at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island . Tall, old Banksias grew along the back of the sand dunes behind "our" beach and were fun to climb and sit in, watching the rosellas and other birds and insects. I was a bit of a "climber", back in the day. I also well remember working all the myriads of flower heads off the cone with my finger nails in order to expose the velvety chocolate brown core...why? I am not sure now, but recall it being a childish ritualistic activity, very much associated with time and place.
I have included rather an eclectic mix from Australian artists, including the wonderful Dame Joan, a couple from the gorgeous voice of Geoffrey Gurumul Yunupingu, a little Bach from Richard Tognetti and Diana Doherty, some fun from the wonderful Spooky Men's Chorale, a couple of didgeridoo pieces including "Quamby" by Peter Sculthorpe, a Tasmanian composer, an old favourite, Janet Siedel, and finally, although I did try hard to avoid it, I promise, the iconic Peter Allen oldie. The reason I have selected these above all the rest is that these are amongst those have attended in concert and heard the artists performing live...live performances in any genre or discipline being something I just love!
Over the past few days I have been doing a little crochet...including the little beastie pictured below. I have never learned to crochet from a diagram and am chary of buying patterns online that offer only that format, so I was delighted to find a free pattern via an Instagram site I follow...it gave me the opportunity to try this Japanese artist's pattern writing style before spending any money. (I once purchased a pattern from a Korean online site but found I could not use it as it was entirely written in Korean and I am too old and far too mentally lazy to want to learn an Asian language simply in order to crochet a small item).
Anyway, this is the little chap I made...I only had a scrap of four ply cream bamboo left in my now empty yarn stash so I could not complete the project as it was gorgeously intended, but at least I am confident now of buying patterns from those two sources...I also now have to find some suitable yarn, mainly for knitting some more socks, a favourite Winter pastime as my sock stash is rapidly depleting because I wear them as slippers in the house all the time, but I also have an urge to make some of these rotund little cats from the pattern that first caught my eye...I know a few folk who might like these...
I picked a lovely big bunch of rhubarb yesterday when I was "supervising" some much needed weeding yesterday. I was very happy to see the size of the stalks of the larger, later maturing plant that Tim divided last year have developed over the season. One only needs a three or four of these large stalks to make a crumble or a fool for dessert.