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Plants, memories & responsibilities

Phil Dudman

Phil Dudman

August 17, 2012

Lately I’ve been thinking how delightful it is that plants, particularly scented ones can evoke such special memories of people, places and times in our lives… and how a garden itself often becomes a collection of plants and ornaments that remind us of these special things. This is what makes plants and gardens so incredibly powerful and enriching.


I could rattle off a long list of plants that trigger all sorts of memories and emotions… as I’m sure you can. Hibiscus for example reminds me of my earliest fascination with the plant world… as a toddler, it was the first flower I took notice of… so big and colourful and structurally unique… how could I ignore it. And honeysuckle… I was always amazed by the sweet syrupy surprise we would find at the base of each bloom.

The smell of mango still takes me back to those times growing up in Brisbane … hanging out with all the local kids by our backyard tree filling ourselves with fruit picked straight from the branches at their peak of ripeness… we thought we were in living in paradise…


And then there are gerberas and geraniums that remind me of mums collection of cuttings along the driveway which I would water daily… even when they didn’t need it.

Jasminium polyanthum

Jasminium polyanthum

My latest time-warping experience was brought on by a whiff of jasmine. It came from the pongiest of all jasmines, Jasminium polyanthum … known as pink or winter jasmine. It always reminds me of the Ekka – Queensland’s Royal Show – because it’s scent would fill the air around showtime… and I could never forget the masses of pink flower buds breaking into their white star-like blooms… every street seemed to have at least one of two of these raggedy climbers dripping over a fence and tantalising our senses as my excitable bunch of friends made our way through the backstreets to the showgrounds on a sunny, crisp late winters day in 1970s Brisbane.

Jasminium polyanthum

I still love this plant… but it’s not one that I see as often anymore… perhaps only in neglected gardens, where it has gotten out of hand… which proves its toughness, and its dangerous side. Sadly, this is one of those plants that will cause much misery if you don’t keep it in check with regular pruning and training. It is also known to sucker from the base, and if you let it trail along the ground, it will form roots along the stem. If this happens, dig out the offending runaways with a spade or mattock. This free-rooting nature has led Jasminum polyanthum to become a weed in some bushland areas, mainly due to irresponsible dumping on forest edges, but when you maintain and dispose of it responsibly, you will enjoy what is without doubt, one of the most heavenly fragrant plants I know.

So there are a few thoughts and memories of plants that have had some significance in my early life… most of them quite common, and sometimes a bit weedy… but nevertheless important. What are some of the plants that have shaped your life? And while you’re there… tell us about the ones that despite their level of maintenance and care… you would never be without.

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Ambra Sancin
11 years ago

Each time I have a minor success tending my mother’s garden, I’m reminded how rewarding it is to rescue neglected plants and shrubs for her. It has brought up many memories of my childhood and as I post these on my blog I realise that these memories are so closely connected to family and dearly departed ones. Lovely.

Catherine Stewart
11 years ago

Thinking about my childhood garden has made me realise how many plants I can remember, and ‘see’ in my mind’s eye – deathless golddust and shrimp plants in big concrete pots, dark red polyantha roses, spreading Jap maples, a few old lavenders and lots & lots of trees – oak, willow, casuarina, liquidambar, elm, cedar & cypress. But the nyssa was always my favourite, & I’ve been lucky that my current house came with a beautiful specimen in the front garden. I’d give up every other plant to keep it! Hmmmm….except maybe the paperbark!

helen mckerral
helen mckerral
11 years ago

I have a love-hate relationship with my rampant J. polyanthemum. I love the scent when it’s on bloom but my sinuses don’t. Each year it sends out several metres of vines and each year I prune it from the carport, the driveway, the neighbour’s trees, my camellias. A fantastically vigorous plant… but it sure needs space!