Friday, 22 June 2012

Winter Colour and Winter Solstice

Yesterday was our Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere the winter solstice or Yuletide coincides with Christmas and all the feasting and traditions that are associated with Christmas and New Year but here it generally passes unnoticed and unappreciated.

There is some cause for celebration though. From today the days start getting longer. Granted the temperatures won’t warm up for a while yet but the sun will rise a little earlier and set a little later each day now until December. Before too long the sun will wake me up instead of the alarm clock and there’ll be enough light to see the garden when I get home from work. It is no wonder so many religions have celebrations involving the winter solstice.

Poinsettia provide a bold splash of colour throughout the garden. Each year after flowering they are cut back to a fraction of their size and the cutting strike so readily that from one plant you can soon have many.
 Calliandra are also in bloom. The birds love these flowers and will hang upside down on a branch while feeding on the nectar. I haven't been able to get a photo though because as soon as they see me with the camera they fly away.
The red, green and white of the garden reminds me of Christmas which, as I said, is celebrated during the winter soltice in the Northern Hemisphere. It got me thinking....
When Europeans settled Australia a little over 200 years ago they brought with them their customs and traditions. This included our four seasons as well as celebrations - so that we still associate Yuletide with Christmas.
Our indigenous people who have inhabited Australia for much longer (about 50,000 years longer) have seasonal calendars that are related to this land and the seasonal events that occur here. Tribes from different parts of Australia developed different seasons recognising the diversity across the continent but all relate  change of season to recognisable natural events.
Their seasons are based on when certain trees flower or when animals migrate or give birth. Their seasons are also related to our climate and take heed of wet and dry seasons as well as hot and cold.
The Bureau of Meterology has developed a site called Indigenous Weather Knowledge . It currently has seasonal weather calendars developed over thousands of years by a few indigenous communities. They hope to expand on this over time.
This is a calendar from the Kakadu region showing the seasons determined by the weather patterns, the blooming of flora, animal behaviour and other natural events. It makes sense doesn't it?

Researchers also want to tap the wealth of knowledge the traditional owners of this land hold to look at long-term climate variability and their insights into caring for the environment.
In many parts of Australia our seasons really don't match those we have adopted from Europe. Should they change perhaps? In the north of Australia the locals don't refer to four seasons, they refer to 'the wet' and 'the dry' and 'the build up'. They have already adapted to what really happens. If indigenous knowledge of climate and seasons becomes freely available, then maybe people will adopt seasons that suit our country. It won't happen overnight but maybe over generations. Who knows.

Greg Lehman, at Monash University who has undertaken expanding the scope of the Bureau's website, will be talking to indigenous people over the next few years. This is part of what he says on the subject - "The fundamental difference between Western and Aboriginal views of the weather is the holistic approach of the indigenous approach."  "Knowledge about weather and seasons is related to everything else you do in your life."   "For me one of the biggest problems we have is people don't understand the land and the country. It's important for a sustainable future,"   "We need to understand that there is a very well developed knowledge of climate in Australia that has been here all the time but that European people have yet to appreciate."

As gardeners, we have some appreciation of seasonal events in the environment determining what we should be doing in our gardens, but can't even imagine the depth of knowledge that was built up over 50,000 years of being in tune with the land.
I find it exciting that at least some of this ancient but relevant and important knowledge is becoming available to us all.

  ..... and since it's Friday as well I am linking to Tootsies Fertiliser Friday. Check out what's happening in gardens from other parts of the world (where it's summer).
....and Nick's Floral Friday Fotos



  1. Hello Missy, I came from Bernie on the way here and both of you mentioned the solstice in the beginning. But you posted different flowers though, which are almost the same as what we have here. I love your discussion on adopting the aborigines' knowledge of the place to foster understanding and conservation. The same thing happened with us here with the arrival of Europeans; i.e. changing the belief system to adopt their religion, obliterating the alphabet which complex with culture and environment with their modern alphabet, etc, etc. Now some few individuals are trying to revive our lost writing and the knowledge embedded and entertwined in it, which includes respect for the environment and the seasons. Unfortunately, our country is not as rich as yours, so maybe the progress of these endeavor will be slower with us, hopefully the destruction will not be ahead of us!

  2. So much color! Such a different clime than I garden in and beautiful plants indeed! Larry

  3. Yes thankfully our days will start getting a little longer now. It's pretty dark by 6.00 pm up here, and we can't see the sun in sky from about 4.30 onwards.

    Great information in your post today. I still mention the usual four season in my blog posts, but we of course only really have the two season of wet and dry. The traditional owners are the best source of information on just what it's like up here, although the calendar developed for the Kakadu doesn't match our corner of the north. It would be fantastic if the local indigenous people would one day collate their knowledge to design something similar.

    Loved your red Poinsettia. I lost mine after the last wet. I kept it in the ground but it's shown no sign of recovery, so I'm sure it's a goner now! My dwarf pink is starting to bloom though. Love your beautiful Coleus and Crotons too! Always such fabulous colours on those.

  4. Missy,

    Thank you for coming by my blog and for your comment. Your coleuses and the calliandra are beautiful. The explanation of Australian weather patterns and gearing seasons to becoming more descriptive of what is going on weather wise and plant wise make perfect sense to me. I have lived in areas with Mediterranean climates, which can best be described as three season -- hot and dry, wet and coolish, and something in between.

    Happy Winter to you.


  5. Great post and lovely photos. It's nice to think the days are now getting longer.

  6. How wonderful some of your photos are! I truly love your poinsettias, crotons, and coleus! I love your descirption of the climates and season patterns for Australia. I think it's simply amazing how you and I can live in such different area (Orlando, Florida here) and yet we can grow such similar gardens and plants. And although some of my crotons, coleus, and poinsettias may look a little different, they are all the same. Isn't is amazing how something as simple as plants can actually make the world seem somewhat smaller sometimes?!

  7. am just so happy to see that you have linked in this week...and to have the chance to visit here today!! I thank you so much for linking in and sharing your post with my party today!
    I have shared your post this week with the Tootsie Time Facebook page.
    Have a wonderful week...what is left of it! lol
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.


I would love to know what you think and appreciate your comments.


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