by Anne Latreille
Letters by JEAN GALBRAITH,
Drawings by JOAN LAW-SMITH
Just over fifty years ago Jean Galbraith, the noted naturalist, botanist, author and gardener, began corresponding with the aspiring botanical artist, Joan Law-Smith.
Kindred Spirits is the beautiful record of this botanical correspondence, and the friendship that developed between the two. They came from very different backgrounds but were drawn together by their love of plants and nature.
The initial correspondence served to teach Joan Law-Smith the rudiments of botany. Fortnightly from her home in Gippsland in eastern Victoria, Jean Galbraith sent botany lessons and assignments, hand-written on pages torn from a small notepad, to Joan, who lived on the other side of the state. Joan absorbed the lessons, then did the drawings that Jean asked for and posted them back.
Jean’s lessons, and the increasingly competent small drawings Joan did in response, form the kernel of the book. This is set against the background of their lives which spanned the 20th century, the superb gardens they made – ‘Bolobek’ at Macedon and ‘Dunedin’ at Tyers – the books they wrote and their contribution to garden history in Victoria and Australia.
Kindred Spirits evokes the atmosphere of a gentle more leisurely era. A biographical botanical journey, it is a treasure that will be valued by artists, gardeners, historians and botanists alike. It includes some beautiful watercolour drawings by Joan Law-Smith that have not been reproduced before, and fascinating contemporary photographs.
Melbourne journalist Anne Latreille edited the lessons and letters, and wrote the biographical text. Editor of ‘The Age’ gardening page from 1985 to 1997 (to which both Jean and Joan were regular contributors), she now works as a freelance writer and editor.