Growing interestin’ plants

“Yeh don’t know them gargoyles at the Committee for the Disposal o’

Dangerous Creatures! They’ve got it in fer interestin’ creatures!”

Reubeus Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Hagrid is one of the best characters in the Harry Potter universe. He is kind and brave, and he will do anything to help Harry and his friends defeat the evil wizard Voldemort and his cronies. One of his endearing qualities is his love for what he calls “interestin’ creatures” – Acromantulas (giant spiders), Hippogriffs, Salamanders, Dragons, Nifflers, Unicorns, and other magical beasts and beings. Hagrid takes care of the beasts of Hogwarts in his capacity as Care of Magical Creatures teacher, and also befriends many of the Magical Beings that live in the Lake and the Forbidden Forest. Often his love and care for Magical Creatures will get him into trouble, such as the time when he tried to keep a baby dragon (Norbert) in his tiny wooden cabin, or he was expelled from Hogwarts for keeping an Acromantula that was thought to be killing fellow students. His ability to see the value of all Magical Beasts and Beings enables him to see the value and unique qualities in all people as well, leading him to fight against the “Magical Supremacy” of Voldemort.

I enjoy Hagrid so much because he is a bit of a kindred spirit. Although unlike Hagrid, I am not a keeper of the beasts of the world (I do not own any pets except goldfish), I do love interestin’ plants of all kinds. I find it hard to walk past a plant stall, sale, nursery, or just a garden without taking a sticky beak to see what is happening or what ideas or new plants I can take home with me.

While I love traditional plants, I like to seek out the interestin’, the exotic, or the just plain weird. Sometimes my husband has been heard to sigh “Can’t we just grow something normal?” – this especially when I start researching fruit trees or planning the Summer veggie patch. I am not interested in growing Pink Lady apples, or Satsuma plums. I want to try growing something different that I cannot buy in a supermarket produce section, like a 17th Century English heirloom apple that can only cross-pollinate with a 15th Century French relative. And although I do grow the standard Aussie Butternuts in the Summer, I also like to try my hand at growing Japanese heirloom pumpkins or Italian spherical zucchini, for fun and interest. Sometimes these experiments are successful; at other times I have an epic fail – like last year’s Lakota pumpkins, which yielded exactly one tiny pumpkin. That was a very expensive tiny pumpkin, for all the water that was pumped into that fist-sized squash…

I also love to grow unusual flowers that I cannot buy at a florist or a nursery, like beautiful crocuses that flower for two days a year, because I think that there is no point growing something I can buy at Coles or Bunnos for ten bucks a bunch. I wait eagerly all year to see their beautiful flowers pop up, admire them extravagantly for those two days, and then wait again for them for another 12 months. I grow six varieties of lavender and six varieties of mint, only one of each I can easily buy at a nursery. I have multiple varieties of thyme and sage, daisies that smell like passionfruit, and four colours of violets that creep around my garden and remind me of my grandmother every time the wind blows and the scent wafts across the garden. I have plants just for touching, and plants just for smelling. I have plants with names (and I think, personalities), including one fruiting vine that stubbornly refused to fruit until I named her and talked to her, sometimes in frustration and sometimes with love until she started to fruit prolifically. Now my husband has caught my crazy, and talks to her as well when he walks by. We might sound slightly bonkers, but people have commented on the huge size and health of our passionfruit vine.

In our streetscape and against the backdrop of our great 70s palace, our garden looks a little out of place. All the other gardens are landscaped in the late 70s-early 80s Australian style of lawn interspersed with diosma bushes and an ornamental tree or two. These yards look very neat. The lawns are tidy and the diosmas are trimmed. In the Spring, small clumps of daffodils occasionally dare to disrupt the tidiness.

Our front garden is a tribute to Hagrid in the middle of Privet Drive. It does not have any ornamental trees. Instead we have five beautiful fruit trees and vines (mulberry, apricot, passionfruit, pomegranate, guava), one pretty sad looking lemon, and a newly planted lemon myrtle tree. Our enormous herb garden keeps company with perennial flowers and spring flowering bulbs in colours that are not designed to match each other neatly but instead were chosen because they make me happy or because I spotted them in a catalogue and I thought they looked interestin’. So we have brightly coloured Harlequin Flowers (sparaxis, pictured above) growing in the same space around the garden with mint, self-seeded parsley and oregano, cosmos, violets, crocuses, pale Erlicheer daffodils, riotous Ranunculus, delicate purple Star Flowers, white, red, purple, and pink lavender, and dozens of different herbs.

I say fight back against the tide of diosma bushes and boring front yards. Don’t give in to the rules of Privet Drive. Be a Hagrid, not a Muggle.

Grow interestin’ plants.

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