Flowering gums, faeries and scratchy jumpers…

(With thanks to some of the clever people on the internet for the use of their images)

Corymbia (Eucalyptus) ficifolia

On the way to school this morning, the kids and I took a slightly different route to the one which we normally walk. Imagine our excitement (well, mine more than the kids really) when we came upon this beautiful Red Flowering Gum doing its thing. A plant of my childhood (they are more commonly found in Perth and Melbourne than Sydney), it instantly transported me back to the summers of my youth. There, I used to collect the (yet to flower) Gum Nuts for use as counters, money or for hurling at my brother. The flowers I collected for making blossom beds for faeries and pixies. And of course the empty nut became the perfect tea cup for the faeries and me during our outdoor afternoon teas.

My mother used to make beautiful arrangements for the kitchen table where she then introduced me to the delights of May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the exquisite and intricate illustrations of Australian artist, Peg Maltby.

All memories I treasure, so it was just delightful to be able share this plant with my children. Needless to say, we are heading back to the flowering gum, under the cover of night, secateurs in hand, to pinch a few blooms.

I am constantly surprised by how easily the sight or scent of a plant can elicit powerful memories. The slightest whiff of Daphne and I am reminded of open fires, foggy mornings and scratchy woollen jumpers. If I see a Dahlia, I think of my beautiful Grandfather who struggled with these unruly plants for years – his favourite was ‘Bishop of Llandaff’. Peonies will always be associated with the joy of my wedding. Oleander, and I hear the words of my mother “steer clear of this one kids”. Chickweed, and I remember having to collect our chooks’ eggs each morning. Mention the word Wattle and I instantly sneeze. And so it goes on…

Do you have any plants that transport you to another time or place? I’d LOVE to hear about them.


  1. says

    Pepper Trees (Schinus molle)! The smell and look of them against an decaying homestead or in dusty corner of country school yard takes me back to my childhood (and teenhood).

    I particularly remember a couple of them near some ruins on our small chunk of land at Yapeen, just out of Castlemaine. We moved there in my later teens and every Pepper Tree takes me back.

  2. says

    I have to say banksia flowers always remind me of the banksia men in Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. And climbing roses remind me of my childhood home where they grew just outside the back door. And raspberries that we used to steal from the neighbours garden as we walked to school. And I see none of these things living in the NT.

  3. says

    Aaah… you know I love your plant posts (Our mothers could have been friends. We grew up on Snugglepot & Cuddlepie and were warned about oleanders too!)

    Plants from my childhood would include wattle trees and blackberry bushes from Victoria, and mango and macadamia trees from Queensland! We moved around a bit…

  4. says

    Missing the sounds, smells and sights of Australia!
    Have tried gum trees in my back garden. One took and is about 15 feet tall, the other is clinging to life by a fine thread.

    Oh, for the smell of wattle on a spring breeze!

  5. Janine says

    The heady scent of frangipanis always reminds of my childhood summer in Brisbane. Hot, humid days lazing in the backyard. And of course it was obligatory to tuck one behind your ear. I still do it when I visit Mum and Dad at their home… Old habits die hard!

  6. says

    I long for making daisy chains, but I’m not prepared to plant British daisies in Kansas. I must try and find a substitute (love the daisy chain photo in Small Fry Outdoors).

    However, I was really excited when I discovered that Solomon’s seal, which I loved as a child in my Scottish garden, is actually native to North America. It is now a favorite in my native woodland garden.

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