Friday, October 2, 2020

The natives are restful


Pammy sees to it that the interiors of our house are always brightened by flowers in vases, whether they're picked from the garden or bought home from a florist's shop.

And in the last few weeks it has been gorgeous natives — lots of them — that have been filling the house with their beautiful blooms. I find the effect quite restful.

Flannel flowers, my favourite native flowers. While everyone naturally thinks of them as white, I am also captivated by their subtle greens that feature not only in the centre, but are also flecked on the petals, especially as they start to fade. And besides, they look like soft fabric.

How come all the native beauty? Pammy has been running a series of weekend art classes (all sold out, the series finished last weekend) at two venues in Sydney. Pictured above is a shot from her class at Acquire@Design in King Street Newtown.

Run by dressmaker and fashion designer Karen Kwok, Acquire is a designer store selling original fashions, plus a skilfully curated, eclectic selection of designer homewares. And it has a big, long, wide dressmaker's table in the centre, where small classes can relax and learn watercolour skills following Pammy's expert tuition. 

Pam's other weekend courses are conducted at Connie Dimas Jewellery in Dulwich Hill. Connie is an innovative jewellery designer, and she also has a big table to cater for a variety of art classes for small groups.

To finish off all the plugs, I'd better tell you where to find Pamela Horsnell the artist and art teacher online. She is on Instagram at @pamelahorsnellartist, and her website is at 

Onto the flower show!

This is Banksia coccinea, commonly called the scarlet banksia, and most commonly a scarlet-red flower too. But there are orange forms like this one, and it's such a good cut flower for vases. This specimen is two weeks old and still looking good.

Not sure what kind of wattle this is, but it's pretty while it lasts, which unfortunately is not that long. But when seen as part of a huge shrub in bloom in gardens, it's a show-stopper.

With this yellow-flowered eucalyptus, you get spectacular gumnuts which, when their browny-red lids pop off, reveal outrageously big, yellow blooms. Nectar-eating birds can spot them from a mile away.

Kangaroo paws come in many colours, but I always remember driving along narrow coastal roads in Western Australia in springtime, with yellow kangaroo paws six feet high forming a big beautiful golden wall on both sides of the road, the way tall grasses do. It seemed other-worldly to be in a sea of kangaroo paws.

Like the Banksia above, this pink waratah is two weeks old and still going strong. For overseas readers who might not be familiar with waratahs, each bloom is up to five or so inches across, and in the wild each waratah shrub in bloom can have a few dozen of these stunners. They're the official state emblem of my home state, New South Wales, where they grow in abundance in our cooler zones, such as up in the mountains.

Speaking of wild waratahs, the closest we can get to that is the bunch of waratahs grown by our friend Lou on his South Coast property at Bermagui. Unlike the waratahs sold in florist's shops, which stay tightly packed for quite some time, Lou's native versions opened out within a few days of arriving.

When you mention native flora it's not just all about flowers. There's gumnuts, and these come in so many captivating sizes and shapes that any good display of natives in vases should include some gumnuts. These little ones (that look like they are dusted in icing sugar) will be going back to Connie Dimas' jewellery store, where Connie will use them as templates for some new creations.

The gumnut leftovers of a yellow eucalyptus flower show. And did I mention that eucalyptus leaves are just as varied, beautiful and desirable as gumnuts?

Another gumnut pic to show you, with a flannel flower on the side.

Beloved of florists, Geraldton wax seems simple at first glance, that is until you peer into what is going on inside each bloom...

A vase of flannel flowers will brighten any room, soothe any aching soul.

These bottlebrush flowers might not look that spectacular, but go easy on them: they're just tough street kids fending for themselves. The streets in my area have countless red Callistemons (bottlebrushes) in bloom right now, an excellent street tree.

And last but not least, a big 'thank you' to our friend Jolanda, who allowed Pam to pop around to her garden, secateurs in hand, and trim off a selection of grevillea blooms, gumnuts and eucalyptus foliage for use in her native flora art classes.


Unknown said...

Would you like to be my PR guy?

Phil from Newy said...

Well, you've certainly shown how beautifully understated Australian native flowers are, which is typical of the entire country, and why expats pine for the feel of the place that influenced their childhood. I've not been overseas, but I miss living in the country, and stuck in a city is almost the same as being alienated.

Congrats to Pammy and thanks to you for a beautiful display. (and would you like to be my PR agent :0))

Jolanda said...

I have grown to love native flowers here and am thinking of planting more in the front garden - if only I had more room!

Jenny said...

Hi Jamie

Thanks for all the new blog posts, I'm so glad I went along to one of Pam's native watercolour classes and asked after your blog. It was very meditative to work on a flannel flower painting in the workshop and I have been doing more of them at home. I used to read your blog religiously when all I had was some pots on a balcony. I have a big garden now - bigger than I know what to do with - so I'm reading old posts and getting some ideas to put in some more colour and vegetables.

Hope your garden has been enjoying this rain!