Monday 23 September 2019

Magic In The Garden

Maya Linnell grew up in a small country town, climbing towering gum trees and reading her
way through her family's bookshelves before discovering a never-ending supply of novels at
the local library. She found her feet in journalism, working at a rural newspaper before
segueing into public relations and now fiction writing and blogging for Romance Writers
Australia. Wildflower Ridge is her debut novel and gathers inspiration from her rural
upbringing and the small communities she has always lived in and loved. Maya currently
lives in rural Victoria with her husband and three children.

Welcome, Maya!
Gardening is one of my favourite hobbies, and although my love of all things floral has waxed and waned with the many moons of my life, I’ve always found solace in digging and
planting, nurturing and harvesting.

As a child, I remember begging my green-thumbed mother to buy a rose of my own, and when I wasn’t climbing trees, I was eating fruit straight from their heavily-laden limbs. If I
close my eyes, it’s easy to picture myself in the garden as a teenager, tending to a plot directly underneath an old windmill that creaked and whirred in the breeze. Training snow peas to grow up a trellis became a welcome respite from the stress and study pressures of high school, but it wasn’t until I moved out of home and started putting my stamp on gardens of my own that I ever considered myself a green thumb.

I’ll never claim to be an expert gardener - I’ve had bare, ugly patches, weeds and failures in every garden I’ve ever tended – but boy, do I love planting things and watching them grow.

My yard is full of cuttings from friends and family who happily supplied bulbs, seeds and cuttings to help develop the rural property we purchased in 2014. Their donations formed the framework of our home before the concrete house slab was even poured. I often think of these friends as I tend to my irises from Fiona, Marilyn and Lesa, geraniums from Emma and Mum, my very first dahlia bulbs from Mr Ellis and strawberries from my mother’s best friend, Diane. Oh, those sweet strawberries. Each year the plants die off to nothing, their leaves turning crunchy and brown, like poisoned weeds. They return without fail each summer, their juicy, plump blessings reminding me of a very special lady; the most enthusiastic garden I’ve ever known. Diane always sent visitors home with ice-cream
containers full of strawberries, bags of fresh fruit and veggies, as many cuttings as they wanted for their own garden, with a carton or two of eggs for good measure. She passed away two years ago, but I remember her in every strawberry that comes from our patch.

After a busy day, my garden’s tranquillity beckons me, reminding me it’s okay to slow down and take stock. There’s inspiration in every plant that survives our salty coastal winds and thrives in our poor sandy soil, a lesson in resilience in every stubborn weed that spreads like wildfire if given a chance (rocket – I’m looking at you), and a sprinkle of magic in every wrinkly brown tuber that transforms into a magnificent dahlia flower, year in, year out.

Without even realising it, I manage to thread flowers and gardens into my writing. Wildflower Ridge (released June 3 this year with Allen and Unwin) takes its name from a location that’s very special to my main character, Penny, and the McIntyre family. I love the way gardens not only shape memories and moments but bring us busy, highly-technical and fast-paced 21st century people closer to nature.

Just like my own upbringing, my children have grown up watching my husband and I grow all manner of things, helping plant out seedlings, collecting posies of flowers for the kitchen table, picking handfuls of herbs for pizza nights and eating sun-kissed apricots straight from the tree. And I’d like to think that in years to come, they’ll also discover the magic of working outside amongst the birds, the bugs, the plants and the sunshine, and find a hefty dose of happiness and healing with every handful of soil that runs through their fingers.

I love to love… food. Baking is one of my other main hobbies, with my all-time favourites
including chocolate self-saucing pudding, ANZAC biscuits, pavlova and pineapple sponge

I love to laugh… at Friends. The kids have recently discovered my old fav TV show, which
had me in stitches all throughout high school, and still makes me laugh today.

I love to learn… about new authors and other women who go after their dreams without
fear. Being surrounded by inspirational people is uplifting and good for the soul.

How about you? Do you love gardening? What are some of your favourite hobbies?

Wildflower Ridge is available on Booktopia or Angus and Robertson

Follow Maya online
Instagram @maya.linnell.writes 
Facebook  maya.linnell.writes
Twitter @maya_linnell


  1. Hi Maya! What a lovely post! I love to garden, too, and for all the reasons you name. So much of my garden is made up from cuttings friends and family have given us, and it's a joy to sit out there and breathe it all in.

    1. Thanks very much Marilyn, there's definitely something special about those cuttings donated by friends. Thanks for reading and happy gardening!

  2. Hi Maya. I'm really into my garden and have a nice vege patch going plus a mini orchard (all dwarf varieties) and many potted flowers - And a rose of my own ;-) A climbing double delight that my father comes and prunes for me. I love to escape to the garden and see how my garden is thriving - even if the weeds often get the better of me. I also love photography - even though I'm still learning.

    1. Yes Cassandra, weeds seem to grow so much quicker than flowers in my garden too. My Mum has double delight in her garden too, such a pretty rose, and that's great you have a willing pruner. Hope you get a great crop of fruit this summer :-)

  3. Hi Maya. Gorgeous gardens always make me smile and I do enjoy a stroll through them or just sitting and admiring the plants. Will admit to being envious of your talent. My claim to gardening is weeding which, strangely, relaxes me. So maybe one day I can find that green thumb.

    1. Hey Enisa, I'll happily accept any weeding help if you fancy a weekend down in coastal Victoria! Ha! I can't really claim any talent in the gardening arena, it's a lot of good luck and sheer determination most of the time. I highly recommend the Gardening Australia TV show if you want to groom your green thumb!

  4. Hi Maya,
    There is a beautiful garden behind our unit block. The flowers are replaced four times a year. We love walking through it, watching the progress of the plants, and enjoying the beauty nature has to offer.

    1. Hi Sharon, that's great you have a pretty garden nearby to add colour to your world. I love watching other peoples gardens change with the seasons too, you get the enjoyment without the hard yakka!

  5. Hi Maya, I am a hopeless, shove-it-in-and-hope-it-grows gardener, but I love stories about gardens and people who delight in them. I usually delight in other people's gardens! And now you've fired me up with your baking reference. Are you willing to share your recipe for chocolate self-saucing pudding?! Congratulations on your book Wildflower Ridge, it sounds delightful.

    1. Thanks so much Miranda, it's been wonderful having WIldflower Ridge out in the world. I started out as a 'shove it in the ground and hope it grows' gardener too, and it seemed to evolve from there, so there's hope for you yet! I'm always happy to share recipes, I have a microwave and an oven self saucing pudding recipe I can email if you like? There's a contact form on my website, just shoot me a message and I'll email it back to you! x

  6. Hi Maya,
    Thank you for being a guest on the blog this week. I am also a gardener (and have been thrilled to have finally had some rain recently!) and note that you have some great Australian recipes that you like to bake. Congratulations on Wildflower Ridge. I hope it's a great success for you.

    1. Hey Alyssa, thanks for having me! Hooray for rain, it makes such a difference. We're lucky to have steady rainfall here, although I have to pull out the sprinklers in summer time to keep the dahlias, fruit trees, veggies and roses lush. I hope you have a great spring display popping up at your place and thanks for your well wishes with Wildflower Ridge. x

  7. Hi Maya!
    I'm one of those people who manages to kill a cactus :O Gardening, whilst I love it, isn't on my list of things I'm good at - that's for sure. But I do love to bake :) Congratulations again on Wildflower Ridge - it's such a beautiful book.

    1. You are too kind Jayne, thanks very much for inviting me and being such a great supporter of Wildflower Ridge. I can't wait to see Loving Lucas in the hands of readers across the world! And I'm still thinking about that gorgeous ocean themed birthday cake you whipped up - might have to borrow that idea!

  8. Thanks very much for having me, Breathless in the Bush folks!


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