Look – Don’t Touch

Mum has always loved gardens.  She used to stop and knock on our neighbours’ doors when their gardens had plants with brilliant potential cuttings.   Then she would ask ‘Do you mind if I take a cutting?’

She came equipped with her own garden gloves, shears and buckets.  I wonder what the neighbours thought of her as she harvested their gardens.  I remember being embarrassed, but she did do it with everyone’s blessing.  I don’t remember anyone ever saying no to her.

Mum loved to try and grow tropical plants in Tasmania to remind her of her original home in Papua New Guinea.  She had immense pride when she had success with her hibiscus. She has always been a determined lady in both her garden and other parts of her life.

When we were little Mum clearly told us to stay away from her garden flowers – ’Look, don’t touch.’

We had to water and weed the vegetable patch. Our vegetable garden was vital to our family’s survival as we didn’t have a large income. Our Dad was often away working as a labourer so the garden gave my Mum many hours of happiness.

She tried to make us follow the rules of her garden – things like ‘you are not allowed to pick the flowers or pick the fruit and vegetables before they are ripe.’ But the problem was I loved the delicious scent of Mum’s garden flowers and was keen to make perfumes just like the ones on her dressing table.

There was one plant in particular with a yellow mushy part that you could crush easily into a yellow powder and it made a vibrant paste for not only perfume but for making your own paint.

One day I found myself with this glorious plant busy making my perfume – how I loved  the feel of the soft yellow part of the plant – when my Mum stepped out of the back door and began to yell out and run for me – ‘No, how could you….’  I was sure I turned the bright pink of my Mum’s hibiscus.

I looked up from my perfume making efforts at my Mum’s anguished face, and glanced briefly at the very empty flower bed.  Had I really used that many flowers?

Holding my bowl of flowers forward as if it was now the best treasure of all I managed to squeeze out the words, ‘I made it just for you.’

For more of June’s stories visit her blog  Pearlz Dreaming


First published ABC Open,  500 Words, September 2012.


Comments from ABC Open Blog



  • Diane Finlay

    Such happy memories of making perfume from rose petals. I spent soooo many happy hours with my best friend raiding the neighbours gardens. The petals would fall to the ground and we’d collect them.

  • June Perkins

    Thanks Gail, Vi and Vera, for your feedback about your own experiences with gardens,and to Mum for remembering my cheeky creativity in such a kind way

  • Vera Rayson

    Love your story. Reminded me on my childhood, wenn I was stealing peas from our neighbors garden. I didn’t know you lived in Tassie once.

  • Emma

    Ha ha ha I love this, it reminded me of just being drawn to roses when I was younger and I’d sniff them and then want to take their petals to capture the heady scent… but Mum was never happy with my efforts. The petals are always so soft aren’t they!

  • Vi Jones

    Reminds me of the English gardens of my childhood. Memories are all I have, living in the desert as I do now. Lovely picture. Vi

  • Gail

    A lovely story – I love your mum, and your photography gets ever more eye watering. The juxtaposition of the fabric and flower is perfect.

  • Anna Gerard

    Tears of happiness in your brilliant story of our garden my dear. I walked down the memory lane of our garden in Devonport and West Tamar Rd and yest I remember your attempt in picking the flowers to make perfume for mum for Mum’s day.


    Please note all the ABC Open posts I have archived here that are written by me or have relevance to my family may well have broken links when that site goes down on the 30th of June 2019


4 thoughts on “Look – Don’t Touch

  1. This is a lovely memory, June, even if you had taken all the flowers. You made your mother some sweet smelling perfume, as I’m sure she came to realise later. 🙂
    Your recollections of cuttings and vegetable gardens are similar to mine. Cuttings were shared freely between my parents and relatives and friends. The vegetables were a necessity to supply Dad’s income. There were so many mouths to feed in my family.

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