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Searching for Botanicals with Edith Rewa

Edith Rewa Barrett is an Australian-based Illustrator and Textile Designer, currently living in Tarragindi in Meanjin, Brisbane.

Edith illustrated our beautiful 10th Anniversary Tailored Gin Label with hero botanical elements of mandarin, green tea, and Juniper. Coincidently, at the time, she was on a trip to a mandarin orchard (Ironbark citrus) in Mundubbera, Queensland, where she enjoyed the opportunity to familiarise herself with the fruit. “Drawing from life is my favourite way to start, as I am more naturally excited to spend time illustrating the spirit of the subject in a way that feels natural to me. The textures of the mandarin and the deep green foliage were the starting point for me to develop a colour palette and design, with the blue juniper berries and fresh white tea blossoms sitting against the orange-coloured citrus hues.”

In her neighbourhood, the street plantings are lush and tropical, with tall and colourful trees—frangipanis, poincianas and jacarandas, and she finds inspiration for her work in her daily interactions with nature.

“My favourite big trees growing in my neighbourhood are the majestic and native blue quandong (Elaeocarpus grandis) trees that grow by the creek with dancing white fairy skirt flowers and bright blue fruits. My local bushland space, Toohey Forest, is pretty special. It’s an open eucalypt forest with lots of rocky outcrops, grass trees, wattles, peas, tea trees, spring wildflowers and even powerful owls and koalas!”

On a morning walk to grab a coffee, she peers into neighbourhood gardens, maybe scooping a fallen frangipani flower to tuck behind her ear, and lingering a moment to inhale the scent of Brunfelsia or jasmine wafting through the humid air. She might pass a brush turkey, corella, cockatoo or if she’s lucky, one of her favourite birds, a bush stone curlew.

“There is a really diverse range of special plants growing there if you take the time to look, maybe a bootlace orchid, a forest boronia or the Queensland hakea, depending on the season!”

At Archie Rose, we’ve long experimented with the unique flavours of Australian native botanicals, which are diverse and widely available. “If we were out on a walk around Toohey Forest or Mount Cootha, we might nibble on some midyim berries, they are sweet and slightly spicy and just so exquisitely patterned with purple speckles. We will need to look down to find these; they are white fruiting beacons the size of a fingernail growing on a small sprawling shrub. We could see if any of the birds or wildlife have knocked or nibbled off a Brisbane brush box (Lophostemon confertus) branch, heavy with frilly white flowers. The brush box is a tall tree, so our eyes will need to be looking up, but we could scramble up a rocky outcrop to reach a low-hanging branch or find some freshly fallen below the tree. Or maybe the prickle of a flowering lomandra spike against our calves will beckon us to bend over and smell its somewhat unlikely sweet scent, or our eyes might be caught by the lilac of a native rosemary (Westringia fruticosa).”

The speckled midyim berry (Austromyrtus dulcis), sweet-smelling lomandra flowers, mint bushes (Prostanthera), native river mint (Mentha australis), or lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) are all fairly easy to find and grow, even in urbanised areas on the East Coast of Australia.

Besides collecting small pieces to inspire her illustrations, she loves foraging for fallen beauties on the ground to place in a ceramic vessel by her bedside or on her kitchen table.

Edith’s advice for respectful foraging of Australian native flora is to take only as you need, and ideally only sparsely from fallen branches or things dropped on the ground. “I like to say thank you before I take something and often return things to where they have been found to decompose. This can also be a moment to acknowledge the Traditional lands you are visiting and borrowing from.”