On Saturday, Mum and I went to the Foster Farmers Market. We loaded up with good things and headed back to the car, where we loitered so I could finish my coffee. We were parked beside some lovely landscaping fronting a public building, adjacent to the market. A fair amount of foot traffic trundled by.
Mum proceeded to appraise the plant-life, pointing out a couple of beautiful, er, shrubs. (Alas, I did not inherit the botany gene.) As is her usual practice, she surreptitiously snaffled a few cuttings. As she scouted a striking banksia with burnt umber and yellow blooms, a little old bereted lady toddled up from behind.
“You’re not going to take that, are you?”
I took half a step back and held my breath.
Things took a rather amusing turn.
Mum came clean and Little Old Beret responded in plant-speak: “spinulosa… integrifolia… cultivar… prostrate form”, etc.
They traded plant names like ping pong balls and a slow, rapturous realisation spread on Mum’s face.
Little Old Beret: “Do you know who you’re talking to? I had one of these named after me.”
Mum: “Ce-li-a Ro-ss-er? Not the Celia Rosser? Oh my…”
The Celia Rosser talked on like a normal little old lady in a woollen beret doing her weekly shopping. Mum beamed sideways at me. I gathered we were in the presence of some kind of botanic greatness.
Some kind of botanic greatness turned out indeed to be the Celia Rosser, OAM Hon MSc Hon LLD (Monash), acclaimed botanical illustrator who has painted every banksia species, a body of work spanning 25 years and three published volumes. She has not one, but two, banksias named after her.
Even I, non-comprendis botanicus, was impressed (albeit upon my belated enlightenment).
They chatted like only those who inhabit the same rare world can do: “oh yes I know Peter, I was in the same plant group as him”.
Others would have melted in a pool of adulation. Aside from throwing several plate-sized grins my way, Mum did a sterling job of holding it together. In fact, she even mentioned a thing or two about banksias that the Celia did not know.
(The encounter reminded me of a time about eight years ago when I met Jamie Oliver. The only difference being that because I fancied him, I could not utter even one proper sentence. In my defence, it was before the Cult of the TV Chef took hold, and it was quite a natural thing for a thinking girl to lust after a scruffy boy who could cook. I would have also included a photo of me with Jamie, except that the print is god-knows-where, a result of my worldly goods being scattered between three locations across two states. But I digress…)
We left with a cone from the admired banksia and an invitation to visit the Celia at her home/gallery. When the coast was clear, adulation was unleashed, albeit with max restraint: “wait til I tell A…”