The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Ire­call some time ago not want­ing to do much for Christ­mas. A few friends rang and asked what I was do­ing, and I replied that I was al­ready booked.

Then I got a call from the fa­mous Betty Gib­son, who was a neigh­bour, and she asked the same. In her mat­ter-of-fact way, she said she was also keen on some­thing low key. “Let’s have a baked bean sand­wich and a beer,” she said.

As it turned out, it was a ten­der piece of sil­ver­side on a sand­wich. She was what I would call one of our great hor­ti­cul­tur­ists and gar­den­ers. So we sat on her shady ve­ran­dah and talked about Christ­mas mem­o­ries in a gar­den, mostly as a kid.

Stretch­ing the Christ­mas bud­get, her mum would give she and her broth­ers a list of things re­quired for Yule­tide dec­o­ra­tions and pre­par­ing the gar­den for guests. Her job was mostly rib­bons – the same re­cy­cled shiny green and red rib­bons tied among the fo­liage of a scat­tered gar­den.

She was in charge of a di­min­ish­ing num­ber of glass baubles that had been handed down from her grand­mother. Many were mere tin­klings at the bot­tom of the box. But up they went into the bot­tle­brush tree.

“If were hav­ing a tree it has to be Aus­tralian,” her mother would say.

Her broth­ers were given the task some weeks be­fore to grow Christ­mas flow­ers and make a num­ber of white petu­nia pots – some oth­ers with red and some in pi­co­tee, of both red and white. These were from seed and this took at least six weeks to pre­pare. Now, the same can be done in a cou­ple of hours with a full-flow­er­ing pot in a con­tainer and presto.

There were al­ways a good num­ber of pots of flow­ers as each packet of minis­cule seeds must have con­tained thou­sands. The ex­tras were planted on the out­side of gar­den beds.

She would line up the gar­de­nias that were of­ten in flower – about six or eight pots at a time in a bunch and place them some­where she knew would catch the light of the moon. They would have nu­mer­ous bowls of frangi­pani flow­ers for per­fume. Cot­ton wool was placed be­tween the rocks as snow and flow­ing over a few shrubs.

Whether it’s a feast or a tin of beans, how­ever you do your Christ­mas we wish you a gar­den­ers’ Christ­mas that is pretty, richly green, per­fumed and brings you great joy.

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