It’s been a while since my last blog - travel, writing, teaching - lots of material for future blogs, but today I want to share a green adventure from this weekend and a botanical first for me!
Three times a year the Hillier-Lancaster Plant group brings together an amazing array of people from all aspects of the botanical world. This meeting’s adventure, exploring the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, found our heady mix of obsessive plant geeks soaking up the history of the Hillier family legacy while chatting about plants that take our fancy. The ebb and flow of conversations and discussions are punctuated with stories by the phenomenal Roy Lancaster. Stories of the origins of particular plants growing in the gardens and what they mean to him and others are inspirational. My favourite was a story about the first time he learnt a particular tree that he had seen tantalisingly from behind a wall, and he described the excitement of learning what it was. He encourages us to remember that first time we encounter different plants and likens it to a first kiss – not necessarily the person you want to be with forever, but something never to be forgotten. I love this description of that excitement and curiosity and I encourage everyone to share in this joy and pass it onto others.
For me the stories behind the plant are as exciting and important as the plant species or why it survives where it is. The adventures others went on to bring that seed to that place or the events linked to the variety or species are equally inspiring – it’s like living through the plants! As a nobody from the back of nowhere, growing up below the poverty line, this has always been part of my passion for plants. Reading about the early botanical-explorers in Australia – and elsewhere – planted a seed (full pun intended) that perhaps I could ‘go somewhere’ – maybe not as a physical explorer but as a scientific one. I’m still a nobody, but I am having scientific adventures and exploring the frontiers of plant physiology.
There are still challenges and hurdles as a female, foreign, non-middle class person, but recently living through plants has taken a new meaning for me. At the age of 34 my confidence took a blow when the signalling in my heart failed requiring a pacemaker to correct. Relearning who I am, and what makes me tick (literally and figuratively!) is a slow process, and 3 years on, the road to recovery struggles on. But moments like those from this weekend remind me of the adventures and the excitement that continues. Remind me that at my core is still a plant geek that chases weird plants (like the Amorphophallus in flower at Wisley - below). These amazing people remind me it’s ok to spend weekends doing something I love that also makes up my job. That it’s ok to have a blurry line between work and play. That I never want to forget the excitement of ‘first time’ for each plant! And I encourage others to go out as spring springs and meet a new plant and share that excitement of the first time!
A first time for me today: Amorphophallus at Wisley (Left). I'd love to say the queue was for this beauty but actually not one person (except me) noticed it amongst the lego animals (possibly a blog for another day) - but somehow lining up to tick this plant off my list seems appropriate!