Behind the Book with Cheralyn Darcey
This week I'm honoured to bring you the beautiful soul that is Cheralyn Darcey
Liz - You have such a passion for gardening. When did this love start for you?
Cheralyn - I did grow up in a gardening family. My grandfather was a golf pro with a passion for roses and decorative gardening and his daughter, my mum, is an amazing cook and can grow just about anything edible you can imagine.
Liz - You’re a gardening columnist for The Central Coast Newspaper – what do you enjoy most about your column?
Cheralyn - There is no better feeling that hearing the feedback from people who gain some sort of assistance or inspiration from your skills. What’s the use of developing a passion and becoming experienced if you keep that knowledge in four walls?
Liz - What’s it like working as both a producer and a presenter for your gardening show on Coast FM 963 Gosford?
Cheralyn - There was no gardening column available in any Central Coast of NSW Newspaper or local gardening radio show. The Radio show came first, in April 2020, after I had been a frequent Gardening show guest throughout Australia and the world on mainstream radio and tv specialising in Ethnobotany, the meanings, powers and the use of plants. I’m the producer of my show, which involves about a five-hour workday during the week at the station to develop the two-hour live show on a Saturday morning. I didn’t plan to go into production but because I’m the gardener, I need to be. If you don’t know gardening intimately, then it would be hard to produce the show, to understand the subtle layers such a show requires. I credit the success of our show to a dynamic radio station with high quality industry professionals and my input at the production level.
Liz - Where would you like to see these avenues take you in coming years?
Cheralyn - Things have been happening very quickly after years of a very slow start. No one was
interested in my work, which began decades ago, exploring the connection between plants. Only seven years ago I had my first title published after years of rejections and now, as of early 2021, I have eighteen titles published internationally. I was constantly told the subject wasn’t of general interest.
I became co-host of the only Central Coast Gardening Radio Show in April 2020 after a couple
of producers and presenters at ABC Radio Australia suggested into me for a long time and my Mum gave me a push to give it a go. My station, COASTFM 963 is a large community radio station that operates at a highly professional level. It’s actually larger than a lot of commercial ones I’ve been interviewed in! It was a lot harder to get my foot in the door than I thought, and the learning curve has been
a huge but its exhilarating and incredibly satisfying. I won’t be leaving radio any time soon as
it has given me so much personally and I enjoy it immensely.
Liz - You featured on an episode of Studio Ten where you shared a flower arrangement – is this something you like to do for yourself as well? What are your favourite flowers?
Cheralyn - I have been on many episodes of Studio Ten as a gardening expert and in the episode you are referring to, I created a bouquet for Valentine’s Day as well as sharing the history of plants and flower and the powers that people throughout history have attributed to them. I am a qualified Florist and Horticulturalist and yes, I do create floral arrangements for myself and friends. My favourite flowers are Lisiantus, Sunflowers and Roses.
Liz - Can you tell us about SWAMP? (Sustainable Wetlands Agriculture Makers Project)
Cheralyn - You can’t be in the conversation of gardening and what it can do for people and what we can do for our plants unless you are actually in the game. I have worked as a hands-on volunteer for environmental organisations and community gardens for decades and SWAMP is pretty much the culmination of all of these experiences in one big project to hopefully help a lot of people become more aligned with gardening and the earth.
At SWAMP we are creating a community garden and urban farm training centre right in the geographical centre of the NSW Central Coast, upon what was the Old Pioneer Dairy site on the Central Coast Wetlands. Planning began late in 2020 and we broke ground late January 2021. I am the Gardening Curator of the project and that involves creating the garden design, planning the plantings and maintenance, training of gardeners and botanical history
Liz - Are there plans to expand this project?
Cheralyn - Yes and that has already begun as others have quickly gravitated to the site. We already have a weekly Playgroup running right in the middle of the growing community garden. We have been approached by nearby community initiatives and now facilitate gardening training onsite for Youth Connections, a local program providing training opportunities for the young and vulnerable. The Glen, a local men’s rehabilitation centre, has also formed a relationship with us and we are providing similar garden programs.
We see SWAMP as being the garden heart of our region. A place to rebuild the village as it were and we are already in the process of creating arts and music projects, more educational outreach projects and fairly soon leased gardens that individuals and surrounding restaurants and cafes can secure. We are also working on an online and onsite community garden training facility that may inspire and support others in Australia and perhaps the world may find beneficial.
Liz - You also have an impressive art career spanning over 30 years. Is nature your favourite inspiration?
Cheralyn - That’s an easy question, Absolutely! I find that I lose myself in the study of line and form, colour and texture and the light while I explore nature.My work is the way I try to interpret the language of plants into something I can share with others.
Liz - I love that you use waste to art mediums. What are some of your favourite items to use in your artwork?
Cheralyn - Rusty painted objects that I find and are somewhat indefinable. I adore making up some sort of story around the found object while I create the sculpture.
Liz - Can you tell us about Flora Flower?
Cheralyn - I was going through a bit of a tough time in 2014 and because I never really saw myself as an entity on social media, I drew Flora Flower as someone who was in a way me but a plant experiencing the world. There have been a few publishers who have approached me to use her in books and even decks but I have a vision for her that has naturally developed over the years and I’m pretty sure I’ve found the right place for her.
Liz - I absolutely love your Florasphere blog – can you tell us about what types of fantastic information readers would find there?
Cheralyn - I don’t manufacture anything at all for an audience and that includes my blog. Florasphere has been going for about fifteen years now simply put, it is my online journal. Not very tidy all the time either so be warned! You will find audio, video, drawings, artworks, notes, researching and all plant based. I guess it’s my online gardening journal.
Liz - How do you explain the connection between people and plants and the way plants communicate?
Cheralyn - People are naturally animal-focused because, we are after all we are animals. This leads to us being more accepting of communication between us and other animals, accepting of possible spiritual and esoteric connections and of us being more open to interpretation of our experiences with animals. When it comes to plants, they are part of the sum total of life on this planet and they, like other animals are busy ‘doing their thing’. I would argue that because they do not have arms and legs that they actually need a closer relationship with us, animals, birds and insects as they have the ability to move and disperse their seed and to assist them in pollination. They also need protection from the elements and from creatures that may do them harm. Their communication methods are their scents, appearance and usefulness and I believe in the way a plant’s energy makes us feel. The way it can change our emotions will attract us to it. If a plant has worth to us on any of those levels, we will assist it, even unknowingly, in its survival and its procreation.
Liz - You also enjoy Botanical Exploration and History—what are your favourite elements of these interests and who are your idols?
Cheralyn - Ah yes, I am a bit of a Botany and Botanical History nerd. When you have a true passion in life, you just know and it changes you in ways that others can see, and you feel in every cell of your body. There are no doubts and there is no ‘straying off the path’. I know how I feel, and I know I could never trade in or trade up on my passion. It is me, not a part of me but it is me, who I am.
When you see or feel that in another person, the feeling of ‘finding your people’ is sublime. There is not competition or feelings of inadequacy or worry, you are home. I adore Botanical History in the same way anyone would enjoy the history of their interests because I can feel that same flame of understanding and fascination burning in those who have gone before me.
The observances of those in the past and how they are drawn to describe plant life in their art, writing, gardens and uses hold so many clues as well and these are all like archeological digs to me as I work to find things we have cover over with our modern life.
I adore the stories of women who have found themselves in strange new lands while accompanying their husbands or families and instead of sitting around waiting for society to entertain them or to run around entertaining society, have become citizen scientists. I have no time for people without substance whether they live today or have done so in the past.
It is an interesting fact that many of history’s great botanists depended upon colonial women around the world to collect samples, draw and paint images and to write research notes about plants in their areas. From there work botanists would create their gardens and scientific works. That’s not to say that that there weren’t women out there doing it for themselves because there were many.
The list of those who inspire me is incredibly long, but my short list is:
Ellis Rowan (1848 - 1922) and why this amazing woman has not had dozens of movies made about her extraordinary life, I do not know. She should be a household name! An Australia artists and subsequently self-trained naturalist and journalist married a British army officer and kept herself busy painting mostly plants but also insects and birds wherever they were stationed. There are so many inspiring facts to this woman life but I particularly love that she went to Papua New Guinea, on her own with only local guides to paint and document her naturalist subjects and to search for endangered Birds of Paradise.
Jeanne Baret (1740 - 1807), a French botanist who dressed as a man in order to successfully secure a position as her mentor’s and many believe lover’s ‘male’ assistant upon a French government exploration vessel. She is credited with joint botanical discoveries and was the first woman to circumnavigate the world.
Robin Wall Kimmerer (1953) is a scientist and author writes blending science with indigenous wisdom and immersive prose that no one could fail to learn from or be inspired by. She makes botany sing.
That’s three but on the list is so long!
Liz - One of your publications, 1,000 Flowers and Their Meanings, is fascinating. How did you come to write this, and how did you research it?
Cheralyn - It was truly the book I could not find. An expanded pocket reference book of the powers, energies and meanings of flowers. I wanted as many flowers as possible across a broad range of geographic locations of origins and families so that even of I could not include all plants (which would be almost impossible in book form), I could at least at least share guideposts to explorations of plants.
I wanted a cross reference, a sort of plant language translation book that included the names of the flowers listed and then their attributed meanings in front and then a reverse dictionary in the back with meanings listed first. I crafted the book from decades of my own notes but took about ten years to actually write. It’s not the laying down of words it’s the research behind each and every entry.
Liz - Your new Green Witch Oracle Cards are stunning! How long did they take to put together? Do you have a favourite card?
Cheralyn - It is hard for me to say how long anything published of mine took to put together or write as all of my work comes from my research. The notes, the sketches and my explorations. I pitched the deck in 2013 and was finally given a green light in 2018. From that point on it took me two years to get it together. I work alone and all research and writing is my own. I also do what I write about and gardening and botanical research is incredibly, but delightfully times consuming. I can’t pick a favourite in any deck I create as a completed deck is a balanced tool. You need them all!
Liz - You’ve certainly hit the ground running in 2021! How is the year ahead looking for you so far?
Cheralyn - Last year was I suppose a more viable year for me because gardening has all of a sudden surged in popularity. I spent decades knocking on doors, trying to get work published, trying to hold workshops and so on but was always told that my brand of gardening, Ethnobotany, was not of interest, Not in the mainstream or weirdly not even in the Spiritual arena.
Now, my in-depth passionate talks and work in this field are of immense interest as the world is waking up to the fact that there is a Plant Kingdom that we share the planet with and it needs us and we need it.
This year, apart from what is visible to the public eye, I am working with two important environmental causes that need support, I have another publication coming out later in the year, I am working on a documentary with a talented team, and I am the contributor to a few mainstream gardening books and a botanical history book. I’m also writing my children’s book series that I hope to see published in 2022.
Liz - Where can people follow you and your work?
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