Gang-gang. WW1 nurse Annie soldiers on, sick, in educational comic
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Gang-gang. WW1 nurse Annie soldiers on, sick, in educational comic

Like the famous Oscar Wilde character this columnist can resist everything, except temptation, and so today yields to the temptation to run a second page from the dashing new digital science-education comic The Invisible War.

As reported in Wednesday's highly-infectious column, The Invisible War is a science-education lesson (aimed especially at children of years eight to 10) but a lesson told, dramatically, accessibly, through the story of literally gut-wrenching experiences of Annie, a WW1 nurse.

Lisa Molvig's tapestry-woven Canberra centenary Correas.

Lisa Molvig's tapestry-woven Canberra centenary Correas.Credit:Lisa Molvig

Annie, at the front and selflessly nursing a soldier with a virile form of dysentery, becomes infected with the very same, very deadly bug. In today's column's page from the comic we find our heroine beginning to succumb to this horror. Later in the saga we go inside Annie's tormented gut and see, graphically, in that "exploding wasteland" the usually invisible war going on there between evil killer microbes and the good, health-preserving microbes. Scientists have only recently detected the latter where they dwell in the mucus that lubricates our mouths, noses, intestines and vaginas.

Of course it might otherwise be quite difficult to excite today's school students with a discussion of the vital importance of mucus but done in this way, with Ailsa Wild's story (done in consultation with an eminent microbiologist) and with Ben Hutchings' explicit illustrations, the whole thing comes virulently alive.

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Herone Annie's tummy begins to erupt in <i>The Invisible War</i>.

Herone Annie's tummy begins to erupt in The Invisible War. Credit:Ben Hutchings

As we gushed on Wednesday this dashing comic has lots going for it, including the way in which it looks at the Great War (a horror on all thinking minds at the moment, during that war's centenary) through a woman's eyes. And Annie may be the first heroine in literature ever to openly suffer from diarrhoea, an affliction that besets all of mankind at some time or other. Certainly none of Jane Austen's women ever have to gallop to the lavatory the way Annie has to in today's column's page from The Invisible War.

The educational digital comic by the small Melbourne art-science collaborative Scale Fee Network comes with a wealth of information about the Great War and especially about the exciting science of our guts. It is available free of charge to all teachers. To begin to access it pedagogues should go online to theinvisiblewar.com.au. Scale Free has had fabulous success with a crowdfunding campaign and so we can look forward to the publishing in June of a hard copy book version of The Invisible War. Who will play the sometimes volcano-bowelled Annie in the inevitable major motion picture?

And yielding to yet another temptation, the desire to do our patriotic duty to encourage people to garden with Australian native plants, we bring you today's lovely image of these handcrafted, woven Correas. We alert you too to some pro-native Canberra Tree Week events.

Readers will remember how the native shrub Correa "Canberra Bells" was our 2013 centenary flower. These super tapestry woven versions of that centenary Correa are by Lisa Molvig of the Canberra Spinners and Weavers. That august society (it is almost 50 years old) is soon to stage Swathe, its Autumn display and sale of the Canberra Spinners And Weavers. Swathe is at the home "Kurrajong," corner of Angas and Sherbrooke streets in Ainslie, from 10am to 4pm from Friday 13 May to Sunday 15 May. Lisa Molvig will be one of several deft spinners and weavers demonstrating their art during Swathe.

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Those of you prompted during 2013 to actually buy Correa 'Canberra Bells' now have gardens blessed with a celebrity shrub of great bird-attracting beauty. But, alas, out of ignorance many Australian gardeners still never plant anything of our flora but plug away with bird-repelling exotics.

But gardeners in search of enlightenment have opportunities during next week's Tree Week to overcome these unAustralian horticultural phobias (the latter including the superstition that Australian tree are "widowmaker" assassins that throw branches at us).

The Australian National Botanic Gardens urges "Go native this Canberra Tree Week and learn how to make smart native tree selections for your backyard … Home gardeners will find our public workshop Buy Smart, Plant Smart: ensuring success for your native trees, a great introduction to a range of Australian tree species for their backyard or small acreages."

Yes, part of the horror surrounding Australian trees comes from naive gardeners buying species that aspire to be towering giants and quickly become unmanageable backyard Goliaths. But there are many species, sold in responsible nurseries, that will remain manageably petite.

Event manager Jennifer Salkeld says that "If you would you like to create a successful native garden but don't know where to start, or perhaps you already have a native garden but are keen to attract more birds then this workshop is ideal."

The two-hour Buy Smart, Plant Smart workshops are on Wednesday 4 May and on Saturday 7 May at 2pm. The cost of $25 ($15 full-time students) is well worth it because when I come to power my government will heavily fine gardeners who have no natives in their gardens.

Book for the workshop at nationalbotanicgardens.gov.au/gardens/whatson.

And haunting plant nurseries your columnist continues to hear (and heard it again on Thursday) label-reading shoppers discussing "prostate" plant species. What can this mean? Are these medicinal plants? If a man chews the leaves of a "prostate grevillea" will this assist the health of this troublesome, maverick gland?

Ian Warden is a columnist for The Canberra Times

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