Friday, October 1, 2010

Vampires Prefer Red Roses

October 1st launched my latest book 'Vampires: a BITE-sized history'. It is 240 pages long, a small but thick hardback designed by my publishers Murdoch Books to resemble a19th century book, with a black linen cover embossed with a large, shining silver, blood dripping V, silver edged pages and a red satin ribbon marker. Their production values are wonderful. For those interested in the vampire world, this is a history of vampires around the world dating back to Sumerian beliefs and covers more than 5,000 years of vampire stories. The universality of these beliefs is quite amazing and the stories of vampires and their activities, particularly in the medieval period and through to the 19th century are deliciously spine chilling.

Here on our five acre piece of paradise in the Blue Mountains about 11/4 hours from Sydney, spring has arrived - rather fickle with mainly perfect sunny days mixed with rain or wind storms. This is the time when Mother Nature goes mad for all gardeners, but particularly for plant nurseries. Everywhere we turn there is so much work to be done. Our mild winters (usually about 17 degrees C during the day and never plunging quite to 0 degrees C)  means that tiny winter weeds really romp in early spring and look like they are on steroids. Potting-up of plants is never ending and masses of heirloom vegetables for sale are quickly emerging and growing in their pots. Our graceful Japanese Temple Lime is already in full leaf, our huge hawthorn tree Crataegus monogyna (I'm part Irish and part Welsh so many Celtic plants of magic and protection are planted here) is a mountain of scented white snow humming crazily with hundreds of honey bees, the viburnums are bursting into flower, jasmines and wistarias are draped over every willing - and some unwilling - trees, the hellebores are in full flower, the gardens filled with intensely sweet scented Parma and sweet violets, and the old bushes of Indica azaleas, almost all of them white-flowered, are releasing delicious ethereal wisps of fragrance. The camellias are coming toward the end of their winter flowering but some small flowered species and their hybrids are still in full flower and quite a few are fragrant Finishing work in the nursery at 6 pm a few nights ago I turned to walk down to the house past double-flowered cherries and crabapple coming into full flower and was brought to a stop by the intensity of fragrance engulfing me as the evening scented tobacco Nicotiana sylvestris with its large nodding clusters of long slender white trumpet flowers added its own exquisite high notes to the mix.

'Tuscan Lace' Clove Pink - a variety I bred from a cross between two 19th century varieties.

Soon it will be the turn of masses of wonderfully fragrant honeysuckles including the the last of the Winter Honeysuckle Lonicers fragrantissima, huge flowered Giant Burmese Honeysuckle Lonicera hildenbrandiana and pink flowered English honeysuckle (woodbine) L. periclymenum, dozens of different clove pinks (many of them ancient), fragrant old day lilies and irises, the heritage roses and old style varieties bred by David Austin, as well as hundreds of different herbs. It is certainly a time to drown in scents - and be grateful for a large rambling country garden.

Giant Burmese Honeysuckle 

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