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My Garden
'My Garden'  photo
Photo courtesy of Smtysm
  Listing last updated on 17 Jul 2024.
I am a renter. I lived for 25 years in an old house with a garden that had been neglected for 70 years. The clay soil was compacted and nutrient-depleted. I brought in countless tons of manure by the trailerloads, and mulch and, in keeping with what was already there (castanospermum australae, hibiscus in the back and a fir tree and a liquidamber in the front) planted a sub-tropical garden in the back and a cottage garden in the front.

The owner sold the house and I had to leave. Various people, including the buyers, came to explore and scruntinise the home I'd lived in for a quarter of a century. From the living room I greeted them and we mutually agreed to pretend the situation wasn't insane. Surveyors intruded with clipboards and tape measures to document and locate, they said, extant plants. I made them a plan drawing and list of every sizeable plant. The bulldozers razed the lot. Gone, Adelaide d'Orleans in the fir tree- translucent petals and pink buds an incredible sight against the glaucous fir foliage, backlit by the afternoon sun-, Lorraine Lee climbing against the house, the stately liquidamber, the tall Castanospermum with its Dr Seuss branch pattern and spectacular sprays of yellow-orange leguminous flowers. Gone, the big Hawaiian hibiscus that had been absolute glory for months every year- just covered all over with those great open white flowers with luminous crimson stamens. All the Cannas in curving beds, a philodendron that I'd rescued- it filled a van, from a renovation- that grew rampant, glossy and healthy among ferns in the shady bottom corner. Gone the white banksia rose I'd put in that covered the whole length of the garage, that filled the air with the scent of violets each spring. Glorious. Gone rosa filipes Kiftsgate, no match for the big privet, but who I baracked for and encouraged by all possible means.

Worst of all though were the losses of all the small creatures. The street was one street up from another that ran next to what had been a creek before 'civilisation' filled it in and relegated the water to a drainage pipe underneath. It was a little moister there than further up in elevation, and along that street, in the denser and wilder shrubberies could be heard tiny sweet chirpings at night in the warmer months. After years of wondering, they were understood to be katydids. The sound of their calls was entrancing, so quiet and delicate and intimate, heard in peaceful late night strolls. But my street and garden didn't have these calls- until my garden grew into a place that they could feel at home in, and they crossed the road and traversed the intervening gardens and came to mine to live. I was overjoyed by that. You could sit outside on warm nights and listen to this magical sound. In sunlight, I used to love to watch the silvereyes and thornbills that enjoyed the hibiscus. There were green skinks behind the compost bays and flying foxes hung in the pittosporum in summer. Possums loved the liquidamber. Mice, too, under an old pile of lumber someone left along the bottom fence that eventually dissolved and was processed by worms. Worms in the compost in teeming thousands, and in all the beds.

Earth-moving machinery came and killed it all. They shake shovelfuls to sift out debris once the buildings have been demolished- you can hear the crashing and grinding for miles around. It's the music of Melbourne's 'progress', the city with the highest rate of development in the world, I think I heard somewhere. Somewhere among all that debri and the pulverised cannas and ferns and ginger and taros I'd nurtured, Nana's old secateurs that I'd misplaced in the leaf litter and that even metal detectors had been unable to relocate. Everything living there crushed and smashed to pulp so that the new owners could build one of those huge stupid boxes of articifial materials full of chemicals with two stories and extensive decking and totally unnecessary square metrage so that there's hardly any space left for any garden. Whoever now dwells therein will be sick at heart for lack of contact with nature. They'll probably watch it in docos on their giant TV. With their money they levered me out, who have none.
There is now no sound I hate so much as that rending demolition sound; worse even than klaxons with all the historical payload they carry. Worse than crying babies, worse than politicians' voices.

With the help of good people and friends I dug up the citruses and as many of the roses and other plants as I could. Some of the small to medium-sized things got out. It's a shame they have to live their lives in pots, always awaiting the next eviction. Just like me, actually.
I wish for them to be able to stretch out their roots in the cool expansive earth, those roots to be tickled and tended by all the invertebrates, to speak to each other via the micorrhizal earth telegraph, to be home, not to fear, to draw up, to transpire, to put forth, to spread and breathe, in contentment.

Well this is a website for celebrating the beauty of roses. I don't think I've ever come across anything particularly deep or dark, or any very negative emotion here except the odd smattering of sociopolitical irritiation. So here's a first; my disenfranchised grief, my disgust, rage and everlasting sorrow. It has a place; deserves a place, as did all those living things I loved and cared for who lost their lives for human profit. They deserve to be acknowledged, for their little quiet existences to matter to us. We should mourn them. To do so might bring us back to what we try so hard to forget about living in this ball of seething life that we daily despoil.

PS I'm glad I did it. I knew yet didn't know I'd have no choice about losing it all, but I put in the effort anyway. You have to say 'yes' to life. Better to have loved and lost etc.... Building a new garden now, from scratch. Work in progress.

If you see a worm or a snail or a millipede or a pillbug etc stranded on the footpath, save it!
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