During eleven years of researching Georgiana’s life, I’ve learned just a little about the topic that became her life’s work but it’s a tiny fraction of what there is to know. Gardeners, horticulturalists and botanists all seem to have their own particular interests and specialisms so it’s always a great pleasure to receive feedback and information from the people who really know about the indigenous flora of the southwest, where Georgiana was collecting and gardening herself. Like her, they devote their own time with great dedication to seed collecting, propagating and promoting the welfare of the incredibly diverse species of the Capes region in southwest Western Australia.

I’m still learning and still being amazed by the plants, trees, funghi and mosses that grow here around my own home, and in the protected rural places like Bush Reserves, even in remnant bushland that’s retained within developed areas like housing. Here are some of the memories I’ve collected along the way.

Acacia extensa (Wiry wattle)

Holding Georgiana’s Acacia extensa specimen, at the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, near London. Records give us the date and place where this was first collected in Western Australia and research reveals the story of its journey through the last 160 years. Touching history.

Georgiana’s first planting?

Transcribing a small note buried among the papers of Georgiana’s father revealed for the first time an event that marked what was probably her earliest planting. She was just three years old and the tree she planted, a Balm of Gilead, was said to have miraculous medicinal properties. Carlisle Archive Centre D KEN 4/13

Anigozanthos manglesii (Red and green kangaroo paw)

The floral emblem of the state of Western Australia, flowering in in our garden.

An 1838 book that Georgiana owned

In 2012, I received this beautiful gift from my husband, Mike: Anigozanthos manglesii a copper line engraving with original hand-colouring, 1838. It’s from the same edition of the book that Captain James Mangles sent to Georgiana. The species was named for his brother, Robert, whose gardener grew on the seeds taken to Britain by James […]

Nuytsia floribunda (West Australian Christmas tree)

These semi-parasitic trees flower in summer in the southwest. Not long before she died Georgiana was still trying desperately to collect the seeds successfully but they ripened so suddenly and burst so fiercely that it seemed an impossible task. She tried laying sheets beneath the trees and tying little wraps around the seed pods. When […]

Kew Herbarium

The herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, near London, where many of Georgiana’s specimens are archived. They had a long journey through the hands of several collectors before being deposited there by the botanist George Bentham in 1854, three years before Georgiana’s husband John Molloy died in Western Australia.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

In 2013, we walked around Kew Botanical Gardens and looked for plantings that were there in 1829 when Georgiana visited. She was staying in London waiting to board the ship to Australia. This twisted old ‘Japanese Pagoda’ tree was planted in 1760 and was on a main pathway in part of the original, much smaller, […]

Kennedia lateritia (the Augusta kennedia)

With Dr Alex George looking at Georgiana’s specimen of the Augusta kennedia at Kew herbarium. Differences in spelling over time (kennedya/kennedia) and changes of name in the past can be confusing, but the current botanical name is now the correct one and recognises the plant’s brick red flowers (Latin: latericius meaning brick)

Small but perfect: Drosera

At first sight, the thin, apparently insignificant stems of tiny, twining Drosera are hard to see among the other plants they use for support. But, when they flower, the petals seem so large for the little stems that they instantly become luxurious beauties and the way they have adapted to become carnivorous is a botanical […]

Eriochilus dilatatus (White bunny orchid) Augusta, 2nd May 2014

These delicate little orchids are always the first to appear in the bush around our home, not long after the first rains of autumn. They would almost certainly have been the first local orchids Georgiana saw after arriving in Augusta. So small they aren’t easy to spot in the undergrowth, but always perfect and a […]