Don’t Wait till the Flowers are Gone 莫待無花

When I neglect to go into the garden for a day or two, I dread to find sad wrinkly faces, full of reproach.  Yet more often than not, I am greeted with their best poses,  vying for the ‘eye of heaven’ or mine, and smiling even in the rain.  That’s why I try to go into the garden everyday.

‘Full many a flower is born to blush unseen

And waste its sweetness on the desert air’

Thomas Gray


So many blooms are seasonal and their appearance fleeting. Zygocactus (Schlumbergera) above and orchids below.  Most of my orchids are hanging on my fig tree which gives them shade from the fiercest summer sun but lets in the winter light.




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The White Waratah

Last April Keith and Maureen opened their garden and raised over $6000 for Breast Cancer Research.  The highlight of today’s Huge Plant Sale was the White Waratah at the Propagating Gardeners’ garden in Lane Cove.  I had not noticed this bush when I attended their April sale but it was impossible to miss the dozen blooms on it today.


The Waratah is notoriously difficult to cultivate and the white form was only discovered in the wild in the seventies.



If we saw nothing else but this one plant our visit would have been worthwhile but Ang, Ben and I enjoyed seeing the garden in a different season and all of us took home many plants that were propagated on site.


I promised Maureene I will start propagating fig trees from my ten varieties and donate them to her sale next April.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 38 so I have been working for various organisations since post treatment and my volunteer work has been rewarding.  Now I can combine my love of gardening with working for a good cause.

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Hiring Hands

Since I have limited use of my left hand and my right arm, I have had to hire help but as they say, good help is hard to find.

My orchard and garden have been neglected for some time; I had been unable to do more than the minimum watering and maintenance. The minimum only enables the garden to survive, not thrive.

I advertised and found people who claim to have experience but had none.  I tried to train a young man from the UK who disappeared after I spent the time and money on him  (and he was scared of spiders!).  A girl turned up wearing all white, including white thongs.  She had no idea what gardening means.  A promising New Zealander failed to turn up too many times and he refused to handle anything smelly!

After training two gardeners who disappeared after gaining some competency, I refuse to give up hope.  A handyman, Peter had been reliable and I approached him for help in the garden.  Surprisingly, though he professed to having ‘only grown weeds’, he proved a quick study and took to weeding, mulching, potting up and pruning with proficiency.  The other day he helped me harvest the worm farm.  What a relief (for the worms and me).

After all, gardening is not rocket science.    I give precise directions and explain the reason for every task.  Peter is willing to follow explicit instructions and that is the most important quality in an under gardener.




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Open Garden for Breast Cancer

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Originally posted on Life is But This:
Ang, Ben and I went to a charity plant sale in aid of breast cancer research at Lane Cove today.  The best of its type:  it was held at a private home.  You…

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Pity the Farmer 憫農 by Li Shen 李紳(772-846)

This is my translation of a Tang Dynasty poem, written by a politician who sighed on witnessing the toil of peasants.  Words, words, words…





One grain of corn sown in Spring

Ten thousand grains in Autumn brings

No field lies fellow within the four seas

Still the farmers fell from starvation

Translated by Mary Tang (c) 2016


From his position of great wealth and power the poet wrote these words that are repeated to this day.  However as a politician he made no changes to the system.  The rich continued to get richer until the poor rebelled.  It was no wonder that the Communist Party succeeded in China – yet, the cycle is repeating.

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Chinese Painting Exhibition

Yesterday my friend Helen took me to the Australian Chinese Painting Society members’ exhibition in Meadowbank.  There you see beginners’ work (some elaborately mounted and framed) alongside those of award winning artists (including some hastily and simply presented).  I was impressed by the democracy of this non selective exhibition and therefore will not reveal their names or point out their levels of expertise.


There is a Chinese saying, 人靠衣裝,佛靠金裝 – ‘a man needs clothes to present him, even the Buddha needs gold to frame him’ (the latter refers to the tradition of devotees putting gold leaves on the statues of Buddha). Presentation can change perception.


The top two on the right are Helen’s work.  She had four paintings in the exhibition.

The rest of the exhibition includes works of masters and amateurs – can you tell them apart?  :)




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Session 16 and Students’ Exhibition – Chinese Calligraphy for Beginners

After a party and no work done at Session 16, students’ work were hung in the Willoughby Council’s lobby where they will be on display for a month.

The students all brought food and had a party instead of a class on the last day of term:



I have retired from teaching Chinese Calligraphy.  I wish all my students success in their future endeavours.

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Update on Fig Cuttings

Five months after stabbing some cuttings of the White Adriatic into pots, I have trees:


Today I put them out into the sun; well, as much sun as my jacaranda tree would allow them.  The Blue Provence, Brown Turkey, Black Genoa and St Dominic de Violette were equally successful.  Some grew roots while sitting in plastic bags.  I gave some away and having no room for more fig trees, will find new homes for the rest.

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Street Flowers, Cut Flowers

Last Saturday I visited our local market and admired the flower stall  but walking home I found street flowers more attractive.


Kangaroo Paws – why would anyone want to impose such a creepy image on them?


Kangaroo Paws – the gold version

They look less creepy when they are in flower :)

I think street flowers look prettier than cut flowers:




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Moon (Mid-Autumn) Festival中秋節

I don’t keep a Chinese lunar calendar but tonight my brother wrote from Beijing that they can’t see the moon for the pollution and wished me better luck.  It is my good fortune that I can see the moon; the forecast is for a cloudy night but the sky was clear as I looked up and there it was, bright and clear.  So for my brother and everyone else who can’t see the moon tonight – here it is from Sydney, Australia.


The mid-autumn festival is a time for harvest and thanks-giving for the Chinese and traditionally the family would gather and celebrate.  When one is alone one can still look at the moon and know that loved ones are seeing the same moon, unless they live in Beijing.

Happy Moon Festival!

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Copy Cat in the Garden

I’d threatened to copy Derrick‘s design of a gardening trolley and today I did.  Not being as handy as he, my version is rather primitive in comparison, smaller and let’s just say inferior.  Whereas he used a large IKEA metal trolley, mine is a mini version; a fold up affair meant for dragging a cabin bag around.  Still, it works!  Thank you, Derrick, for the idea ( or should I thank Jackie?)


I like it so much I am posting more pictures of it below :)



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Hanging Around Part 2

I have at least three calligraphy students older than me, each of them talented and artistic. I have been encouraging one of them to exhibit her oil paintings (she is self taught) but she is reluctant as she has been doing it for her own enjoyment only. One day she brought in a few pieces to share with the class and we were staggered by the quality of her work. I am reblogging this post by Derrick to motivate her :)



For once I have not featured my archive material on a rainy day post, for I had yesterday’s images from Margery’s exhibition that I had not had time to upload last night.


As will be seen from this front page of the promotional leaflet, ‘Hanging Around’ is a prelude to an important exhibition next spring.


I featured a photographic portrait of the artist in ‘Hanging Around Part 1’. The leaflet contains a pen picture.


Here are visiting details for those fortunate enough to be within striking distance.

With work going on around me, I photographed a few of the works at random.

Handmade books

It is only three or four years ago that my sister, Liz Keenan, taught Margery to create handmade books, and she has brought her own stamp to them.

Painting 1

The wonkiness of these images is nothing to do with the hangers, but…

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