Plants that Mark a Moment

My wife was looking out of the pantry window on the weekend, onto our row of Malus ‘Gorgeous’ in bloom, and after a brief discussion about their only slightly less brief flowering, she finished off with a ‘you’d never plant them for the flowers, would you!’

The view from the pantry – through a very dirty window!

I was a little indignant on their behalf, and maybe a little on my own behalf, as I had planted them very substantially for their flowers. But feeling somewhat cornered by her logic, and wondering if I just live in some ridiculously romantic dream-land of flower-brevity forgiveness, I stated that I’d also had in mind that they’d contribute their fruit, at the other end of the season, but hungry rosellas put paid to that plan, eating every last one before they even begin to colour up.

That defence felt necessary in the moment. But the truth is I love these plants in flower, and I think I even love the brevity of their flowering. There are, the more I think about it, plants that mark a season, plants that mark a month, and still others – just as important, when in balance with these former categories – of plants that mark a moment.

Moments are, more than anything, what I need from my garden. In our world of climate-controlled indoor living, season-ignorant produce, and work practices that can leave one week or month indistinguishable from the next, I love that something is going on outside – some passing moment – that calls me to pay attention now.  Right now.  

Peony ‘Molly the Witch’

I came home from OS last week to find another great moment-marker in bloom – the paeony known affectionately as ‘Molly the witch’ (Paeonia mlokoswitschii). It’s pale-yolky flowers only last a day or two each, and there’s no real succession of bloom. You either pay due attention in the now, or you don’t bother with it at all. Many wouldn’t bother. But I wouldn’t be without it. More on that here.

As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s one of the superpowers of gardens to have one foot in the decades, or the centuries and one foot in the moment. THIS moment. This very moment in which you’re reading this.  As you’re reading, it’s possible there’s something going on in your garden that will never be repeated in quite the same way again. It calls us (without demanding) to pay attention. To stop.

Indeed, I’m going to stop, right now, and take another slow look at my Malus, in their moment.

No doubt you have your favourite ‘moment markers’. I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. Please note that if even if you’re a subscriber, you’ll have to sign in to comment. I must see to that…


  1. As I write this our Wisteria Floribunda alba is in full spectacular display on the pergola outside my window. I love its stunning flowers, although it is relatively short-lived.

    The Prostanthera Poorinda Ballerinas are also currently a cloud of white flowery froth, and several of the chamaleuciums are covered in flowers, and will be for a while. In contrast, the Boronia Cymosas are easing off after being covered in blooms for months.

    I loved the steps and stages of the garden as it moves through the seasons. As one species flowers and takes centre stage, another finishes flowering and recedes to become part of the textural backdrop.

  2. Birds and a bout of leaf curl means I never get any nectarines, but the tree is the first thing to bloom in the garden after winter. The flowers don’t last long but by the time they fade the apple tree and other plants are waking up and taking over. But it’s the nectarine that seems to appear at the exact moment you think winter will never end and offers just enough hope for just long enough.

  3. About 20 years ago l went to gulf station in Yarra Glen. It was winter and we passed through some bare trees. On learning it was a ‘quince walk’ l decided l needed one. Fortunately quinces grow in the utmost desolate places and when we bought our clunes property l scanned the moonscape (there was a ring of roses just to clarify that it’s slight exaggeration) and found where my walk will be.. This year they flowered with the iris’, the lime green weeping leaves and shadowed, almost black branches are so lovely. The flowers are out before anything happens in my border, it’s so lovely to see my dream happening. My failures keep happening, but l still have my quince walk.

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