The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

The old Desider­ata quote ‘as peren­nial as the grass’, is ap­pro­pri­ate even if most of the grass is like crunchy corn­flakes at the mo­ment. Peren­nial is quite a con­cise word when ap­plied to plants, trees or grass. Con­stant, never chang­ing, al­ways there. When Monty Don pre­sented his

some of them in­cluded clas­sic gar­dens that were planted by the an­cient Greeks. One story fea­tured the pen­cil pines that were a defin­ing part of the gar­den.

If peren­nial means con­stant and never chang­ing, were th­ese tall skinny colum­nar trees the ones that a Greek planted 400 years ago?

No, not re­ally, as th­ese sort of pines have an av­er­age life of 60 years. The length of life is also de­ter­mined by nutri­tion, water and sit­u­a­tion. So it is likely the same pine had been re­planted at least seven times by my cal­cu­la­tions.

Old shrubs we stood in front of as kids for a col­lec­tive fam­ily photo might still be there.

Peren­nial in plant par­lance dis­tin­guishes a plant with woody stems but not nec­es­sar­ily a tree. It also dis­tin­guishes a plant from ‘an­nu­als’ that have shorter lives based around when they pro­duce flow­ers and sub­se­quently die. Most petu­nias or bed­ding plants are in this cat­e­gory.

The an­nual bit does not re­fer to our cal­en­dar, but the process of the plant and when it flow­ers. So a plant that pro­duces plants in a few weeks can also be called an an­nual.

The life span of trees is an­other sci­ence. The me­laleuca forests that re­main along the coastal strip and the eu­ca­lypt forests in the dry parts out near Ma­reeba can be hun­dreds of years old, peren­nial in a very truce sense of the word.

Most gar­den shrubs have a life that again de­pends on how they have been looked after. A shrub like Yes­ter­day, To­day and To­mor­row (brun­fel­sia) can last 50 or more years in var­i­ous rein­car­na­tions of it­self in the same spot, ready for the fam­ily pics of an­other gen­er­a­tion.

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