Pin­ing for a PROPER TREE

Gardening Australia - - GARDEN TO TABLE -

When her grand­son longed for a Christ­mas tree that reached the ceil­ing, JACKIE FRENCH em­barked on a search that took her back to her child­hood

The first Christ­mas tree I re­mem­ber was pur­loined by my mother. It was a strag­gly ca­sua­r­ina, grow­ing by the side of the road. We put my brother in his pram and wheeled him up the road, then Mum took out her trusty bread knife and we took turns saw­ing through the tree trunk. My baby brother and the tree shared the pram on the way home.

I vaguely think we did much the same for many years. Christ­mas trees weren’t easy to buy back then, nor did we have much money, and I had never even heard of an ar­ti­fi­cial tree.

Year af­ter year we looked for an in­con­spic­u­ous ca­sua­r­ina that wouldn’t be missed – or at least could be chopped down with no-one notic­ing. Then I mar­ried into a fam­ily who re­garded a gum tree as the only pos­si­ble Christ­mas tree, and chose the sac­ri­fi­cial vic­tim on their farm months ahead, prun­ing it to make sure it was per­fect be­fore chop­ping it down on Christ­mas Eve.

When I fi­nally had a home of my own we used gum tree branches tied to­gether to make a leafy tree. But every year my son would de­mand a ‘proper’ tree. The only ‘proper’ tree, of course, was Pi­nus ra­di­ata, sold on foot­paths across Aus­tralia in the fort­night be­fore Christ­mas.

We com­pro­mised. I bought pot­ted pines of var­i­ous kinds – none of them ra­di­ata, which I don’t re­ally like. But none of them touched the ceil­ing, which was what he longed for.

Then came the years when our kids were Christ­mas­ing around the world, or at their

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