Daisies remind me of the first garden I had as a child. I was allowed a small corner in which to practice the art. A corner the sun had difficulty reaching. However, there was a variety of purple daisy that did survive. Such kind daisies, faithful, with a persevering and obliging nature, spurring me on to believe in myself as an eight-year old gardener.
With six and a half decades of memories stacked up in my brain, everything comes with associations; around every corner, a memory of another time, another day, another age, manifests.
Too many memories and associations can be annoying: new, fresh memories have less freight. They have more freedom to fly than old, stale ones. Too many memories gathering on top of one another in layers, can be tiresome, let alone freaky.
Take dahlias for example – I associate them with an elderly male neighbour when I was a child. (Relax, it is a fond memory). He was a kindly enough old man, crippled with rheumatics. One day he asked me and my sisters if we would be so kind as to pull up some weeds for him. Most likely the promise of a glass of orange cordial and a biscuit after the job was done, gave us added impetus for the task. I remember us weeding around a bed of dahlias, the earth damp, soft and dark after rain.
I also vividly remember his specific instructions to vigorously shake every bit of soil off the clumps of weeds and grass. “Don’t garden like silly women do and throw away half of the garden,” he said. Thinking about this retrospectively, I suspect this remark hinted at a somewhat derisive attitude towards females. However, so powerful was the impact of this advice, that ever since when gardening, I never fail to conscientiously shake all weeds free of dirt.
When inhaling the scent of dahlias, I’m remembering rain, fresh earth, overgrown gardens and a meticulous, elderly bachelor called Harry, his biscuit tins full of stale biscuits, his hands crippled with rheumatics.
All photos were taken in Dunedin Botanical Gardens, early 2019.