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A splash of gold

It’s winter in Australia, and though we don’t get the bitter winter of many countries, still it’s lovely when we start to see the first new intimations of spring.  I was out in the country with my dog this morning, on a damp and drizzly day. Our natural bushland is beautiful, with a thousand shades of gray and green. 

And then, among the soft grays and greens and sage colors, we spotted bright  splashes of gold, from wattle blossoms. Wattle is an Australian native plant of the acacia family. Some varieties are known as mimosa in North America, but generally in Australia, it’s just called wattle. (Read on to learn why.)

 Wattle blossom is so bright and cheerful and coming at a gloomy time of year, I suspect it’s why it became a national symbol — yellow and green are the Australian colors. The name “wattle” was because, as a hardy native with multiple branches, it was used by the early colonists as a building material for “wattle and daub” houses — the wattle branches provided the framework and the “daub” was local clay.

There are hundreds of different varieties, different shades of yellow, some pale and lemony, others a dark, burnished gold. But all with hundreds of tiny bobbles of brightness.

Some people don’t much like wattle because it makes them sneeze; my dad would never allow it in the house because of that. But I love it. 

A Morning 'Ride'

(The photo above is of David Gandy, modeling Massimo Dutti, the photograph is by Hunter & Gatti)

An excerpt from Marry In Scandal. The morning after the wedding night.

“Did you sleep well?” Galbraith was dressed for riding in buckskins and high polished riding boots. He’d shaved, which he wouldn’t normally do before a ride, but he was a married man now and the decencies had to be preserved. His hair was still damp.

“Yes, thank you, very well.”

“I wondered whether you felt like a ride.”

Her eyes widened. She glanced at the window, where the sun was peeping in through the curtains. It was a glorious morning. “Now?” she asked.

“Yes, before breakfast.”

It was as if the sun rose in her eyes. She glowed. “Yes, please.” She flung back the bedclothes and sat there, rosy and naked, a creamy mermaid in a welter of sheets. She made no move to get up, no move to dress herself. She simply sat in her bed, wearing nothing but a smile and an expectant look.

He moved to stand behind a chair. His body had reacted predictably to the sight of her naked loveliness. “Do you want me to ring for your maid?” he asked stiffly.

“No, of course not.” After a moment her smile faded, and became a look of puzzlement. “I thought you wanted ‘a ride.’.”

“I do. You don’t have to come if you don’t want to. I just thought, seeing it’s a beautiful morning, we should make the most of it. It could very well be raining by the afternoon.”

“Oh.” A blush suffused her whole upper body. It was fascinating. He tried not to stare. “You mean a ride?” She pulled the covers back over herself.

“That’s what I said.”

“On horses.”

“What else would I be wanting to ride?” He tried not to let the sarcasm show.

The blush intensified. “Nothing. I just thought . . . with your boots . . .”

“My boots?”

“Nothing, it’s nothing.” Avoiding his gaze she said in a low, hurried voice, “Thank you, yes, I would love to go for a ride, and if you would please ring for a maid, I’ll put on my habit and be with you in a trice. I’ll meet you downstairs, shall I?”

He didn’t move. He stared at her, and his lips twitched in the beginning of a smile. “You thought ‘a ride’meant—?” He arched a brow suggestively. “Because I came to your bedchamber in my boots?”

“Y—no, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was half asleep. Now please ring for my m—” She was adorably flustered.

His smile grew. “You did. You thought I wanted to f—have marital relations with you in my boots, didn’t you?”

“Well, you did yesterday,” she said defensively. “How am I to know what you mean when you say and do such strange things?”

“Strange things?” He prowled slowly toward her.

Her face was flaming by now. “Well, you called what you did last night, ‘dessert’.”

“And it was delicious. Am I to take it that you wouldn’t object if I took you again this morning—boots and all?”

She looked up at him, earnest and very sweet. “Of course I wouldn’t mind. It was very nice yesterday, though I don’t think the housekeeper would be very happy about you wearing boots in bed—” She squeaked as he pounced on her.

Nice, was it?” He edged her knees apart.

“V-very nice.”

“Pah. I’ll show you something better than ‘nice.”

 

The Glories of Autumn

It’s autumn downunder (we don’t say “fall” here, we say autumn) and in Melbourne, where I live it’s a lovely time of year — dry, with clear, sunny days, and cool nights. And for me, one of the things that makes it special is autumn color. This is some of the Virginia Creeper in my garden. I love the way it’s scarlet and bronze and pink and green and claret and . . . all at once.  Makes me smile every time I look at it.

The indigenous Australian trees and bushes don’t turn color the way many of the forests do in the USA and Europe; we rely on “exotics” for our autumn color — the plants brought from other hemispheres, that people missed and wanted in their gardens. A little touch of “home” that has been going on for generations now.

So here, the cities and towns are where you’ll find the most autumnal gardens and avenues — where people have bought and planted them. The indigenous plants are more of a grey-green — beautiful and graceful, but not very colorful.

So I like to mix them up.
Here’s what I just gathered from my garden — not many flowers, just some sprigs of eucalyptus and the last remaining bits of color from the Virgina Creeper and a few red alstroemeria that are still in flower. Not particularly lush, but I like to fill a vase if I can.

And the other day I dropped into a friend’s place, where her ornamental grapevine makes a lush canopy over her back deck.  From the outside the leaves looked bright and burnished (I posted both on my Facebook page), but looking up from the kitchen door it’s delicate and subtle and so pretty I had to take a photo. I love the combination of soft pinks and pale green.

And just in case you think the only decorative things in our gardens at this time of year  are autumn leaves, here’s a brugmansia in full glorious flower in another friend’s garden. Aren’t they beautiful — like dancers, swaying in the breeze. The common name is Angels’ Trumpets, and they come in a variety of colors. I think this is the prettiest. Unfortunately they’re also pretty poisonous (they’re a relative of datura) so if you’re thinking of getting one, check that out, especially if you have kids or animals likely to eat them.

Yes, my friends have beautiful gardens — and they do all the work themselves. (My garden is quite barren by comparison.)

I’m lucky to have so many friends who have lovely gardens. They inspire me every time — the friends as well as the gardens. 

I’m fondest  of the “in between” seasons — autumn and spring, with no extremes.

What are you most looking forward to?