Graham Cooper died over 40 years ago but not a day goes by when I do not practise what he preached. I hug a tree, as recommended to Bismarck by his doctor in a book Graham gave me called The Secret Life of Plants. These days the hugged tree is the mighty gum beside the front gate. After a count of 20, I circle the tree, patting its stumps, then lean on the two biggest stumps and crane my eyes skywards, watching for tui waiting to release mischief on me. It is a magnificent tree and from February through half the year its red flowers attract exuberant pairs. Today I followed another of Graham’s precepts to recycle everything and made use of its shedding to create a gum bark path to my picnic table.
I love trees but every so often I have to get Rory in to edit bits of them like the trailing gum branches so I can get some sunlight on the garden and relieve the strain on the gutters. It also provides a goodly supply of firewood. Pohutukawa do not mind pollarding, they are one of the few natives that you can crop and they come again. I am not sure if this is appreciated by those who advocate hands off the sacred tree.
Unlike some members of the native forests action groups, to me all trees native and allegedly foreign (nobody told the tui and other birds who distribute their seeds) deserve to be regarded as sacred, though I struggle a little with the damned wattle. Indeed, the seaward neighbour did me a big favour by having his wattles taken out two days ago. I had recently removed one of my three griselinia or kapuka because it was swamping the lantern bush I had grown from seed and small plants like clivia and lace-tops. Viz Graham, I rooted out the griselinia stump and added it to my ever mounting stumpery.
The cleared space exposed the arthritic old taupata waving feeble arms about. These I trimmed and then climbed on my picnic table for the only view of the sea from my flat property. Auckland real estate puffery would call it sea views, it is really only a handkerchief size of sea visible, but I can get a reading on whether I go down for a swim. My neighbour has now cleared enough wattle to give me two handkerchiefs of sea view.
My initial recycling of the cleared area included portions ripped off the lower garden’s flax bushes and three yellow daisy pups. Robyn thought it was going to get crowded and how would I get to the picnic table to view the sea? Fair enough. Out came the flax, which I replanted back at the other end of the section.
Now there was a need for a designated path. Concrete circles were suggested, but they would be soon swamped by leaf fall from the other griselinia and natives nearby. The quantities of gum bark I had been hoarding for winter kindling served for the pathway. A quick trip to the beach provided both driftwood and abandoned bits of sleepers to define and enclose the gum bark path.
Ready by lunchtime, which was egg sandwich and late strawberries from my garden. I sat at the picnic table looking at my new red rose and the pale cluster of tea roses, listening to Sole Mio once more top of the Classical Chart. I could have sat in my old beach-abandoned wrought iron chair at my beach-harvested table once hosting electric cable, but the huge black plastic fishing float tossed on to the road by a winter storm would block the view to my latest garden make-over corner. From the picnic table I can view the entire front garden and ponder further embellishments, so long of course as they are recycled plants or beach finds. The new garden over the other side of the gate needs mulching, the Peasgood Nonsuch and Russet apples are too small. I know just the ticket, the next dumping of sea rack. Graham would approve. After all, he was the one told me about this organic gift of the sea.