Annually, for many years, I have produced a small desk calendar. My first few calendars contained a hotchpotch of images that had been painted over the previous years. Then, one year when I was working on a series of greeting cards featuring popular garden flowers, I realised all the plants I had already painted were those I remembered growing in one of my grandmothers’ gardens. From then on, I actively sought flowers that reminded me of those two much loved ladies. I called that series of cards Memories of my Grandmothers’ Gardens and, later, realised they were also the ideal proportions to fit a calendar. So the following year’s calendar was the first that actually followed a theme.
Most years in late autumn, Gran (who lived in the nearby suburb of Seddon) mass planted Cineraria seedlings in protected spots in her north and east-facing front garden. On several occasions, I was recruited to help with their planting. I adore the bright, cheerful, blues, pinks, reds and carmine colours of Cineraria, especially when they have a white contrast, because that really does make the other colours sing.
Cineraria is a small genus of 14 species of colourful annuals with clusters of daisy-like flowers endemic to Madeira and the Canary Islands. Because they were included in the South African genus, Cineraria, for as long as I can remember, I am finding it difficult to think of these colourful annuals under their new name, Pericallis. For the purposes of this essay, I will continue to call them Cineraria as that is what the vast majority of my readers will call them; and that is what I recently saw them labelled in one of our largest local plant nurseries.
As they are suitable flowers for cold weather colour in Melbourne, I often spot Cineraria in Altona gardens during late winter and early spring. Of all the plants that I remember from Gran’s garden, these are the flowers that most often trigger the nostalgia button. Even a passing glimpse of a Cineraria plant will bring back a wealth of treasured memories of this gracious lady.