Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Snap Decision

That climbing hydrangea, the one I told you about last week? It snapped.

It may have been the storm that hit Sydney on Wednesday, a storm of such ferocity it even made the news in England, or (and this is more likely) I may have done it.

Life’s been busy. I’ve been weeding, watering and planting in a distracted hurry, hence the mushrooms stored in the freezer, coffee brewing in the teapot and a hairbrush that mysteriously appeared next to my computer. Following the trail back to where it should have been I found my missing mobile phone in the bathroom cabinet. It’s been that sort of a week.

Mum was never so frenetic. She would often take a turn around the garden before she went to work in the morning, pausing to admire the dahlias and chrysanthemums she loved, snapping off a fresh bean that Dad had grown and always, always stopping to smell the roses.

Maybe it was the memory of Mum that made me hesitate before I threw that slender stem of hydrangea in the compost bin. She never went anywhere without a small pair of secateurs, tucked into her bag so she could take a discreet cutting of any plant she fancied. She’d come home, dip the cutting in hormone rooting powder and set it in compost. More often than not, she’d get a new plant.

So I left the hydrangea stem in a jar of water, ignored work screaming for my attention and I went out to buy a packet of rooting powder.

I love this blogging community. Generous people I’ve never met had posted precise instructions on how to propagate climbing hydrangea (with pictures in some cases) and it turned out I had inadvertently snapped off exactly the right amount of stem.

I tidied up the cut, dipped it in powder, curled it around the base of a pot filled with compost to get the maximum number of buds touching the soil then I watered it. And now I wait.

And while I wait I remember Mum. Broken Hill would have been too hot for her but I think she would have enjoyed this embryonic garden in Sydney, with its showy hibiscus and mature camellia at the front. I would have pointed out the star jasmine that will one day cover the garage, the scented Murraya beside the French doors, the promise of honeysuckle scrambling up the sandstone wall at the back, and the majestic frangipani that drops its creamy yellow fragrant blooms on the outdoor table. She wouldn’t have rushed in her contemplation of what’s growing here, and I know she would have stopped to smell the Peace Rose. It opened two new buds last week.


It’s the anniversary of Mum’s death, and although she died eleven years ago I still miss her. Thank you Mum, for reminding me to stop and smell the roses.

13 comments on “Snap Decision

  1. Mala Burt
    March 6, 2014

    Your blog reminded me of my mother who was known in her area as “the azalea lady.” She also wandered her garden in the morning with that first cup of coffee. She taught me a lot of things, but gardening was something that I sort of got by osmosis. Those of us who had gardening mothers are a lucky lot! She’s been gone five years, but she’s never far from me in my garden.


  2. nantubre
    March 6, 2014

    Aww Deb, bless your heart, and bless the memories of your mom. Mine passed away 12 years ago and I still miss her. She didn’t have the green thumb outside, but she could grow indoor plants better than anyone I’ve ever seen. I am the opposite. Outside is my forte. I give fair warning to any plant that begs to come inside. They are doomed.
    Do you have moonflower vines in Australia? The are kin to the morning glory. Their flower is much like a morning glory but much larger, dinner plate size, and pure white. And they bloom only at night. Their seeds look like teeth and need to be soaked before planting as they are hard as teeth too. If there is a way, I could send you some seeds and they will keep till next year’s planting time.


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      March 6, 2014

      Nan how funny, when my partner and I moved in together I said please prepare yourself because your indoor plants won’t survive. They never have with me, never. Somehow, one of his has thrived, so I’m trying to ignore it in case I somehow cast a spell. Moonflower vines sound absolutely beautiful, I’m going to google them now and see if they can grow here (and if I can get them). Sadly Australian customs won’t let you post any, it would have been a beautiful gift from your garden to mine. May your joyful memories of your mother last forever.


  3. debhuntinbrokenhill
    March 6, 2014

    You’re right Mala, we’re very lucky to have had ‘gardening mothers’ and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand how much my mother taught me. Like you a lot of it was without any real instruction. What joyful memories.


  4. wendylockyer
    March 6, 2014

    You brought her back so vividly Deb. Thank you for sharing your memories. I don’t miss her any less as the years pass but I can enjoy the memories with a smile now. Good luck with the garden. Can’t wait until we can come and see it in person.


  5. debhuntinbrokenhill
    March 6, 2014

    We were lucky to have her weren’t we? I’ll try and keep the plants alive until you get here! x


  6. Wendy Moore
    March 7, 2014

    Deb what a special post….but they all are really…I hope your hydrangea flourishes and grows. Seize those moments of serenity and sanity babe. Obviously grasping them will be bloody useless but notice them as they fly past. Much love, Wendy


  7. debhuntinbrokenhill
    March 7, 2014

    Ah yes, those old favourites, serenity and sanity, as familiar as beans on toast and the Bee Gees. What happened to the good old days, hmm? When we had time to paint our nails, sew lampshade fringes onto the bottom of our jeans and make daisy chain necklaces. Must make another list and write RELAX on top. Hope you’re doing ok, can’t be long now until you leave, hope it will be a wonderful experience (but if I remember rightly Malta’s a bit rocky, I don’t remember many plants growing there, but never mind, you’ll be taking beauty with you) x


  8. bkpyett
    March 30, 2014

    Have you ever used honey instead of rooting powder? Works well!
    I love the sound of your garden, in Sydney, rather than Broken HIll?
    It’s lovely that you remember your mother, mine is always in the garden as I tend the plants she gave me cuttings of, years ago.
    She lives on in my garden.


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      March 31, 2014

      Thanks for the tip Barbara, I know my mum used to put sugar in the water when she cut roses to make them last longer (mixed with a teaspoon of bleach to kill off the bugs, which doesn’t sound quite so appealing but it certainly seemed to work). Isn’t it wonderful to have that connection through plants that keep growing, and the opportunity to remember as you tend them. Thank you for visiting and following my blog, I look forward to exploring yours. Best wishes Deb


  9. sharonmcintosh
    April 17, 2014

    Beautiful tribute to your mum. As a mother of grown children myself, I hope they will have such lovely memories of my time on earth some day. A lovely salute to your mum. I love your writing.


  10. debhuntinbrokenhill
    April 18, 2014

    Thank you Sharon. I was never blessed with children but I treasure the nieces and nephews I have (and wait impatiently for them to have children of their own!)


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This entry was posted on March 6, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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