As I write Spring is only 2 weeks away. The mornings and evenings are getting lighter; there are teeny tiny buds on my frangipani tree; a hopeful little pigeon daily struts daily around my garden in full display (although the object of his affection really doesn’t look at all interested), and bright little spots of colour are starting to appear through the winter foliage.
I am actually a little bit excited about my garden this year. This is surprising to me considering my long history of being a totally abysmal gardener. What’s changed? Well—I blame my landlord. Let me explain.
I used to have a monster melaleuca tree in my back yard—a massive tree which took up at least half of the yard and was both beautiful and ugly in equal measure. It was big, old and gnarled and gave great privacy from the neighbours. It threw fabulous shade all summer and deep dark gloom all winter. It dropped sticks and leaves and acorny things all year (and they all ended up in my living room), but it also kept the equally old wooden paling fence upright for much longer than if it had been left to its own devices. It contained a myriad of wildlife—several families of birds and their yearly offspring; but also bugs, beetles and a huge population of shimmery white orb spiders which would constantly freak me out in the evenings when I would find the whole tree laced with webs and dozens of them all out and about having a street party. (Want to know what freaked me out even more? The fact that they all completely vanished without a trace every morning. Shudder.)
Anyway—one day I got a call from the landlord saying that the tree was to be cut down. It took two men nearly three days to climb, cut, hew, hack and haul that tree away and when they had gone I was left with a massive raw stump 6 feet around and 2 feet high, several inches of sawdust covering every inch of the garden and a first class view of the over-the-back-neighbour’s rumpus room. Mmmm. (Luckily, not long after the tree came down we had a big storm which also took down most of the no-longer-propped-up wooden fence and the landlord replaced it with a brand-spanking-new green colourbond—and the neighbours were free to rumpus about in private again.)
But now—no shade. At all. Dead, sawdust-drowned grass. And that stump! After staring at it in despair for several months I decided to cover the whole back yard in pine bark. At least it looked tidy, if a little stark.
Then one day, wandering about the shops (as I am wont to do), I found a strange funky looking plant (‘will grow in full sun’!) which took my fancy. I took it home, put it in a pot and put the pot in the middle of the bark ‘lawn’. To my surprise, not only did it not die, it tripled in size almost immediately, spewed out ‘babies’ all over the place, and I had to repot it. Woo Hoo! It was an ‘AHA’ moment.
Succulents (see, I even know what they are called) soon became my new best friends. I now have them in all sizes and shapes—low growing, fat and fleshy, tall and spiky (the dogs give that one a really wide berth), hairy, furry, smooth, bumpy, green, brown, yellow, multicoloured—you name it. There is even one which, after doing nothing at all for six months, then overnight threw out a tall spike of flowers almost as tall as me, and if it sprouts legs like a triffid anytime soon I am moving house.
‘Pig-face’, I discovered, was especially invented just to cover ugly tree stumps! Who knew?
And—best of all—it seems to me that the only way to actually kill a succulent is to water it! (well, okay, over-water it—but as that is not likely to happen with me I think I’m covered).
So, long story short—if my landlord (thanks Bob) hadn’t had that tree taken down I might never have discovered a love of (succulent) gardening. So, roll on Spring. Do your worst. I am ready for you. Unless, of course, that really tall spiky thing actually is a triffid . . .