Gardening Articles by Russell Fransham
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Have you noticed how a lot of blokes who are gardeners tend to keep the emphasis on utilitarian function, producing food in the form of fruit, vegetables and nuts and are not so much interested in the purely aesthetic side of gardening? And women tend, more often, to have aesthetics at the top of the list.
I'm not sure why this is so but 'vive la difference' anyway! Its all about balance, I'm sure.
Which brings me to wondering what are the most powerful attractions of gardening.
Obviously food-production would have been the original reason human beings started gardening and it remains a deeply satisfying creative thing to do.
I am always surprised and saddened at how many people don't know that, especially if they are unemployed or struggling to make ends meet financially.
But I think the other most powerful personal response we have in relation to gardens is through our sense of smell.
Fragrance in a garden can initiate strong feelings.
Once you have travelled in the tropics for instance, the perfume of Frangipani is so unforgettable and so distinctive that when you smell it again you are instantly back there in Fiji or Cairns or wherever you experienced it with all its associations of holidays, exotic foods, fun and freedom. I call that response a Bali Moment. I love those.
The perfume of roses. especially red ones, defies adequate description but in most people induces a strong emotional response, almost an altered sense of reality. The traditional bouquet of red roses to woo the beloved really works.
How to combine this experience with food is the question.
One answer for me is Macadamia nut trees. Have you ever smelled the knock-me-down-and-drag-me-under-the-hedge perfume of Macadamia blossom? In Spring the cascades of hanging pink or white flowers pour a flood of rich perfume from the tree that you can smell from ten metres away. The bees don't stand a chance! Me neither.
Likewise, a close relation of the Macadamia, the Australian Ivory Curl Tree, Buckinghamia celsissima, has creamy, perfumed Autumn flowers that smother the tree for many weeks and smell like pineapple and vanilla. They're designed to attract birds like lorikeets and other nectar-feeders and no doubt the smell indicates the flavour of the syrupy fluid that drips from the flowers. An irresistible, handsome small tree for NZ gardens. Pity it doesn't fruit too.
Another quite different fruit with perfumed flowers is the Malaysian Jambos tree, Syzygium jambos. Through Spring the large pale yellow pohutukawa-like flowers are delicately perfumed like the smell of lemon honey! To add to this, its English name is 'Rose Apple', because the deliciously sweet fruit are also perfumed and taste like roses smell, reminiscent of Turkish delight. A double whammy tree.
Despite its tropical origin, the Rose Apple is a hardy and handsome small tree whose shiny fresh growth is deep red.
For wonderful fruit and equally wonderful perfume who could go past citrus trees. Their Spring blossom fills the air with ravishing fragrance while the glossy foliage and rich colours of the fruit make these under-rated, familiar small trees perfect garden specimens to grow close to the patio.
The garden can be a total sensual experience that caters for all the senses.
When you're planning a new garden, spare a thought for fragrance and fruit that's up-close and personal.
There should be Bali Moments every day.
(Text and photography copyright Russell Fransham 2005)