10-15 years ago when the kids were still small we regularly picnicked in the Wollongong Botanical Gardens. We had our own favourite out-of-the-way (secret) spot where there was a bench-table in the sun. We’d spread out on ‘our’ bench to drink tea, orange juice and eat biscuits before exploring the gardens.
Below is the only photo I could find of our picnics. The grass wasn’t always this brown – it must have been a dry autumn in 2006. My son (not sure where daughter was) and husband are sitting on the bench. My son is soon to turn 18 but has still been known to hog/hug the biscuits to himself.
Nearby to our bench was a magnificent (or at least I thought so) prostrate coastal banksia (Banksia integrifolia). It’s thick branches supported it in a metre-high dome shape and it sprawled for at least five metres in diameter.
I’m not sure why I was so struck by this unruly plant when the rest of the botantical gardens displayed mighty spreading trees, exotic cacti, an impressive rainforest and an an orderly rose garden.
I think I liked its tangled, rambling and of course the robust yellow brush flowers – I have a fascination with banksia flowers.
At the time we lived on the escarpment in Wollongong – an area of rainforest, clay soils and limited sunlight hours. So, though I would have liked to buy a prostrate banksia, there was nowhere suitable to plant it. It’s a plant that needs plenty of room, light soil and full sun.
When we moved closer to the beach and landscaped our garden I finally found a spot to plant a banksia, unfortunately this spot was under the kid’s trampoline. The filtered sunlight through the trampoline net wasn’t ideal. The banksia survived but struggled. The children eventually outgrew the trampoline and my banksia was finally exposed to full sun. Now when I look out the kitchen window the first thing I see is my lovely sprawling, flowering banksia. It is a favourite of the little wattlebird too. Most mornings it sits on its branches and chuckles and chatters – proclaiming the banksia as its own. I’m happy to share it.
My plant is not as magnificent as the one in the botanical gardens but it does bring me great satisfaction, a living symbol of persistence and resilience.