'Most ladies have a natural taste for gardening, and with a gardener once a week, there is nothing which they could not do… Indeed, I know one lady who alone keeps in order a garden of a quarter of an acre, and two greenhouses. She also attends entirely to her poultry. A gardener is her horror… Did young ladies of the present day devote themselves more to the pursuit of gardening, they would gain in every way, health, beauty, and temper…'
Not that my friend needs improving, of course. How different from pioneer settler and botanist Georgiana Molloy, who developed in south-western Australia a slow-burning passion for the landscape and its flora. I think of her discovering a plant she had been ‘almost panting for’, or longing to ‘kindle a fire and stay [out] all night’. I don’t know if her love affair with the natural world supplanted the religious faith of her youth or simply intensified it, and she won’t have known the hymn I remembered: ‘Abide with me’ was written four years after she died. But I’ve no doubt she had a headful of hymns and would have been more ready to be ‘grateful that the wealth of colour, store of fruit, and long-lived flowers one receives from Autumn’s bountiful hand are now added to the rich store left us by vanishing Summer, than to dwell upon the obtrusive signs of decay to be seen in falling leaves’ (E.A. Bowles 1915).