January 23, 2019

Caroline’s Garden Diaries : Australian Frangipani 22.1.13


Change of scene: cut to Australia. I’m in Sydney, it’s summer, it’s hot, and in the gardens there are frangipani, oleanders, jasmine, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and lots more exotic tropical beauties whose names I don’t know. I don’t even know where to begin with naming them as they are so unfamiliar. But there are also roses, geraniums and marigolds, so it’s a strange mixture in the gardens here that rather sums up the whole experience of being in Australia. Our first evening here, just off the plane, we walked up to the shops to buy milk for a cup of tea, a very English thing to do but the night was warm, the insects were loud, there was a strong sweet scent of frangipani, Orion was upside down, and the moon was back to front.

I first got to know frangipani in Brisbane six years ago where it grew everywhere, but I had to look it up in a garden book to find out what it was. Frangipani? I thought it was a sort of cake, or flavouring; no, it’s a small tropical tree. But I have discovered that one theory about its name is that it comes from a French concoction, frangipanier, made from congealed milk, resembling the milky sap of the plant. (The other theory is that it’s named after an Italian, Marquis Frangipani, who created a perfume to scent gloves – essential, don’t you think? – that smelled like the tree.) And to me, the flowers look like a confection made from royal icing for decorating a wedding cake.
When you look closely at a single frangipani flower, it is exquisite; beautifully furled in the bud, the five petals then open out, carefully overlapping, each thick and creamy with a delicately stained egg-yolk yellow centre. There are frangipani of reds and pinks; one flower I found dropped from a tree had a painterly twist of pink on the back of each petal – gorgeous.


  1. Angela Steele says:

    Try and post a picture of the frangipani flower, it’s sounds wonderful. Are they scented?

  2. Anne says:

    Jenny, Anne calling from Sydney, – Remember the Frangipanis!! ?

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