The Side-benefits of Car Troubles

Car troubles yesterday had me walking home from the garage.   I didn’t regret this at all, as I’d spotted one or two Gladiolus tristis in the grass on the side of the road from the car, and I wanted a closer look.

I also intended picking one so I could get the benefit of the scent this species pumps out in the evening.  The idea of picking even one stressed me out at bit, as I don’t want to impede whatever meager self-sowing they’re capable of.  I know we’re supposed to be philosophically opposed (and therefore aesthetically opposed, and probably olfactorily opposed) to anything non-native self-sowing into ‘the wild’ (if a roadside reserve can be counted as such), but I just can’t do it.  I can’t share in the alarm about something like this sowing weakly – and only just managing that – into an area that has clearly been heavily disturbed by man many years ago, and as a consequence contains only rough non-native grasses, and none of the native wildflowers that are nearby in non-disturbed areas.

Anyway, I walked home by a slightly different route to normal, and I mustn’t have been this way at this time of year before, as I stumbled for the first time across a nice little colony of them (please note the careful use of the word ‘little’, and maybe I should substitute ‘colony of them’ with ‘close-knit family of them’, to assuage the concerns of the alarmists).  It’s hard to describe the heart-warming feelings this sort of find can conjure.  It makes me feel like it’s a particularly good day, and to wonder what I’ve done to deserve to live in a town that can dish up new little thrills like this even fifteen years after arriving.  The day ahead looks rosier, and there’s even a retrospective glow cast over the last few hours leading up to the find.  Totally irrational and disproportionate, maybe, but there it is.

Gladiolus tristis is anything but showy.  It’s pretty much green, but the green is pale enough to read as lemon when in rough grass.  Inside the flower the three upper petals have a double-stripe each of a sort of murky purple – aubergine perhaps – in a state of desaturation that is a perfect match for the pale green.  The outside is penciled with fine veining of the same purple colouring.  It’s one of those flowers that invites very, very close inspection.

As the eye gets that close, so does the nose, picking up on a warm scent that’s not like any other flower scent I know.  I asked my teenage daughters if they could describe it.  The first said she didn’t know, but when the second said that it smelt ‘like a flower’ the first then said that that was what she was going to say.

I told the story to my wife this morning, who also smelt the flower, and then said she kind of agreed.   I could tell she thought that the girls reply showed a certain insight, but I wasn’t going to have that.  In an attempt to take the whole thing a bit deeper (‘like a flower’! honestly!), I went on to explain that if I took the floral part of the scent away, and concentrated more on the effect it has on my nose, I detected something of the spice-draw about it, like a blend of cloves and cinnamon.  She agreed to that too, and once she’d made the clove connection, and made the childhood dentist associations, the scent lost its appeal to her.

I absolutely love it.

While on the same walk, I also stumbled across several colonies of the charming orchid Diuris pedunculata (well I’m guessing that’s what it is.  No doubt I’ll be corrected if its not).

Do days get better than that?

(Sure enough, the correct name was soon supplied – the Small Snake orchid, Diuris chryseopsis)


  1. Apart from the lovely flowers – and the accompanying thoughts – what impresses me most about this, is the fact you had a proper camera and a macro lens in the car! Are they always there at the ready or was this just a lucky coincidence?

    1. What, you mean you don’t have an SLR and macro lens with you at all times?

    2. Nah, as I say, I was on foot, and had seen the Gladiolus on an earlier car trip, so walked back from the garage, camera in hand.
      The macro work was done on the one flower stem I allowed myself to pick and bring home. There was a sickening snap as I tried to break it off between finger and thumb, but the whole thing broke from the bulb. The bulb was left in the ground with no foliage. Felt like such a vandal..

  2. The power of suggestion……. I have never been able to define the scent of Gl tristis but it’s flowering is such a welcome spring event, and it’s scent…….
    Your suggestion that your other delight was Diuris pedunculata has me questioning my perception that it is D. chryseopsis , golden moths that flower all along Mt Macedon road if owners would only heed their presence and not choose to mow just to keep plot tidy. Along our so called Golden Mile there are many native ephemerals now flowering. There are Thelymitra, 3 species, bulbine lillies , Leptorhynchus, the running postman may be there,and others that we will see Only if we walk……. Caught between the gardening and native world ……………that is me. but you know there is a lily flowering now that smells more like chocolate than the dahlia….Arthropodium stricta,
    Ps My enthusiasm is not defined by nomenclature changes!

    1. What a feast! And as you say, a feast reserved only for those on foot. Every time I have to walk between here and Woodend (about once a year) I’m baffled as to why I don’t do it by choice more often.
      And thanks for the orchid name. I’m sure you’re right.

    2. golden moth orchid is a much more appealing common name

  3. Michael,
    You don’t need to feel like a vandal as there is little chance that this “sad glad” will die out from our roadsides! I agree that we shouldn’t get too alarmed about pretty weeds like this growing by the road but the problem is when they invade the few remaining bits of bushland and force out more vulnerable native plants like the diuris.
    I’m all for growing plants like this in the garden but taking them out of “the wild”! I’ll be attempting that soon as the nice clump of Gladiolus tristis we had in our garden didn’t reappear this spring – perhaps because the bed where it was growing got watered a bit last summer. There are plenty of the gladdie popping up along the drive between work and home.

    1. Why is it a sad glad Fermi?
      Totally with you re: anything invading the bush – or agricultural land for that matter – but have you seen any evidence of the former with Gladiolus tristis on that drive home?

    2. Michael, you’ll have to brush up on your Latin!
      No, I don’t bush walk so haven’t seen it apart from the roadsides. I think it prefers the roadside “soaks” which, of course, dry out during the summer.

Leave a Comment

More Blog Posts

Wish I had weeds like this...

Driving to a clients place a few years back, I was all but blinded by this outrageous garden en route, bursting at the seams with Gladiolus dalenii.  I had to stop and take some pics. (Apologies for ...

Trust your gut

Every now and again, you’ve got to trust your gut. The head said to spend the day at the eye-poppingly blue Lake Bled, in Slovenia, and maybe have a lazy one, just reading.  The gut said otherwise. ...

..and bulb blues

One of the truly great, anticipation-charged moments in the garden year looms.  The first of the bulb catalogues has appeared.  What’s on offer are brown, flaky, often ugly or even grotesque littl ...