THIS ( PARADISE LOST) LIFE
INOW know the cataclysmic effect of a ‘‘ scorched earth’’ policy. A year ago my husband and I left our home of 46 years. In 1960, our garden did not exist. There was no landscaping with the deal. The area had been market gardens and almond orchards. Our plot was the end of the line and the dumping ground for building debris. There was nothing. Not a weed. Turning the back yard into a garden took much of the 46 years.
My husband turned a clay desert of baked earth into a mini paradise visited regularly by green parrots, galahs, top- knot pigeons, sulphur- crested cockatoos and generations of beloved magpies. Our first family cat was buried in his favourite corner of the garden in a handmade wooden box.
Camellias bloomed in midwinter. A frangipani regaled us with perfumed cream flowers each summer and was the backdrop for family photos. A macadamia was spotted growing successfully in the botanic gardens and we grew one successfully too. The flowers were magnificent and the fruit was a challenge.
A magnolia blossomed in the front garden to take the place of a magnificent claret ash that had given us happy hours of autumn leaf crunching, sweeping and, in those days, fragrant bonfires. A cherry tree came and went. Such losses were keenly felt.
In the 1960s shrub roses along the fence were almost mandatory. Years of choosing, pruning and sharing gave us roses to admire all summer, to take into the house to enjoy, and to remind us of friends long gone. Such exquisite blooms.
Retirement came with thoughts of travel. I travelled. He stayed home to mind the cat, the galah, the magpies and the garden. It became a life’s work.
Years of mulching and worm bins had created unbelievably rich soil. This was transferred to a vegie garden. Strawberries were a challenge, but the secret was painstakingly deduced and the results delicious. Tomatoes flourished alongside herbs of all varieties. There was simply nothing to compare with freshly picked garden produce outside the back door.
An avocado tree bought at great expense remained barren, but a knockabout one gave us the occasional thrill of a home- picked avocado. The delight of our life was the Lisbon lemon that never failed to give us wonderful fruit.
The sad part is that I never realised until it no longer belonged to us just how much I loved the garden or how much I would miss it. The smell of lemon- scented gums is something I would die for. It was even harder for the gardener.
The irony is that a recent look proved that nothing changes and everything stays the same. The property is to be sub- divided and the garden has disappeared.
Almost every blade of grass, lovingly weeded up to the last minute, every tree, every shrub, every flower has disappeared. We only hope some of them have gone to good homes ( or, rather, good gardens).
In the words of the Dalai Lama, remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
thislife@ theaustralian. com. au