Anne LatreilleJonquils and ninepins

If there is a cheerier, tougher and more reliable flower than the standard yellow jonquil, I have yet to find it. They flower when nothing else much is around. They brighten up the smallest darkest spot. They bring light and colour, and they smell divine.

Photo by dicktay2000

We have a place at Walkerville South, which is on the Gippsland coast across the sea from Wilson’s Promontory. It’s basically a bush block although since we bought it, the bush – which is mainly tea-tree, banksia and bursaria – has been flattened. First by a freak windstorm round five years ago. Then by the after-effects of the decade-long drought. The tea-tree and banksias came through the drought OK. But since it has been raining down here they are falling like ninepins.

Photo by Farther Along

Luckily, nothing has yet stopped the tiny patch of jonquils, inherited from the previous owners, which are about the only non-native plants on our block. The patch sits just near the garage in full sun and is around one metre square. I try not to let visitors drive over it – that’s the limit of my care. I never feed the jonquils and I never water them.

This year they are doing really well. Two weeks ago I picked around 160 blooms from that small patch. I’m not kidding. Today I harvested 85 – I counted them! They were a little flattened because we have had guys in with chainsaws cleaning up the fallen trees, and the jonquils must have been in their way. But even though bent, they were still smiling bravely.

I put the 160-odd outside each night, to give them fresh air, and they lasted in a vase for ten days. Here’s hoping these will do the same.

And while on the subject, I was at Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s garden, Cruden Farm, earlier this week. The jonquils there go on for ever. Swathes and swathes of them around the lake. They’re mostly white ones with pale yellow centres and from a distance they look like a painting.

They’ll be finished by the time Cruden Farm is open to the public on 26 August, to launch – in Victoria – the 25th anniversary of Australia’s Open Garden Scheme.

But there are lots of daffodils too! They will be up and they are worth seeing. I suggest you put the date in your diary. And if you come by – because I will be selling copies of ‘Garden of a Lifetime’ (my book about Dame Elisabeth and Cruden Farm) – do please say hi!

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Anne Latreille

About Anne Latreille

Writer, editor and journalist. Author of 'Garden Voices' (about Australian garden designers past and present, September 2013), 'Garden of a Lifetime' (Dame Elisabeth Murdoch at Cruden Farm), 'Kindred Spirits' and 'The Natural Garden'. Melbourne, Victoria.

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