Sunday, February 1, 2009

Plants that inspire "Time Travel"

The beachscape of my childhood

My visit to New Zealand took me back to the botanical landscape of my childhood and this prompted me to contemplate how certain plants can immediately evoke a sense of well being through their connection in my memory to happy days gone by. No need for a time machine, one whiff, one glance, one taste and I am transported to a different time and place.

I don't think this an aspect of garden design that is often thought of by professional designers because it is something that is so personal. It is certainly something I think that we recreate in our own gardens - probably often without conscious thought.

I certainly vividly recall one day when I was studying design in the UK how one of the other students mentioned their love of of the scent of lilacs because of the memories of summers past that this plant gave her. The lecturer was somewhat scathing of the value of this plant because he felt it's "form" was not desirable. I think he somewhat missed the point. Surely contentment derived from a memory of a plant is of equal value to its look.

For me there is a whole litany of plants that immediately make me feel content many are from summers spent at the beach;

My Nana had a beach house (on the Kapiti Coast in the North Island of New Zealand illustrated) located right on the beachfront. The smell of pine immediately transports me to those delicious strolls beneath the pines back to her house from the beach after a swim - salty water dripping from me, the sun on my back, and my bare feet warm in the sand.

Yellow Lupins in the Sand dunes

Also on summer holidays we used to spend many happy hours in the sand dunes making houses and shops amongst the yellow lupins that grow wild in that area. The lupin bushes provided us places to hide and make cubby houses and the flowers were a multi-purpose device, especially useful when shredded, to be used as money or alternatively an imaginary food source (corn).

Certain plants were more tempting to the taste buds.
When visiting my Nana, we used to make a drink known to us as a "special" - a mixture of lemonade, vanilla ice-cream and mint. We would collect the mint from the garden and then make our delicious concoction and suck the lemonade and icecream from the mint as we consumed our drink. A delicious summer treat.

Somewhere along the way we also discovered that red salvia had the most delicious nectar. It grew next to the sandpit and as we played we would pluck the flowers and suck the nectar from it. Much to my delight my son and I found a bush of this Salvia on the route to his school - so when it is in flower we indulge in the same ritual and I feel delighted that I can share this with him.

I could list many other plants that bring back so many happy memories of childhood but am curious to know what plants evoke memories for others. They are almost "time travel" plants so specific to a place and time are they. If you feel like sharing your "time travel" plants please leave a comment.


Alice Joyce said...

Hi again
Your blog is now included on my list!
Looking forward to a rewarding cyber-friendship.
(I still have a lot to learn re: technology of blogging, but maybe we can help each other there?) Cheers, Alice

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hello Tina

My time travel plant is the Bluebell. When I was a kid back in the UK the local woods were a carpet of blue.

Your photos are beautiful. True 'planted by nature' as opposed to naturalistic planting.


Penlope Aviary said...

I completley agree with your comments. Over the years I have had so many people comment to me about a plant, flower or tree conjuring up memories of their childhood. Invaluable.
My partner is from NZ and we go to the kapiti Coast every 2 years. Every trip I discover something new and marvel at it's uniqueness which always stands out to me.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Penelope Aviary.

Tina said...

thanks for the comments - I'm absolutely delighted to read the feedback! Tina

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Wonderful post and wondeful pictures; nature truly is the best designer herself... but it still is fun trying by ourselves.

I wrote about an early plant and scent memory of my own for a while ago. My late grandfather asked me to smell a twig of Philadelphus flowers, when I was 5 or 6 years old. He was almost blind, but he had been an avid gardener all of his life (he would have been 113 by now if he still had lived). I still remember my surprise as he recognized the plant without barely seeing it. First later I realized how natural it would have been for him to orientate himself in the garden with the help of the most fragrant plants. I still love the scent of Philadelphus...

Hopefully everything is well with you and your family, I've been reading about the bushfires and they really make me sad.