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Book Reviews

A Celebration of Wattle

by Maria Hitchcock

Reviewed by Bill Aitchison

Wattle Day was first celebrated in Australia in 1910, and in the period since then its popularity and observance has been subject to a number of highs and lows.  In this book, which is a substantially revised edition of her earlier book “Wattle” (published in 1991), Maria Hitchcock argues very convincingly that “the time is right for a general and official revival of Wattle Day”.

The book provides a detailed history of the Wattle Day movement and many individual memories of Wattle Day. It also includes a section on the Wattle Day Association which was only founded in 1998.  A very extensive anthology of wattle poetry, wattle stories and wattle songs is included.

There are also a number of very practical sections within the book.  For example, in a chapter headed “Let’s Celebrate Wattle Day”, there are many suggestions for activities that can be undertaken by schools, companies and local businesses and community groups (including groups running wildflower shows).  Another chapter includes practical advice on how to create a garden or nature area featuring wattles (including advice on the planning and design stage, construction, planting out and maintenance).  A further chapter covers the propagation of Acacias from seed.

The book includes brief descriptions and notes on about 130 species of Acacia, these all being illustrated with either colour photographs or marvellous watercolour paintings by botanical artist Kath Alcock (Kath also extensively painted Correas, some of which appear in Maria Hitchcock’s previous book “Correas, Australian Plants for Waterwise Gardens”).  The descriptions and illustrations of the various Acacia species are interspersed throughout the book, but an index enables each species to be easily accessed.  

In his Foreword to the book, Peter Garrett remarks on the history of the wattle and the place it occupies in our national consciousness – and notes that “this and more are to be found in this definitive account”. Certainly, more than history is covered – for example some more recent matters that get a mention in the book are the recent Acacia name change debate, Cadel Evans win in the Tour de France, deep stem planting and even myrtle rust.

Whilst our level of celebration of Wattle Day has had its ups and downs over the last hundred years, one thing that has been a constant over the last 30 years or so has been Maria Hitchcock’s commitment to promotion of this special day and of our association with this genus. Hopefully this book will ensure that the Wattle continues to hold a special place in the heart of all Australians and our history.

Published by Rosenberg Publishing Pty Ltd 2012

304 pages, paperback

RRP $29.95

Book Reviews