Fun with flax flowers

Today we’ve had 40 people visit the Museum already, many of them passing through on their way to the various gardens that are open for the Taranaki Garden and Fringe Festivals. We’re providing a range of crafts for people to do, all revolving round a floral theme. So far people have made giant tissue flowers, stitched floral greeting cards and made flax flowers. And of course the children have done some colouring in and gluing.

In previous posts I have talked about flowers in history. If you’d like to read more about the history of flowers and botany, women and gardening, gardening in New Zealand and one of the world’s most famous gardens, here are four great books to get you started. These are all available through the South Taranaki LibraryPlus.

Flower hunters by Mary Gribbin. The flower hunters were intrepid explorers – remarkable, eccentric men and women who scoured the world in search of extraordinary plants from the middle of the seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, and helped establish the new science of botany. For these adventurers, the search for new, undiscovered plant specimens was something worth risking – and losing – their lives for. From the Douglas-fir and the monkey puzzle tree, to exotic orchids and azaleas, many of the plants that are now so familiar to us were found in distant regions of the globe, often in wild and unexplored country, in impenetrable jungle, and in the face of hunger, disease, and hostile locals. It was specimens like these, smuggled home by the flower hunters, that helped build the great botanical collections, and lay the foundations for the revolution in our understanding of the natural world that was to follow. Here, the adventures of eleven such explorers are brought to life, describing not only their extraordinary daring and dedication, but also the lasting impact of their discoveries both on science, and on the landscapes and gardens that we see today.

A history of gardening in New Zealand by Bee Dawson. An Englishman’s home is his castle, but for the first European settlers who came to New Zealand, their first priority was to create a productive and, later, ornamental garden. Bee Dawson traces the development of gardening in New Zealand, from the Maori gardens of pre – and early contact times through the optimistic efforts of missionaries and the other early settlers, the magnificence and productivity of the Victorians and Edwardians and the Dig for Victory campaigns of the 1940s. Illustrated throughout with historic photographs, paintings and ephemera, Dawson’s lively writing style brings to life the successes and failures and the sense of achievement felt by New Zealand gardeners through the years, as they coaxed plenty and beauty from a new earth. This book is both beautiful to look at and a delight to read.

Gardening women; their stories from 1600 to the present by Catherine Horwood. From Flora, Roman goddess of plants, to today’s gardeners at Kew, women have always gardened. Women gardeners have grown vegetables for their kitchens and herbs for their medicine cupboards. They have been footnotes in the horticultural annals for specimens collected abroad. They taught young women about gardening twenty-five years before women’s horticultural schools officially existed. And their influence on the style of our gardens, frequently unacknowledged, survives to the present day. From these triumphs to the battles fought against male-dominated institutions, from the horticultural pioneers to the bringers of change in society’s attitudes, this book is a celebration of the best of the species – gardening women.

Sissinghurst: an unfinished history by Adam Nicolson. A fascinating account from award-winning author, Adam Nicolson, on the history of Nicolson’s own national treasure, his family home: Sissinghurst. Adam Nicolson, the son of writer Nigel Nicolson and grandson of Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson, takes us on a personal journey through the history of one of England’s great houses. First built in the fifteenth century, Sissinghurst has a long and vibrant history. It was a family home until the eighteenth century, when it was let to the government and used as a prison for French prisoners of war. Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson bought it in the 1920s and their family has lived there ever since. This legendary house and estate is now part of the National Trust and is one of its most visited properties. In Sissinghurst, Adam Nicolson relays the history of this beautiful house and the gardens designed by his grandparents and describes with great insight and passion how the family have continued to live in the house and what it is like having to adapt to living in a national treasure.

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