To celebrate the 50th anniversary year of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, they have partnered with the Canberra distillery Underground Spirits to create a botanical gin. It is called "Ad Crescendum", Latin meaning "to grow" and the ingredients feature plants grown in the gardens.
To acknowledge the spirit of the occasion, it seems the perfect time to encourage you to take a spring gin fling to seek out the Australian native plants from all over Australia that are included in the gin.
Visitors to the Gardens may not forage but observing the plants is an inspiration.
Horticulturist Peter Feilen led the collection of seeds, leaves and bark for Underground Spirits' head distiller Dr Toby Angstmann to extract and distill the pure flavours of the gin.
Harvesting was delayed by smoke taint from the summer bushfires and by the January hailstorm which caused damage in the gardens.
First stop is the visitors' centre which has opened again. There are always rangers and volunteer Friends of the Gardens on hand to answer questions.
Have a list of your gin plants in your hand and check out their locations on a map. There are also free pamphlets called "Flower, Fruit and Foliage" themed to the date of your visit.
They are written and illustrated (in colour) and with a detailed track, by friends and Australian plant aficionados Dr Ros Walcott and Dr Ben Walcott. Pop in to the botanical bookshop and, if you are lucky, you might be given a gold 50 years sticker.
After coffee and cake at Pollen cafe take the path to the north where there are plantings in the ground and in a pot of finger lime (Citrus australasica), the caviar-like fruit of which brings zesty citrus to the gin.
Explore the new banksia garden which was completed in July and will be officially opened later in the year. There is a long sandstone dry wall, a pergola with a plexiglass roof engraved with banksia leaves, a sand dune section and a beguiling stony creek.
Plantings of more than 70 taxa of genus banksia by the living collections' staff are arranged in positions to suit their climatic requirements from different parts of Australia. The familiar species from the gin list is banksia ericifolia which brings a honey sweetness to the spirit.
On my jaunt on July 31, there was a diversion to the eucalypt lawn then, via the waterfall, past the wollemi pine and on to a favourite, lemon myrtle (backhousia citriodora). In the rainforest backhousia myrtifolia is your next gin plants for its cinnamon spice, rainforest aniseed (syzygiun anisetum) and Australian white aspen, a bushfood plant also in the gin.
Remaining gin plants are the native raspberry (rubus lanceolata), pepperberry (Tasmannia lanceolata) also grown in Canberra home gardens and used in bush tucker and the yam daisy (microseris lanceolata) which has tuberous roots that can be eaten.
Now it's time to buy the gin from which part of the profits will help support native plant conservation activities by the ANBG. It is available to purchase online from www.undergroundspirits.com and from selected retailers in Canberra.
On a recent visit to Dan Murphy's in Phillip, there was a large blue and white display of dozens of varieties of gin and flowers. My interest was not only sparked by a bottle of "Ad Crescendum".
Happiness comes to gardeners and neighbours when they share and I left lemons at the back door of my neighbour Suz Geelan. She said in an email, "Lemons are my favourite and I'll bring you over a G&T my style tomorrow if you like?" Though I am in my 70s, I had never tasted a G&T and she, much younger, said, "it will be the treat of a lifetime".
So I went to Suz's kitchen to watch her mixing the cocktail. The recipe follows. In Spring, we will be sharing the new taste of "Ad Crescendum".
Suz Geelan's gin and tonic
2.5cm Roku Japanese gin** in bottom of glass
Fresh strawberries sliced, put into the gin
200ml Fever Tree elderflower tonic***
a few cubes of ice
**The Roku Japanese craft gin is made with sakura leaf/flower (cherry blossom), yuzu peel (a seldom seen citrus tree now growing in Canberra), bitter orange peel, sansho pepper, sencha and gyokuro green tea botanicals blended with coriander seed and juniperberry. You can add slices of thin sticks of fresh ginger to the glass instead of strawberries.
*** Fever Tree elderflower tonic water contains an extract of the petals from elderflowers grown in Gloucestershire UK, which are picked at night when the flowers are most fragrant, plus spring water and quinine from the Democratic Republic of Congo.