Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Memories of trees

Memories can be triggered by many, often unexpected, events or objects - in this case, trees. When we moved into our home in Bayswater in 1976 the house was two years old but the previous owners had planted many trees and shrubs at random in the garden. For years, for example, we would discover an azalea growing under a larger azalea.
One of the first plants that I recognised, when we first parked the car in the driveway of our new house, was a liquid amber tree growing in the corner of the front garden. My parents had planted one of these trees in their front garden twenty years previously. Each autumn the tree was covered in large orange leaves which before long covered the small front lawn. As a child it was fun to play in the accumulation of leaves however I am sure that my parents soon tired of raking the leaves into piles to cart them away in the wheelbarrow.  In the 1950s it was customary to burn off debris such as autumn leaves instead of composting them - different times - therefore smoke from burning autumn leaves forms part of  the memories of childhood.  Apart from the colour of the leaves in autumn I remembered how large these trees grew, and the extent of the root system, so my husband removed the innocent looking little tree shortly after we moved in.
Next to where the liquid amber had been planted was, to my surprise, a cassia which I recognised as cassias had grown in the back garden of my grandparents' farm in southern Queensland. I had childhood memories of the mass of yellow flowers among the small green leaves that appeared in late summer. There were also memories of the back garden where the cassias were to be found. The main garden at the front of the house was full of colourful flowers and shrubs while the back garden was more utilitarian  - mainly lawn. The all important outside toilet was housed in the corner of the garden while the gate from the house to the farm was opposite the back door. However there was still plenty of room for children to play and even, on occasion, dance with the two cattle dogs, Sally and Hope. 
By the back door were two tall trees - pawpaw or papaya we were told. It was the wrong season for the fruit when we were on holiday however I now often enjoy eating pawpaw with muesli and yoghurt.

Immediately outside the gate was a large Moreton Bay fig tree. The branches provided lots of shade and the ducks enjoyed fossicking among the roots.  The only problem was that the flying foxes also liked the tree and took up residence in its branches. The noise at night was constant and they made a mess. My grandfather, uncle and father devised numerous plans, including exploding fireworks, to persuade the flying foxes to relocate, without success. The flying foxes stayed.

The memories of past Christmas holidays and childhood adventures produced by the cassia tree that I found in the garden ensured that I treasured it and looked forward to its annual flowering, not just because of the colour added to the garden but because of the memories created by the mass of golden flowers.

However, this year the cassia died. Maybe it was its time or maybe it was the dry summer, though it had survived droughts in the past. Anyway the cassia is no more and the branches and trunk have been cut up ready for the next clearance of garden rubbish. A search on Google for information about cassias shows that some Councils consider these small trees as weeds. Although it produced seed pods from time to time, our cassia does not appear to have had any offspring. I now need to find another bush to fill the space left by the cassia but whatever we plant will not have the memories generated by this departed tree.