Back home a week now, and the new neighbours have done their worst with the old garden. It used to be a place where, when i got up on the ladder to pick some of the large yellow peaches that hung over our mutual fence on their tree from next door, i would look over that fence in envy, almost guiltily, admiring the layout, the trees, small lawn, well-placed bushes and the lovely old delapidated shed up the back – next to the chook yard where contented chooks clucked, made eggs and ate the weeds and snails i threw over for their delectation.
Sure, it wasnt a native garden with the stone fruit trees, the lemon, the ornamental grapevine whose leaves covered their back pergola in a ruby red in autumn, and the small rose bush plot, but it was an eden-ish place, green, with dappled light filtering down. and there were one or two native plants, including a rather tall callistemon against the far fence – a red bottlebrush much favoured by the local lorikeets when it was in flower.
A new temporary owner (we knew this as s/he had “tidied” the place up – by cutting down the stone fruit trees, severing the thick-as-your-arm bole of the grapevine, and removing the cascading tree that grew over the front brick fence into our yard providing excellent screening of our front door from the street) had begun the process the year before last. And now, new owners had moved in. E had told us while we were in Finland that they had come and asked whether they could cut down the jasmine that grew in a small packet of ground between our houses – indeed it had climbed up onto their roof, and needed to be cut from their side. we arrived home to find that it had been cut off their house and the rest pushed onto our side – a new job for me to deal with. As well, the bottlebrush tree in the back garden had gone, as well as the remaining rose bushes nearby.
But last week, the sound of chainsaw bade me look outside – to witness a team of men cutting down every remaining tree and bush in their front garden. A long tall narrow palm tree next to their front fence i’d often admired, wishing i could have one in my garden – it would have needed at least 50 years to grow that tall – i’m hoping they uprooted it and sold it to someone – a madagascan grass tree, also tall and a favourite lurking place for birds in the evening, it often dropped its old leaves into our front yard, and three other small trees whose identity i can no longer remember. what is left is bare brick wall, which we can easily see now from our front yard, and over that into the street and the other houses beyond.
P has an idea of leaving a note in their mailbox. it would read something like, “we notice that vandals have come and cut down all the trees and plants in your yard and we are sorry that you have had such a welcome to our street where we pride ourselves on our gardens and street trees. we have decided to conduct a lamington drive in order to raise money to purchase some replacement plants for you.”.
as for me, i wanted to light a candle in their front yard, to help with my mourning for the loss of my neighbourhood friends, the graceful trees next door.
next door’s front brick wall from our front door, taken in 2007 after the first owner had tidied up their garden…
the same view from our front door today…
It was too much when they also cut down the lemon tree – still hanging over our fence behind the house – who, after having survived those ten days of over 45 degree heat last summer, and so little water for the past three years, was just then putting out new purple sprouts…when they fed its body into the mulcher in the front street, i could smell the citrus in the air as i stood at the back door… i couldnt help it – i burst into tears.
It may be a factor that people do not value the space for plants that they have in a country with so much open space, and traditionally having houses with a backyard. It may be a fear that they cannot control nature in a country so alien from that of Europe. When they look over our fence into our backyard, they probably think we are mad…. but of course, from my point of view….