Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Spare the tree, said he

There’s a lemon scented gum tree in our back garden, Eucalyptus citriodora. ‘A sapling appeared eight years ago. I didn’t have the heart to pull it up,’ said Clyde. Admirable sentiment but that tree is fifty foot tall now. It towers over the house and casts a shadow over my veggie patch. ‘Vegetables need sunlight,’ I said. ‘That tree is in the way.’ Clyde disagreed. ‘You’ll be glad of that tree in summer,’ he said.

That first winter in Broken Hill I gathered fallen branches, using them to light the wood burner as I muttered about cracked foundations. Lemon scented leaves ignited in a whoosh of flame.

In spring the bark splintered, shedding to a mottled abstract of pink and green. I swept up the brittle shards, complaining about the mess. ‘We should get rid of that tree,’ I said, crushing bark to make mulch for the garden. ‘Nothing will grow,’ I moaned, spreading lemon scented bark between the strawberries. I planted vegetables and pouted over my failure to uproot the tree.

In early summer fluffy white flowers appeared, covering the canopy in clouds of nectar that enticed a swarm of bees. Some of them pollinated my cucumbers. The temperature rose, Broken Hill sizzled under a string of days above 40 degrees and the tree cast its kindly shade over the vegetable garden.

When it rained last week the scent of lemons mingled with the sharp tang of eucalyptus oil. Today a ring necked parrot sits preening itself on one of the branches and Maggie, the domesticated dingo, lies in the shadows below.

Where would we be without that tree?

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2013 by and tagged , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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