Wednesday, 8 August 2007

in which Christian obsesses some more about the House Beautiful

There is a garden down the street on the way to the train station which I have developed a nasty bundle of feelings about. Basically it looks really, really good. Maybe too good. It's very obviously been designed, laid out, planted and cultivated at great expense by someone with taste, knowledge, restraint, money, nerve, and absolutely no susceptibility to freak whims or passing fancies. They have one really magnificent and huge redgum, a single young and pretty silver birch, and basically the rest of it is big mossy rocks, weathered ti-tree mulch, and big clumps and drifts of yellow and bronze cordylines, windmill grass, silvery foliaged yellow everlasting daisies and gazanias, and dotted all over are these fluffy little tufts of acacia called "Limelight" which look exactly like lime green vegetable versions of Dougal from The Magic Roundabout. Like a total fashion victim I have already acquired some baby ones of these although deep down I know perfectly well that A) three is not enough to make a Statement and mine will only look like the other lame copycat garden in the street, where they stuck two in next to the overgrown hebes and grevilleas that have sat there undisturbed since 1976; and B) even if I went back to the market next week and bought a shitload more, I'd still just be imitating the people down the street. And everyone would know it. C) Also, these sorts of plants, in our time, are pretty much what miniature box hedges and standard iceberg roses were to the 1980s & mondo grass and sacred bamboo was to the 1990s. I.e. a massive cliche. (Apologies to anybody reading this who has a mondo grassed garden. You know yours is the exception.) I know this but I can't help wanting to plant a whole squad of expensive, stunted and fluffy lime green trees. They're just so cute.

I do think the basic principle of picking a theme and sticking with it is a good idea, especially if you are not a very good gardener and probably can't manipulate your many different plants into some sort of natural harmony. To this end, along with the acacias in the back yard there are some pots of orangey-flowering plants acclimatising to local conditions before being introduced to their new places of residence. To be honest, the theme at present is a bit narrower than just orangeyish blooms: it is orangeyish Aussie blooms with unsuitably suggestive names. So far I have Red Hairy Erica; Cockies Tongues; banksia seminuda; and if the rose growers can supply them, I'm going to order a bunch of bare-rooted Ian Thorpes, which are a lovely butch shade of fake tan.

But really, even thinking along these lines is deluded, because the front yard is dominated by a fat, dirty, smelly, inelegantly squat Italian cypress which is ugly from the street but looks even more horrible from the house because it is all dead on the back. The tree is more appropriate to a gloomy unvisited boneyard or an Arnold Böcklin painting than to the view from my bedroom window. It doesn't even succeed in screening out our sightlines straight into the lives of the bogans who live over the road.

I won't lie. I want to cut this tree down (well, I want to cause it to be cut down by someone else) and in its place put something less funereal, more Australian, and which won't cast a thick shade over three-quarters of the yard for three-quarters of the day. But, the dead back branches aside, the tree is healthy and mature, and in this municipality they don't really like it when you take away trees. In fact they make it really difficult for people to do this, and the suburb is undoubtedly much nicer because of that. So the hassle factor is offputting. But on the other hand, bugger it. It's my place, and it's not as if I want to concrete the whole garden over, I just want to grow a different kind of tree in it.

24 comments:

Mindy said...

If people don't realise that the theme for your streetside garden is 'The Magic Roundabout' then that is their lack of imagination, or something. Think of a good excuse and stick to it. Besides it's not like the people down the road have a monopoly on bright green dougals.

Another Outspoken Female said...

Remove the cypress tree asap. In the middle of the night if need be. If anyone hassles you just say the drought killed it.

If you don't want to be a copycat, put the magic roundabout in the rear garden, out of view from the street.

Personally I'm hoping green concrete comes back in vogue for my little patch of land by the front door. It would be a lot easier to maintain and would stop my neighbour from weeding it in front of me as a statement about lack of care as she does at the moment!

Bernice said...

1. Go to hardware
2. Try to buy copper nails
3. Go to 12 other hardwares before finding one with copper nails
4. Send Dorian with torch & small hammer into cypress in the middle of the night
5. Get Dorian to tap in as many copper nails as possible before he falls out of the tree
6. Wait for tree to die
7. Some months later, gain permission from suspicious but unable to prove anything local council to remove dead tree
8. Do not replace with Pinus radiata
9. Rejoice in light filled house & front garden

Ampersand Duck said...

Wow, Bernice got there just before me on that one. No wonder we like each other! What she said, ahem.

A few years ago I decided to have a purple and white garden but then I didn't factor in my total disinterest in gardening at any other time than Spring. so my garden looks quite nice in Spring but nothing in every other season.

Your idea of orange Australiana (with highlights of lime green) sounds practical and CHOICE.

Zoe said...

LOCAL ARTISTS IN TREE SLAUGHTER SHOCK!

lucy tartan said...

Yes I'm going to have to delete this whole series of comments.

Having second thoughts about orange, too.

Bernice said...

No - I think this is the moment to start the Death to Conifers campaign. Other than as a prop for a Monty Python skit, they have no reason to exist other than in northern climes with lots of snow, arctic foxes & reindeer. & occasional sightings of k d lang rolling around in the snow.
Onward copper nailers......

lucy tartan said...

What's the verdict on Wollemi pines? (Other than the fact that they're not millions of years old after all)

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Harry Clarke the Blogging Howard Disciple grows Wollemi pines and lives out your way (ish)

R.H. said...

I had lots of trouble with weeds, including onion grass, and eventually noticed that none grew around the base of my huge cypress. Only after about two years of raking up and throwing away bags of the fallen dried foliage from that area did I realise that it was preventing the weed growth. And so I'm using it now as a mulch, and it's marvellous, taking ages to break down. It looks good too, much better than wood chips, ect. Well I don't like seeing trees chopped down at all, but I guess yours probably has to go. If it were mine I might shorten it a bit and put lights in it at Christmas. But then I know you're not as strange as I am, not quite. Anyway I apologise for being up so late but I fell asleep about nine o'clock and woke up at one. And it's very quiet here now, west gate bridge slumbering, all it's regulars home hours ago to Hoppers Crossing and Point Cook. Very quiet there too, but always active; plasma TV and interest rates. Same tomorrow.

-Robert.

R.H. said...

You won't talk to me, ever -which shows enormous class.

-Robert.
PhD. Vassar.

Bernice said...

Excuse me - wollemi p-i-n-e - that would be a CONIFER. I think not. Besides they seem prone to some interesting rust diseases. I like the idea of a grove of Eucalyptus caesia with Thryptomene in drifts beneath - a homage to Edna Walling.

alexis said...

Am thinking of naming my first-born 'Conifer'. But as my first-born remains entirely hypothetical, that's no reason for you to keep yours.

Meredith said...

What RH said... I think cutting its top off could work. You could trim the rest so it lets in more light... at least you could try that and if it's no good you could get rid of it. It's always sad to kill a tree.

Anonymous said...

Try the West Coast solution: allege to the council that a branch might fall on some hapless passerby and mutter darkly about insurance.

Works much better if said branch is across the street.

They can go into such a tizzy they will send people down to slaughter it themselves.

- barista

Mindy said...

Bazlotto! I agree, try pruning. At best the tree will look better, at worst it might die (shame that).

Anonymous said...

You need to add a step, to replace step 8
"remove copper nails first, to avoid killing tree surgeon / self"

CIBalcony

Bernice said...

Arhh but no the beauty of copper nails is that they are so soft, a chain saw will happily cut right through them without in any way endangering the user. Sneaky eyh?

R.H. said...

Sneaky yes, but all poisoners are sneaky.

Well since coming out of the closet as a Peeping Tom I feel right in judging ALL SHAMEFUL ACTIVITIES! One of the worst was on my rounds one night when I saw a bloke drilling holes in a tree to poison it. He wanted a better view. Yes, well so do I, but I don't rip down the curtains. And sure, peeping isn't highly regarded, but one can still be a nice chap; I put tree slayers just above dirty uncles, with dog poisoners at the bottom.

-RH, of the Odd Hours.

R.H. said...

Bernice has made four comments, and you don't say boo. I'm worried at making three.

Some people get smiles whatever they do, the rest are waiters.

jac said...

There is quite a spate of tree poisonings in my parents' street - they live about halfway down a large hill overlooking water views, and the people lower than them keep trying to sneakily kill the huge pine trees in the reserve further down (as they've grown and are blocking the view). However the trees are also preventing the whole hill from eroding and taking all the houses down the hill in a mudslide.
But I guess they'd have a view for a week or so at least. Probably worth it.

Janet said...

I have a front yard that I'm ludicrously proud of, if I do say so myself. And people do stop and stare, but I'm not sure if always that's because they like it. Still, I reckon you might. It's quite easy and low maintenance. I call it a woodland garden. Mine has silver birch, tea tree, privet hedge, cotoneaster and some other weed trees (which would go if it weren't rented), with underplantings of voilets, ferns and anything else that will grow and spread. And mostly stuff that will self seed or will easily propagate by cuttings. It creates a barrier to the main road we live on, lets light though in winter but is shady and green in summer. Once established, this sort of garden needs almost no extra water, is mulched with fallen leaves and hedge/tree prunings run over with the lawnmower and looks OK slightly unkempt. I'm planning to replicate this sort of garden (with non weed trees and a higher percentage of native plants) when we find a house of our own.

But you would have to loose the cypress. Just an idea. And I wouldn't worry about copycatting, other gardeners would call it "observing what grows well in the area" and would probably nick a cutting if it grew over the fence anyway.

Gees, I've gone on a bit. ahmem. Beware the garden evangelist.

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