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I’m writing this as a form of procrastination in terms of preparing my tax return. Personally, a brief discussion of flowering bulbs, amongst other things, is preferable.

Yesterday, when I dropped my son off for his piano lesson (does that sound sort of New Yorker-ish?), I spotted some guerilla bulbs in a nature strip in North Fitzroy. It got me thinking as to why we don’t plant more bulbs in nature strips and other public spaces. Not to mention, in our own gardens.

bulbs, spring, july Melbourne

Bulbs are a one-off investment with endless delightful returns. They multiply under the ground each year, and you can dig them up when dormant and store them in a paper bag inside a plastic bag in the vegetable section of the fridge, up until replanting well before the winter solstice each year. This also means you can move bulbs from house to house (garden to garden), as long as you remember where you planted them originally …

Every now and then, I invest in a bag of flowering bulbs, plant them and wait in anticipation of their arrival in late winter/early spring. For Europeans, bulbs are one of the first harbingers of spring. For the Wurundjeri, the original owners of Melbourne and surrounds, it is the appearance of the wattle that heralds the first of their equivalents of spring. This is probably what we would call ‘early spring’ if there was any direct translation, or indeed, any real surviving details of or names for the Wurundjeri’s seven seasons.

Appropriately, one record calls the time we’re in now, Wombat Season, which also happens to be my favourite indigenous animal. (Just ask my kids – I have a whole family of life-like stuffed wombats and the wombats are always the first visit at the zoo. My heart breaks every time I see one with stiff legs in the air on the side of the road.)

The flowering of the wattle and bulbs occurs around the same time (assuming you planted them around the usual time, in late March/early April), and I love and look out for them both equally. Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to have a few days near the Murray, at Echuca, and saw masses of wattle in flower. Yesterday, the guerilla bulbs in North Fitzroy stood out from a grey cold day.

Echuca July 2013

Echuca, July 2013: not much wattle in sight but it was there.

This dual passion, for wattle and flowering bulbs, might speak of my migrant background – the German/English/Irish riffraff mixed in with the adoption (by dint of birth) of Australia as my imaginative & aesthetic home. Some of our federal politicians could do well in taking some time out to have a look at the wattle (Cootamundra Wattle abounds in the countryside around Canberra), and remind themselves that they are new here too.

So, next year, when you’re dividing your bulbs, do some guerilla bulb planting in public places (wattles, by their nature, can look after themselves). And thanks to the person in North Fitzroy who made my day.

Early Daffodils July 13

The daffodils I planted last year are just beginning to flower, and they’ve multiplied – I started out with four bulbs.

Early Iris July 13

Not a bulb but a tuber: this iris is either very confused by climate change, or has decided to follow Wurundjeri seasons. The original tubers were given to me by my friend Nici, 16 years ago (or more) and they’ve moved from house to house with me.

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