The Resilient Hoya

After the Boxing Day bushfires of 2001 visited our Blue Mountains property, the extent of the damage done to the flora was clearly evident. You felt like you had landed on the moon.

Many plants, taken for granted over the years, were now valued either because of their complete obliteration or their irreparable damage. One such plant was our hoya. Given to us by my mother-in-law, this potted, tropical, evergreen plant mostly took care of itself. It hung from a branch with its vines dangling from the pot. These vines were covered with green and yellow leaves. They easily caught any breeze, swaying the hoya back and forth as if it danced to a choice melody that only it could hear.

Now our hoya was gone… scorched by the intensity of the bushfire’s heat. Like most of the neighbouring pots that displayed our orchids each year, the pot where our hoya had nested now seemed empty except for its dirt. Some of the pots had even partly melted.

During the cleanup the hoya pot was put aside and occasionally watered, without any real expectation of regrowth. But that is exactly what occurred and the hoya began growing back to its original self. Its resurrection was an encouraging sign of things to come.

When the hoya’s leafy vines started to wander from the pot, the plant was repotted and hung from another tree. Over the intervening years since the bushfires this tree never fully recovered. Earlier this year it toppled to the ground, crushing the hoya. I repotted the plant and this time brought it closer to the house, hanging it on a maple branch. Again the hoya quickly bounced back to a healthy state. As if to advertise the fact, it blossomed for the first time in its life. The beautiful, semi-spherical flower it produced comprised a cluster of small, delicate, star-shaped flowers, splashed in pink with a dab of darker pink at their centres.

Working on the regeneration of our bushland garden, despite the time and effort expended, has been very satisfying and rewarding. The resilience shown by plants like our hoya, our orchids and the many native plants that cover our property definitely raises one’s spirit.

The Recycled Bird Bath

There is a healthy tradition of improvisation in Australia. Have a dig around an old farm house or barn. The unique objects you are bound to discover bear testament to the ingenuity of this practice born of necessity. Improvisation depends heavily on the imagination to see the possibility of recycling materials to meet other needs. It also requires the ability to accomplish the transformation.

My father was an inventor and whenever it was possible, he resourcefully recycled materials. A lot of the wood he used for his projects came from timber packing cases put out for the garbage collection in the narrow laneway called De Mestre Place. This laneway was opposite Wynyard in Sydney. It was there in Hardy’s Chambers that my father had his office and workrooms.

In the school holidays my brother and I used to love going into town and visiting him. His workplace was like a bowerbird’s nest, crammed with all sorts of interesting bits and pieces. My father did not like throwing things away. He seemed to hold secretly to the belief that he was bound sooner or later to find a use for these odds and ends. Thus, toothpaste lids were transformed into excellent draw handles with the turn of a screw. His workbench  stool was an upended Oldsmobile axle, to which he had attached a foam rubber seat.

I kept this axle, continuing its use as a stool until it became too uncomfortable. But I could not throw it away. And thankfully I didn’t for it has recently been given a new lease of life in my garden. Standing erect on a cement paver, while balancing a pot base, it serves as a purposeful bird bath. I reckon my Dad would be very pleased with this outcome too.