Spring madness 2



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S affron, Snowdrop, Sunflower, Syringa,
P ansy, Peach Blossom, Peony and Petunia.
R hododendron, Rosemary and Rose,
I mpatiens, Ipomoea, Iris and Ivy grows…
N arcissus, Nasturtium and Neoregelia,
G azania, Geranium, Gerbera…in our gardenia.

There’s a sort of glorious madness to spring. All the plants that have slumbered through winter, suddenly explode in a paroxysm of foliage. I especially love our ‘gardenia’ at the moment, it is currently a riot of colour. In fact I can sit and watch it all day; much to my partner’s despair! It’s not that she begrudges me the delight of staring inanely at all the glorious blooms – rather, I don’t do very much to assist in its maintenance. Guilty as charged I’m afraid! Indeed, I’m not even sure if we have any flowering gardenias. Of course I’ve taken the liberty of changing gardens as a plural to ‘gardenia’; exercising my right of poetic license. Gardenias, as such, actually were named in honour of Alexander Garden (1730 – 1791), a Scottish physician who also had an avid interest in botany and zoology. Garden was actually interested in various magnolias and some Gordonia, and wrote descriptions of Stillingia and Fothergilla. Oddly, Cape jasmine or Cape jessamine – the plant named for him had nothing to do with his realm of interest. Such are the vagaries of science.

Curiously, some varieties of gardenias called Gardenia collinsae, similis and truncata and other plants were identified by another Scot, Professor William Grant Craib (1882 – 1933) who wrote many books on Siamese flora. Now as far as I know I’m NOT related to the emeritus professor, but I’d be prepared to accept the kudos if required! About the closest I’ve ever come to botany is when I played a gig in Botany (Sydney south) many years ago. Truth is I wouldn’t know a hyacinth from a hydrangea, or the Lone Ranger for that matter! I’m told, however that Gardenia is a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family. Now the fact is I do drink quite a lot of coffee, but it’s rather doubtful that a heavy consumption of caffeine will make you an expert in regard to gardenias, or any other plant for that matter. Incidentally – what do you call a heavy consumer of caffeine? Why a caf-fiend of course! Boom-boom! Such a subtle way to segue to my next rave…

I sit on my drum-stool and watch all the ladies enter the Wintergarden restaurant at the Hydro Majestic; perhaps it should be known at the moment as the Springgarden. In any event, they are often dressed in their floral best. Two ‘little ladies’ aged around 8 or 9 came up to me rather nervously and asked why I was playing the drums using ‘paintbrushes’. I started to explain that it was so I would not make too loud a sound in the restaurant, and overwhelm the sound of the piano. The bass player overheard this conversation and quickly added that I used the brushes so as to paint musical pictures! It was one of those brilliant but excruciating moments when you grind your teeth in envy, because you had not thought of the phrase first! The two little girls giggled appropriately and wandered away. ‘Whatever must they be thinking?’ I wondered idly; they probably would’ve preferred to hear something by Justin Beiber! I doubt if they had cared to listen to the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky – an orchestral and ballet piece of music celebrating the advent of spring in pagan Russia where a young girl chosen as a sacrificial victim dances herself to death. Spring madness!

Tennyson wrote, ‘In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’. It’s rather a pleasing idea taken out of context. For the original poem it was taken from – Locksley Hall – is now considered to be somewhat sexist and racist. Nonetheless, it was rather nice to see young couples taking ‘High Tea’, holding hands across the table, toasting each other with glasses of wine. In fact, in the grand old days, the Hydro was well known as a ‘honeymoon destination’. I’m sure that many of the relationships entered into will inevitably flounder and wither away as the roses and gardenias do. Many more will be consummated no doubt. In the meantime, they should repair to their rooms, fling themselves with abandon onto their mattresses and release their ‘inner springs’!


What are your favourite flowers? Will you miss spring? What sums up this spring for you? Tell us below.

James Craib

  1. I grow the best weeds but I do have a small garden that is tended while I listen to music but the weeds grow while I paint listening to music.

  2. Ahhh! I do love those Gardenias. There is even one called “Golden Magic” which believe it or not, is named for the rich golden colour that the flower takes on just before it dies. Prior to that, it is just as bright white and beautiful as any other Gardenia. When I first started reading this piece, I would have sworn that you were a Horticulturalist. Well researched and well written James.

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