It wasn’t the first tree I planted when we moved here forty years ago, but it was one of the earliest ones. I loved it and the birds loved it. I watched the Bottlebrush grow from a young sapling to a fully grown adult tree.
It also inspired a painting of mine, a Red Wattlebird enjoying the pollen from the luscious red flower and that was one of my favourite paintings too.
This year a neighbour’s garage caught on fire and the flames traveled to the back of their yard across to ours. I watched as my tree disappeared in a fiery red glow. Fortunately the fire brigade prevented the fire from spreading further, but come morning, the devastation on our side of the fence was obvious. My Bottlebrush tree took the brunt of it. I gave it a once over. Ok, I thought, one side is gone, but the other was still green, so I thought; ‘this is a tough tree, I will give it a small prune and hope to encourage new growth when Spring arrives.’ I was careful not to overdo the pruning as it had already suffered enough shock. Whilst pruning I was showered in a brown dust, the seeds from the small capsules released with great quantity.
But my tree did not survive and each day the green faded to brown until there was no green left. I couldn’t let go and when I thought more about the seeds I decided to take on the challenge. I put some potting mix into one of those take-away trays and grabbed some of the burnt seed capsules that still lay on the garden bed. Knocked them so the ‘brown dust’ fell into the tray. Sprayed with water, popped the lid on, and waited.
I am no brilliant gardener by the way, and I often tell my plants – ‘if you are not strong enough for my garden, then you are not meant to be here,’ and mostly they survive.
I was delighted to see tiny green specks in my tray of dirt, delighted that I might actually be growing babies from my favourite tree, and delighted to know that I was not just trying to grow brown dust. The little green dots were given tender loving care; watching, checking, watering and allowing them air time. There were so many and I could imagine a lovely hedge of my favourite tree growing along the back fence.
The dots are getting bigger now, stretching higher, looking like little seedlings with wonderful possibilities. They have a long way to go but if I can give my old tree new life through its babies , a new generation, there will be no stopping me.
Audio produced by Gretchen Miller, sound engineering by Judy Rapley.
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