State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 84 December 2009


Meredith Fletcher
Becoming ‘Correa’:
Jean Galbraith and ‘Australian Native Flowers’

Jean Galbraith photographed in 1926.
Copy supplied by and reproduced courtesy of Ian Hyndman, Executor, Estate of Jean Galbraith.

Jean Galbraith (1906–1999) was a writer, gardener, botanist and conservationist who has had a profound influence on many Australians. She wrote numerous gardening articles and books, including Garden in a Valley,1 the story of her own garden, which became a gardening classic. Galbraith was also the author of field guides to Australian wildflowers that were such indispensable references for field naturalists they were dubbed ‘the glove box bibles’.2 She wrote many botanical articles and her acute observations contributed to Australia's botanical knowledge. A conservationist, she began arguing for the protection of Australian native flora in the 1930s when she established a wildflower reserve. She also wrote extensively for children: nature study stories, articles, books, scripts for school radio broadcasts. Above all, she was a writer
and this set her apart from many of her gardening and botanist colleagues.
This article focuses on Jean Galbraith's earliest gardening articles, ‘Australian Native Flowers’, that first appeared in the Garden Lover (soon to become the Australian Garden Lover) in 1926, and are now mostly forgotten, overshadowed by her later writing.3 In these articles, Jean planned to write about growing native plants and encourage readers to plant them in their gardens, at a time when Australian natives appeared more ‘exotic’ than the introduced species dominating home gardens. Although they were first conceived as gardening notes, the articles evolved into nature writing as Galbraith wrote not just about wildflowers but about the places where they grew. She told stories that were shaped by the colour, form, texture and sound of the country she knew intimately, the Latrobe River valley in Gippsland, bordered by the foothills of the Baw Baws to the north and the Strzelecki Ranges to the south. These neglected articles merit rediscovery. According to nature writing exponent, Mark Tredinnick, Australia does not have a tradition of nature writing, yet hidden away in the State Library of Victoria's early issues of the Australian Garden Lover, sandwiched between articles on rose pruning and dahlia lifting, is a significant contribution to nature writing.4 ‘Australian Native Flowers’ reveals not only Jean Galbraith's path to becoming a garden writer, but also new ways of writing about Australian native plants.

Becoming ‘Correa’

Jean Galbraith was nineteen when she was introduced to the editor of the Garden Lover, Ralph Boardman, at the wildflower show in the St Kilda Town Hall in October 1925. With the hall festooned with displays of wildflowers and foliage, jars crammed with specimens from Victoria and interstate, and visitors crowding around, jostling for a closer look at the flowers, it was a wonderful backdrop for a gardening editor to meet a potential contributor who could write articles on growing Australian native plants. Like the members of the Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria who staged the wildflower show, Boardman wanted to encourage his readers to learn more about native plants and to grow them in home gardens. As Boardman could see, Jean was an expert on Victorian wildflowers. Her role at the wildflower show was identifying and labelling the flowers that had flooded in from around the state: waxflowers from Bendigo, thryptomene from the Grampians, delicate mint bushes plucked from the Otway rainforest.5 She was also an experienced grower of Australian native flowers, raising seeds she had collected from the bush or digging up seedlings to replant in her extensive wildflower garden at her home in Tyers. And, although Boardman didn't know it, she was also an aspiring writer.
There was little time for Boardman to talk to Jean at the wildflower show, but he gave her a copy of the Garden Lover and their conversation continued by letter. ‘We should like to do our best to encourage the knowledge and love of Australian wild
flowers’, Boardman wrote in December, ‘and would appreciate the opportunity of publishing notes from you, on the subject’. Boardman also appreciated Jean's writing. ‘To have letters from you, written in the same happy strain as your letter … should assist, we think, in making known the beauty and utility of our native flora’.6 Soon, Boardman was committed to publishing a series of articles by Jean on Australian native plants. He suggested she use a pen name for the series and cast around for a name that captured the essence of Australian flowers. Acacia, he considered, was overdone, and suggested Epacris.7 But Jean chose her favourite local wildflower. It was a flower with glistening red bells and a soft, musical name: ‘Correa’.
At nineteen, Jean was young to be commissioned to write a series of articles for a gardening magazine but she had been reading and writing about plants since childhood. She grew up on Donald Macdonald's nature notes in the Argus and also read his books on the Australian bush as well as those of his fellow journalist, Charles Barrett.8 Books of English nature writing featured among her birthday presents.9 While many girls her age were reading the immensely popular Girl of the Limberlost by American author, Gene Stratton Porter, Jean was studying the author's nature writing instead. With the diligence of an apprentice writer, she copied out extracts of Stratton Porter's weighty Music of the Wild: ‘Since the beginning the forest has been singing its song but few there are who have cared to learn either the words or the melody,’ Jean copied into her notebook. Also a music-lover, Jean was inspired to listen to the trees that Stratton Porter described as ‘large wind harps, the trunks the framework, the branches the strings’.10
When Jean joined the Victorian Field Naturalists’ Club in 1923, Charles Barrett, editor of the club's journal, the Victorian Naturalist, became her nature writing mentor. Barrett introduced her to E. J. Banfield, better known as ‘The Beachcomber’, and his books on Dunk Island, and also to the English nature writer, W. H. Hudson, whose books he described as ‘the finest thing of their kind in modern English literature’. He urged her to read Reginald Farrer's books, noting his enthusiasm for wild plants as ‘delightful’ and describing his style as ‘nearly perfect’.11 When Jean started writing for the Garden Lover, he lent her his much loved copy of Walden, Thoreau's classic account of his two year sojourn in a cabin on Walden Pond in New England. This copy of Walden had been Barrett's constant companion when he served overseas during the war and Jean treated it with special care.12
As well as reading about plants, Jean had been writing about them from an early age. The field notes she kept from childhood were a mixture of observation and lyrical description, such as a styphelia she saw with ‘each flower looking like a tiny star cut out of velvet’, or the ‘great quivering pale green sheets of the umbrella moss’ that she recorded in her field notes in 1919.13 Jean was often ill as a child and there were days, she remembered, when she lay in the garden, unable to walk, and wrote ‘descriptions’ of
what she had seen in the bush. She wrote of butterflies that danced above a ‘yellow fragrant surge of Bush-pea’, or recent discoveries of pinkeye and bird orchids.14
Her first published writing appeared in the children's pages of the Leader (the weekly stablemate of the Melbourne Age) in 1917, when she was joint winner of an essay competition on the topic ‘When Nature Comes to Life Again’. Cinderella, the editor of the children's pages, issued guidelines for the essay. ‘I want my young friends to watch each day's change from the long winter sleep into the happy life of spring – how the birds arrive, the lambs and calves appear, the blossoms and the trees grow bright and so on … [The essays] must be sufficiently long to show good attempts at real work and observation’.15 While the older children wrote worthy essays on their set topic, Joan of Arc, Jean immersed herself in describing Tyers in the spring: the colour of the hills, nest-building birds, fresh green leaves, wildflowers on the slopes and blossom in the orchard. There were dutiful references to frisky calves on the flats and the light speck of lambs on the hillsides. ‘And as the young birds learn to fly’, she ended, ‘Spring merges into Summer.’16

‘Australian Native Flowers’

When readers opened the February 1926 issue of the Garden Lover, eager for information on what to plant in the vegetable garden, how to grow exhibition-standard chrysanthemums, or how to keep a colourful display of flowers in their front garden beds, a new gardening feature was waiting for them, ‘Australian Native Flowers’ by ‘Correa’. Drawing on her botanical knowledge and gardening experience, inspired by Australian, British and American nature writers and influenced by a girlhood of reading and writing about plants, Jean would provide readers with information on Australian native flowers and how to grow them in home gardens.
Her first article was colour-coded and introduced readers to the blue wildflowers growing in January, and the pink wildflowers of February. The flowers she described in this article mostly grew in the hills behind the Galbraith farm, or along nearby creeks. She described the native lobelias that could be found on dry hill tops in January, and encouraged the garden lover to collect seed to grow in the garden. She wrote about the Austral bluebells, so prolific that they made swathes of ‘perfect blue’ along roads and flat hill tops, and yet were unknown in home gardens, despite being easily grown from seed. In February, the ‘pinks’ were in full bloom, such as hyacinth orchids, their tall red brown stems ringed with pink flowers, but not suitable, she warned her readers, for transplanting. There were everlastings – flecked with pink, frilled with rose – soon ready for collecting seed. And even though they were not pink, she couldn't resist telling the readers about sweet bursaria because in February the riversides were filled with their creamy foam blossom and sweet scent. She gave readers instructions on how to collect sweet bursaria, drawing on her own experience in developing her wildflower garden.

Masthead for the ‘Australian Native Flowers’ articles by ‘Correa’ in the Australian Garden Lover.

‘Use a sharp trowel to lift the young seedlings growing under the older plants’, she told her readers, ‘wrap them firmly in moss or grass and take them home to place in pots’. A year later, plant them in the garden. ‘Put them in a corner where they have room to stretch their thorny arms’, she wrote, ‘and they will give you the joy of blossom, and the scent of summer riversides’.17
In the tradition of garden writers, Jean followed the flowering cycle through the year, but her rhythms were those of the bush: heath in June, peas in September, orchids in October and lilies in November. Jean had to combine the observation and training of a botanist with the skills of a writer who could evoke scent, form, colour and texture, as she was aware of her readers’ lack of knowledge of native plants. They knew all about popular garden plants of the 1920s: roses, chrysanthemums, gladioli, irises and dahlias. Iceland poppies were also great favourites and many readers enjoyed watching their furry caps part to reveal slits of colour and release crinkled petals. But how many readers had observed a eucalypt flower open? How many had seen the cups and caps part to reveal neatly folded stamens that curled back to form a mist of pearl, red, pink or yellow around an upright style? The dresses of gumnut babies in May Gibbs’ popular children's book, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, may have been the closest many of Jean's Australian Garden Lover readers came to inspecting eucalypt blossom.18

Nature Writing

Jean's inspiration came from her landscapes, and place and story began to supplant the botanist and gardener. Her articles changed from garden writing into nature writing as Jean broke free from the template of the flowering year, and succumbed to an irrepressible urge to write the stories of plants in places she knew intimately. After a visit to one of her favourite places, Tarra Valley, a national park of mountain ash and fern gullies deep in the Strzelecki Ranges, story and place took over from flower description. ‘I meant to write to-day of the varied beauty of Australian Daisies’, she began her January 1927 article, ‘In a Fold of Hills’, ‘but I have been among the hills, and the joy of
their songs and silences must be told’.19 There was an urgency to share this special place with her readers, not just its flowers but its ‘songs and silences’.
Ditching the daisies, she took her readers to the hills instead, and wrote not just of flowers but of trees, berries, fruits, fronds, leaves, tendrils, scents and songs in the temperate rainforest, from the tops of the forest giants to the streams that flowed deep in the gullies. She wrote of the blossom on the towering mountain ash and blue gum that was just visible far up the hillsides ‘like dim white clouds’. It was easier to see the blossom where they ‘float in snowy foam’ in the still water of the creek, or as fallen flowers that spotted the roadside. She wrote about the creepers that were hanging from the trees. The clematis, its flowers finished, now had a new beauty of feathery fruits. ‘From tree to tree hang the long brown ropes of its stems and its green tendrils wreath the tree fern fronds’.
She wrote of the scents of the rainforest. There was Austral mulberry, which people who lived in the Strzeleckis called orangewood, ‘its orange scented leaves breathing sweetness as one brushes past’. But even more sweetly scented was the graceful musk-daisy bush, ‘with broad leaves dark above and silver below, with white Daisy-like flowers, whose starry florets have fallen now’.
She told her readers of the purple appleberry, its flowers starting to fall: ‘It is a strong and graceful climber, with narrow dark green leaves, and long bells, yellow green just touched with indigo, that in the autumn will be replaced by big berries of purple blue, even lovelier than the flowers’.
As she evoked the mountain ash forest, she did not forget that her readers were garden lovers and included some gardening notes. Many of the plants she described, she told the readers, were easy to grow and had been carefully moved to the Galbraith garden, or had grown from seed collected in the hills, such as the purple appleberry and clematis. But her article did not end in the garden. She took her readers back to Tarra Valley, back to the ‘fold in the hills’.
I have told you of some of the treasures that enrich the hills; seek them, cultivate them when you can, but to know their full beauty, visit the stream sides where they grow … where tree ferns mix with gums and maiden hair brushes the water … and the silver air is tangled in mutable loveliness of scent and song.20
Her article, ‘As the Days of a Tree’, published a year later in January 1928, also showed her shift from gardening notes to nature writing. It was a carefully constructed essay. In the introduction, Jean wrote of driving on a bush road through a peppermint forest on a sunny morning after rain, with the raindrops still glistening on the trees. The colours dazzled her:
Orange twigs and ruby stems threaded the maze of leaves, and, in a mystery of colour, yellow deepened into green and crimson paled through pink to orange and

Two native Australian flowers.
Bluebell (Campanola Gracilis), from Curtis's Botanical Magazine, vol. 18, 1803, plate 691, and Purple Appleberry (Billardiera Longiflora), from Curtis's Botanical Magazine, vol. 37, 1812, plate 1507.

bright gold or darkened into ruddy brown. Tremulous globes of silver and spots of shrill white fire threw lances jewel bright across the air as the sunbeams shattered their glory on the drops of rain.
‘That’, she told her readers, ‘was my first conscious awakening to the glory of the Peppermint’.21
From her memories of a magical drive through the wet peppermint forest, she then told the lifestory of one particular peppermint that grew in the paddock next to the garden, a remnant of the forest of peppermints that once covered the slopes around Tyers, on the foothills of the Baw Baws. She described its annual cycle: the round clusters of blunt-topped buds that burst into a creamy mist of stamens when the caps fell off, through to the seed ripening in the green and yellow cups in autumn. She wrote of the tree as shelter and shade but also as companion, as daily she saw its beauty in the
morning sunrise and admired its glow in the last rays of light in the evenings.
Another article, ‘The Singing Trees’, alerted readers to the music of the bush. With echoes of Gene Stratton Porter, Jean wrote about performance and rhythms in the trees, about unison and dissonance and the misty undertones in the bush. Some trees, she wrote, depend on the wind for sound and rhythm, while others, like the sheoak, have perpetual music: ‘if the wind is still, the branches seem to sing with voices born of their perpetual slenderness; when the wind awakens, their song swells and softens in minor harmonies, grave and wistful, but not sad. Their wind music is like the music of the waves when the tide comes in. To them is given the power to recall the singing of the sea …They spend their lives in music’.22
Through the pages of the Australian Garden Lover, and writing for home gardeners, Jean developed her own voice as she wrote about Australian flora. Her writing was autobiographical, drawn from her life in the valley and her daily routine. Following her ‘Fold in the Hills’, she wrote regularly about the temperate rainforest in the national parks of Tarra Valley and Bulga Park, her favourite places.23 The articles would appear after visits there with her friend Traralgon shire secretary, Eva West, with mentors Charles Barrett and Edward Pescott, author of Native Flowers of Victoria, after guide excursions where she helped the girls identify native flora, or after Galbraith family trips to the parks. Articles on the coast at Inverloch followed family camping holidays where Jean, an experienced camper, was chief cook and bottle washer, but still had plenty of time to describe the sea, sand and vegetation in the dunes. Visits to her grandmother in the granite country of Beechworth provided floral copy for articles, while the flowers and trees from the Grampians featured in the Australian Garden Lover each time Jean acted as resident botanist at the Tourist Bureau's nature study camps. Most of the articles, though, were inspired by familiar haunts close to home and her intimate relationship with her landscapes: along the Walhalla Road or the Tyers River where she went to collect botanical specimens; the heath lands in the hills to the west of her home; the view from a log looking towards the Latrobe River; a peppermint tree growing by the west fence.
‘Australian Native Flowers’ stood out in the Australian Garden Lover. Unlike most of the articles which were instructional, Jean's articles were descriptive and literary. Readers expressed their admiration for her skills as a writer, especially her ability to combine botany and literature. Reader Helen White from Queensland singled out the ‘graceful articles like those written by “Correa,” to whom I should like to say a special word of thanks’. A reader from the Wimmera wrote, ‘I wish I had the ability of your wonderful ‘Correa’ that I could give you a description of the plants and flowers of the Grampians’. Further afield, a reader from Otago in New Zealand wrote of receiving ‘the greatest pleasure’ from ‘the charming literary (as well as botanical) articles by your contributor Correa’. Another enthusiastic reader was full of admiration for Jean's
combination of knowledge and expression: ‘What a wonderful knowledge she has of natural subjects, especially of birds and plants. And her command of words to express her knowledge is truly remarkable’.24
Jean's ‘command of words’ was important. The articles were not illustrated, and it was only through her words that she could share the infinite variety and exquisite loveliness of the flowers with readers who were unfamiliar with Australian flora. But she wanted her articles to be more than descriptions of flowers or even nature appreciation. She wanted her readers to experience the beauty of the bush through her writing, to ‘know’ the bush and feel that they were there, to hear its music and sense its rhythms and to breathe its ‘silver air’.
As nature writer Mark Tredinnick argues, Australia, compared with America, has a very limited tradition of nature writing, a genre he prefers to call a literature of place. He suggests many reasons for this, including the absence of a tradition of essay writing in Australia. He asks if Australian writers had ‘gone into the landscapes of a big and arid island armed too much with the literature of a small lush island’, too steeped in the imagination of the English romantic poets. He questions whether the land with its sparseness and low relief ‘defied notions of the sublime’ and defeated the lyricism and wonder of the nature essay. He considers the strangeness of Australia's flora and fauna, alien to European settlers, and he considers the impact of Australia's urban history and society, an urban nation whose literature belongs more to the city than to the country. But in ‘Australian Native Flowers’, Jean Galbraith's evocation of the bush is lyrical and full of wonder, she gives voice to place, tells its stories and, as Tredinnick claims of nature writers, brings the landscape to a second life in the imagination of the readers.25
Significantly, she was also writing differently from her mentor nature writers, such as Donald Macdonald and Charles Barrett. Their nature writing, as Tom Griffiths has argued, was pre-occupied with ‘boys, nature, race and war’. Their promotion of a masculine culture of nature appreciation was influenced by their war experiences – Macdonald as Australia's first war correspondent in the Boer War and Barrett's overseas service in the First World War – and the importance of defending the nation.26 Jean's writing was not concerned with empire, race or the relationship between native flora and nationhood. Instead, she wanted to write about beauty, underpinned by her deep faith and spirituality. She sought to ‘put more knowledge of beauty into the world’, and to help people see and experience the beauty that God had created, ‘to tell the beauty of all those things which have their being in Him’.27 A favourite quote of Jean's was from Carlyle's Sartor Resartus: ‘This fair universe is in very truth the star-domed city of God … through every star, through every blade of grass … the glory of a present God still beams’.28
And she saw that beauty around her at Tyers. Donald Macdonald, very ill but continuing to write articles from his invalid's bed, was still dreaming of England.
He wrote to Jean – ‘good Australian that you are’ – of ‘old England which was ever appealing to me as the cradle of the race’, and described a walk he would like to take with her through English landscapes.29 But Jean didn't dream of such landscapes. Nor was she interested in ‘nationalising nature’, as Libby Robin has described it.30 Even when writing about wattles, a species potent with national symbolism, Jean's discussion was anchored by place and beauty. She delighted in the loveliness of the wattle, and she wanted to share her wonder at the many varieties that grew in one location.31
Sitting on a grey log on a hilltop near her home, Jean described in an Australian Garden Lover article the different varieties of wattle she could see from her vantage point. Nearby were the varnish wattle with sulphur yellow bobbles and sharp, sweet scent; the golden wattle with the deepest of all wattle gold; the drooping bushes of sallow acacia; the long leaf wattle with its rich gold; and the feathery black wattle. Down by the Latrobe river flats she could see lightwoods. And on the sandy slopes on the other side of the river, she described the shrubby wattles growing there: spike acacia, spreading acacia, juniper acacia and prickly moses. Her writing captured the place of the wattles in the landscape, their diversity and individual characteristics, their perfume, colours and beauty. And she wrote about her love for them. Several months before her article was published, Melbourne nurseryman, W. R. Warner, had specifically omitted recommending gums and wattles in his Australian Garden Lover article on small trees for the home garden because of the ‘monotony’ of native trees. ‘With the majority of good Australians’, he declared, ‘I love the Gums and Wattles but then we can have too much of a good thing’.32 Several months later, writing from her hilltop at Tyers and drawing on her delight in what she saw – rather than her duty as a good Australian – Jean could dispel any perceptions of the ‘monotony’ of the bush. In her article she referred to T. C. Wollaston's Our Wattles, which she had owned for many years and valued for its cultivation advice, but she omitted Wollaston's rhetoric on how wattles represented Australian national characteristics of generosity, youth, friendliness, optimism, prosperity and promise for the future, sentiments that permeated his book.33
Jean's articles are also significant for revealing a sense of botanical belonging and harmony with the local environment. They reflect Jean's family history, settlement history and sense of place. Jean was the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of selectors who had come to Tyers in the 1870s to establish a farm in the foothills of the Baw Baws, on slopes covered with peppermint, manna gum, and red and yellow box that stretched down to the Latrobe River.34 The Tyers landscape that she knew fifty years after her family arrived was cleared farmland, bordered by roads that were fringed with remnant vegetation of the pre-selection days. Her articles reveal how, as a young woman, she sought to bring the bush to her garden at Tyers, and re-introduce the trees, plants and flowers that her family had cleared.
Australian garden historians have written of the significance of memory in the gardens planted by early settlers. Through filling their gardens with the familiar plants
of the homes they had left, memories of Britain and ‘home’ were perpetuated, and the ‘unfamiliar was made familiar’.35 For Jean Galbraith, a settler Australian who was gardening in the 1920s and felt at home in the Australian bush, the familiar was the Australian bush. While her garden, too, was a garden of memories, it perpetuated memories of the Australian bush.
‘Have we not learned’, she asked her readers, ‘that the glory of the garden is not alone of scent and beauty before our eyes, but also of memories and associations that cannot be numbered?’36 She explained what she meant by a garden of memories, writing of a woolly pomaderris in her garden that came from a nearby riverside. ‘We look at it and remember the mingled “sound and radiance” of the water, the hills, calm and green, folded endlessly one upon another, the Pomaderris itself a creamy golden cloud that rested in the valley … we hoped to keep that beauty near us’. She spoke of a sheoak that she could see from a window in the house and ‘each year we remember a hill where its companions grow, a stony hill netted with the regal loveliness of Purple Coral Pea circled with Bursaria, blossoming now above the stream it loves, and crowned with Sheoaks like dark spires of pines’. A silky hakea in the garden takes her back to a day spent scrambling down Hakea Hill to a golden carpet of guinea flower, and looking over a cliff to a creek almost lost in ferns, pinkeye and golden bush peas. She doesn't just recall the occasions; the plants help her to relive them.

‘Second Best Work’?

‘Australian Native Flowers’ continued from February 1926 to October 1935. But five years into writing the series, Jean began to worry that her work was becoming stale and sounding repetitive. She felt it could only be revitalised by exploring new regions – especially botanising in the Mallee and Alpine areas – but because of the depression and the need for strict economy in the Galbraith household, this was not possible. She wrote to Boardman to tell him she wouldn't continue with the articles. This was not an easy decision to make as she greatly enjoyed writing them, but she feared the standard was dropping and did not want to produce ‘second best work’.37 Boardman encouraged her to continue and suggested ideas for new articles with more emphasis on cultivation advice and that veered towards the more conventional forms of gardening articles. She adopted some of his suggestions and at times produced more standard gardening articles, but at the same time, another significant feature of ‘Australian Native Flowers’ emerged: an increasingly strong conservation message was becoming evident in the series.
One of these articles was ‘The River's Tragedy’, an outcrying from Jean over the destruction of the Tyers River. In common with many nature writers who give voice to the natural world, she told the story from the river's perspective, a river made vulnerable when its catchment was cleared and the trees and scrub that protected its banks in the lower reaches were ringbarked and burnt. The river knew these clearing practices would
cause devastating erosion during a flood: ‘Don't you know that with unclothed banks I must work my own destruction, washing away, scouring out?’ the river asked. Its warning was ignored. A quick succession of floods scoured the banks, destroyed fences and bridges and inundated houses. The river was choked with debris. Jean described the implications of the farmers’ short-term greed:
For beauty there was desolation, for fruitfulness barren sand, for riches poverty. The water catchments were denuded to make men rich, the lowland banks were cleared for little gain, and the result filled the valley with fear.38
In October 1935, the final article in ‘Australian Native Flowers’ appeared in the Australian Garden Lover. For the last time in the series, Jean took her readers into the bush. She crossed the devastated Tyers River, passed the wattles on the lower hills, and stopped along the track that led to the pink and white heath lands. ‘We have come to say goodbye for a time to old paths, for next month we shall begin to tread other ways’, she wrote. After several years of worrying that she was running out of ideas, Jean was now poised to begin a new series of gardening articles, ‘Garden in a Valley’, that would tell the story of her garden. Instead of writing about the bush, the new series would be full of people, ideas and influences. There would be stories of roses and daffodils, of vegetable gardening and rock gardening, of building a bush house and of the delights of the orchard. She ended ‘Australian Native Flowers’ with an invitation: ‘Next month we shall meet in the valley and see how the garden was born’.39


Jean Galbraith wrote three more series for the Australian Garden Lover: ‘Garden in a Valley’, ‘Two – and a Garden’ and ‘From Day to Day in the Garden’. While these series produced three books, her earliest writing, ‘Australian Native Flowers’, is now mostly forgotten. As a significant contribution to Australian nature writing, the series merits rediscovery. ‘Correa’, a young woman from Gippsland, helped home gardeners in the 1920s and 1930s to imaginatively experience nature, to know the bush and to hear its stories, music and rhythms. Motivated by a desire to show beauty to others and to celebrate God's creation, she wrote differently from her mentors. Influenced by the landscapes and environment that surrounded her, she had a different message to tell.
And today, while the writing may appear overly fervent – Jean herself described some of it as ‘painfully immature’ – ‘Australian Native Flowers’ has lost none of its power to move and seduce.40 We read the articles and go looking for eucalypt blossom to see the cups and caps part to release mists of stamens. We read ‘In a Fold of Hills’ and want to breathe the silver air of a fern gully. We read ‘The Singing Trees’ and want to stand among the sheoaks, listening to their songs of the sea. Eighty years later, Jean Galbraith's articles still have the power to evoke the natural world and bring it to life in the imagination of her readers. Read some and see.


First published in Melbourne 1939, it was reissued by the Five Mile Press in 1985.


Betty Conabere to Esther Wettenhall, 14 February 1990, author's collection. The ‘glove box bibles’ that Galbraith wrote were Wildflowers of Victoria, Melbourne: Colorgravure Publications, 1950, and Field Guide to Wild Flowers of South East Australia, Sydney: Collins, 1977.


Garden Lover/Australian Garden Lover: a monthly journal devoted to Australian horticulture, February 1926 – October 1935. First published in April 1925, ‘Australian’ was added to its title in April 1926.


See Mark Tredinnick, Place on Earth: an anthology of nature writing from Australia and North America, Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2003; also see Mark Tredinnick, The Land's Wild Music: encounters with Barry Lopez, Peter Mathiessen, Terry Tempest Williams and James Galvin, San Antonio, Texas: Trinity University Press, 2005.


See Meredith Fletcher, ‘“Exotic” Natives: Field Naturalists’ Club of Victoria Wildflower Shows’, Victorian Historical Journal, May 2008, pp 93–106; ‘Exhibition of Wild-Flowers’, Victorian Naturalist, November, 1925; John Nicholls, ‘Two Gippsland Naturalists’, Gippsland Heritage Journal, no 1, 1986, pp. 33–37.


Ralph Boardman to Jean Galbraith, 10 December 1925, box 3463/8, Jean Galbraith Papers, MS 12637, Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria. All box numbers cited hereafter are in the Jean Galbraith Papers.


Ralph Boardman to Jean Galbraith, 31 December 1925, box 3461/1.


Jean had copies of Macdonald's Gum Bough and Wattle Bloom and Barrett's In Australian Wilds when she was fourteen. Her books are held in the Ian Hyndman Collection, Beechworth.


See, for example, Mary Milner, The Garden, the Grove and the Field and T. Carreras, A Year in the Woodlands, both given to Jean for her thirteenth birthday, Ian Hyndman Collection, Beechworth.


Nature Study Notes, 1920, box 3473/3; Gene Stratton-Porter, Music of the Wild: with reproductions of performers, their instruments and festival halls, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910.


Charles Barrett to Jean Galbraith, 18 August 1923; 17 February 1927, box 3461/1.


Jean Galbraith to John Lothian, 1 July 1927, box 3462/2.


Jean Galbraith, ‘Notes on Plants 1919’, box 3473/2.


Jean Galbraith to John Lothian, 9 April 1928, box 3462/3.


Leader, 21 August 1917.


Leader, 13 October 1917.


‘Australian Native Flowers’, Garden Lover, February 1926, p. 581.


See May Gibbs, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1918; also Peter Bernhardt, Wily Violets and Underground Orchids: the revelations of a botanist, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 15–28.


‘In a Fold of Hills’, Australian Garden Lover, January 1927, p. 394.


‘In a Fold of Hills’, p. 395.


‘As the Days of a Tree’, Australian Garden Lover, January 1928, p. 380.


‘The Singing Trees’, Australian Garden Lover, May 1928, pp. 67–8.


These two parks have now been combined to form the Tarra Bulga National Park.


See readers’ letters in the Australian Garden Lover.


Mark Tredinnick, Place on Earth, pp. 31–39.


Tom Griffiths, Hunters and Collectors: the antiquarian imagination in Australia, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 136–141.


Jean Galbraith to John Lothian, 24 May 1931; 25 June 1928, box 3462/3.


‘From Day to Day in the Garden’, Australian Garden Lover, August 1970.


Donald Macdonald to Jean Galbraith, 26 January 1932, box 3463/1.


See Libby Robin, ‘Nationalising Nature: Wattle Days in Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 73, 2002, pp. 13–26.


See ‘Wattle’, Australian Garden Lover, July 1926, pp 148–150.


Australian Garden Lover, January 1926, p. 338.


See T. C. Wollaston, Our Wattles, Melbourne: Lothian Publishing Company, 1916, pp. 12–13, p. 18.


See for example Jean Galbraith, Garden in a Valley, Melbourne: Five Mile Press, 1985, pp. 8–13. See also Ian Hyndman, Andrew and Sarah Galbraith and Family: pioneers of Beechworth and Tyers, Beechworth, Vic.: Bethel Publications, 1997, pp. 43–53.


See Katie Holmes, Susan K. Martin and Kylie Mirmohamadi's summary of this literature in Reading the Garden: the settlement of Australia, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 2008, pp. 26–29.


‘A Garden of Memories’, Australian Garden Lover, February 1927, p. 434.


Jean Galbraith to John Lothian, 27 November 1931, box 3462/3.


‘The River's Tragedy’, Australian Garden Lover, July 1935, pp. 41–2.


‘A Wider Path’ Australian Garden Lover, October 1935, p. 23.


‘From Day to Day in the Garden’, Australian Garden Lover, December 1965.