At this time of year, the backyards of Mosman are filled with frangipanis—those glorious, tropical looking bushes and trees with blossoms and a perfume that immediately transports me to a tropical island. Think Paul Gauguin and his pictures of dusky maidens with frangipanis tucked behind their ears.
I love frangipani blossoms and find myself collecting fallen ones from the pavement to float in bowls around the house. Elle Decor, eat your heart out. I can highly recommend floating frangipanis juxtaposed against piles of unsorted wash and a sleeping dog having an illicit nap on the sofa as a very good look for a house.
However my attraction towards frangipanis is tinged with a certain amount of bitterness. I have had two attempts at establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with a frangipani—gave it room to grow, gave it love, and gave it nourishment—though admittedly the latter was of the remains of cold cups of tea and coffee variety and the result has been Catriona: nil and Frangipanis: two in terms of a battle to the death.
Frangipanis are not my only failure. The mini-orchard I bought at Christmas, in an attempt to create the air of an expensive resort hotel within the family bathroom, was looking decidedly sad by New Year and is now an interesting stick with a pair of sickly looking leaves attached.
One of the downsides of frangipanis, aside from their strange fragility under my tender care, is that when not in leaf and bloom, they revert to looking like a bunch of dead fingers protruding from the earth. Protruding is a good word in this context, as these are tuber, sausage-like fingers—not delicate, stick-like digits.
I am, however, not one to shirk from the challenge, and acting on the assumption of third time’s the charm, I have bought myself a beautiful pink frangipani in a large pot. Keen to maintain its interest in life, I leant it to a friend for her leaving party on day one. An active social life obviously agrees with the thing, as a month later, it is still blooming away and is even producing new blossoms. Percy Thrower (and the current BBC Radio Four team) move over—there’s a new contender in the running for “Gardeners’ Question Time.”