First freesias

The first freesias to pop up in our garden. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Every year, long-ago planted freesia corms burst forth at our place and bring a scattering of flowers — often in the strangest places.

I’m not complaining though; their scent is wonderful.

Friday flowers

Growing

A week of glorious sunshine has delivered lots of new growth and flowering in my garden. It’s especially exciting to see the plum blossom, but I think the bees are happiest amongst the borage flowers. You’ll have to take my word for that now — I was up too early to catch any in action.

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge | Pick a Word offered Growing (amongst others). I thought I was done yesterday with Comfortable — but how could I resist flower photos.

And it’s Friday.

#fridayflowers

Not Here Today #14

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Blossom, Havelock North town centre. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Thinking ahead to spring, and some warmer, if not drier weather.

A couple of years ago we visited Havelock North in Hawkes Bay. The pretty town centre was planted with dozens of trees, all in blossom.

Bing Dawe’s sculpture is one of three in the town, which draw attention to the loss of wetlands and consequently the life that depends on it.

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‘From The Draining. Diminishing Returns, Eels.’ Bing Dawe, 2008. Sited in Havelock North town centre. Image: Su Leslie 2018

With few flowers surviving the wind and rain here, these blossom are also my #fridayflowers

Friday flowers

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The first blossom. Image: Su Leslie 2020

One of the streets in my neighbourhood is lined with Taiwanese cherry trees (Prunus campanulata). I’d heard they were in blossom and decided to check it out on my morning walk.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

I was expecting the explosion of pink that confronted me, but was totally unprepared for the number of tui feasting on the flowers’ nectar.

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Tui in a cherry tree. Image; Su Leslie 2020

I’d love to show you what I mean, but was unable to get a shot that really does justice to the masses of these noisy, mischievous birds going crazily feeding.

I’ll try again with a different lens, but in the meantime we can just enjoy the flowers.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

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Su Leslie 2020

Friday flours (yeah, really)

Sourdough focaccia with roasted tomato, garlic and olive topping. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I guess it had to happen! Friday seems to have become baking day, and there are more flours than flowers in my life at the moment.

I’m trying to perfect focaccia for a dinner party next weekend; 100% organic baker’s flour, salt, water and sourdough starter.

I think I’m getting there.

Sourdough focaccia. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Rye crackers made with leftover starter. Image : Su Leslie 2020

Keeping a sourdough starter healthy involves feeding it regularly, so inevitably you generate spare starter. Turns out, you can actually use it to replace some of the flour/liquid in other recipes, and it makes really good crackers. I use rye flour, partly for the taste and partly because I bought a really big bag of it.

Whole-wheat with grains. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The key ingredient in sourdough baking is time, and I figure if I’m going to be in the kitchen all day, I may as well experiment. This one involves organic whole grain wheat flour (90%) plus 10% organic rye flour, with a porridge of toasted oats and buckwheat folded in for texture. It’s still too hot to cut, so you’ll have to wait to find out if it’s any good.

The season of the kowhai

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Spring. Tui feasting on kowhai flower nectar. Image; Su Leslie 2019

Amongst all the flowers that burst forth in Spring, the one that speaks most clearly of the season in Aotearoa New Zealand is the kowhai.

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Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai (eight species of tree within the genus Sophora) are native to this country. Unlike many NZ natives, kowhai are semi-deciduous, making their spring-time transformation even more spectacular. Unusually too, kowhai flowers appear before the new leaves.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai is the Maori word for yellow, and the plant has great significance; practically and culturally. Infusions of kowhai bark were used in traditional Maori medicine to treat a huge range of ailments from dandruff to knitting together broken bones. It was even given as a (fairly dramatic) cure for constipation.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

These days, the medicinal use of Kowhai is not recommended, as it’s known that the plant contains cytsine, an alkeloid common in several species within the legume family. It is similar to nicotine and, in humans, can cause headaches, breathing difficulties and in large doses — death.

Other animals are clearly not affected; kowhai flower nectar is a favourite food of the native Korimako, Kaka and Tui.  One of the great springtime pleasures is watching and listening to Tui in a kowhai tree.

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

If you’d like to know what Tui’s sound like, this video‘s good and has footage of Kereru (wood pigeon) and Tauhou (wax-eye)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Spring

Friday Flowers

Mantles of red and golden weather

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Pohutukawa flowers. Image: Su Leslie 2019

For many here in Aotearoa New Zealand — especially those of us living near the coast — the arrival of summer is heralded by the flowering of the Pohututkawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa).

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Pohutukawa flower buds. Image; Su Leslie 2019

A member of the myrtle family, pohutukawa grows easily along the country’s coastline, often spilling precariously over cliffs. Incredibly strong roots anchor its spreading, silver branches that twist and gnarl at impossible angles. It is long-lived, providing generations of beach-goers with shelter and shade where sand meets bush.

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

And between November and February (but particularly in December and January) you will find pohutukawa trees all over the country covered in a profusion of (generally red) flowers.

Early European settlers “adopted” the pohutukawa as the New Zealand Christmas tree, using wreaths and branches to adorn homes and churches during the Christmas festivities. Today, pohutukawa-themed Christmas cards, gifts and tree ornaments are sold in shops around the country.

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… some of us make our own cards. Image/design: Su Leslie 2018

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Pohutukawa flowers — NZ’s “Christmas tree.” Image: Su Leslie, 2017

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Image: Su Leslie 2014

The pohutukawa is a common symbolic element or icon in much of my nation’s culture. One of our foremost playwrights, Bruce Mason, wrote a play called The Pohutukawa Tree, but it is from another of his works — The End of the Golden Weather — that I draw these words

“The red is of a fire dying at dusk. The green faded in drab. Pain and age are in these gnarled forms, in bare roots clutching at the earth, knotting on the cliff face, in tortured branches dark against the washed sky.”

— from The End of the Golden Weather, a play by Bruce Mason.

Each year, on Christmas Day, a scene from The End of the Golden Weather is performed on Takapuna Beach, near my home. Each year, several several hundred Aucklanders turn up to see this — free — performance. That too has become a part of what summer means in this tiny corner of the world.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Summer

Friday Flowers