Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia


It’s a rude word in Australia but not in England, where ‘rooted’ has no adverse connotations and roots are simply things connected to trees. When you put down roots you’re firmly established; someone rooted to the spot can’t move. The word also describes my current gardening dilemma.

Tree roots in Callan Park

Tree roots in Callan Park

The Moreton Bay Chestnut that caused so much grief and anguish earlier this year – when sharply pointed objects weighing half a kilo rained down from the skies and a four-month exclusion zone was enforced between the garden gate and the front door – has since settled back into being a simple, magnificent tree. Thoughts of chopping it down, which in this heritage listed suburb quite rightly would involve planning permission, were shelved as too costly, too time consuming and too full of bureaucratic wrangles.

Besides, the massive seedpods that had dented the car bonnet and prompted burly workmen to run for cover, forcing guests to arrive sheltered by umbrellas (a triumph of hope over experience if ever there was one) were no longer a threat. I no longer lay awake at night picturing a crime scene outside the front door, chalk marks outlining the site where the body was discovered, police tape cordoning off the area and detectives clutching Styrofoam cups of coffee as they frowned at the ground, oblivious to the threat from above.

I assumed it was safe to stop worrying about the tree until next year, when the sign would have to go up on the gate again, warning innocent passers-by that deadly missiles could fall from the sky.

Then two things happened that forced a re-think of that do nothing, laissez-faire strategy.

First, my next-door neighbour revealed that the previous owners of this house had planted the tree. ‘Less than ten years ago,’ said Susan. It had grown forty feet in less than ten years? Even if Susan’s memory were no more accurate than mine, and her timing a few years out, that was still a worry.

Then Matt and his offsider arrived to sort out the garage floor, a floor so buckled and broken it looked like someone had piled up a heap of bricks and left them there. It was a job we should have tackled years ago.

‘Looks like there’s a tree root in here,’ said Matt, scratching around in an old drain and pulling out friable tendrils that he snapped and tossed aside.

We thought as much, which is why several weeks ago we bought a tablet and dropped it down the drain. ‘That will dissolve any tree roots and it won’t harm the tree,’ said the helpful assistant in the hardware shop.

‘I’ll dig around, see what I can find,’ said Matt.

What he dug up, several hours later, was a drainpipe with no hope of draining any water, invaded by a tree root so big it looked a like snake had swallowed a donkey. The culprit, of course, was the Moreton Bay Chestnut. Dropping a tablet down the drain to dissolve this root would have been as likely to succeed as shooting a pea at a a charging rhino.

One end of the pipe...


I won’t state the obvious, because I live in Australia now, not England.









8 comments on “Rooted

  1. bkpyett
    August 14, 2014

    What amazing roots you have at your house!! I hope you could sort the plumbing out. Looks expensive….


  2. rthepotter
    August 14, 2014

    Whatever the glories of the plant kingdom, forest trees and town gardens are rarely a good mix.
    Time to remember that plants and animals have always been engaged in Darwinian competition, and that this is a skirmish in the greater conflict to maintain a balance of power?


  3. debhuntinbrokenhill
    August 14, 2014

    Yes, planting a Moreton Bay Chestnut within thirty centimetres of a garage wall was not a good idea (although I have to thank the previous owner for everything else she planted). Darwinian competition is alive and well in our house!


  4. Adele Hughes
    August 18, 2014

    Wow, some roots all right!! Would a Moreton Bay Chestnut grow at my place? Could do with a quick grower like that – away from pipes and houses of course!


  5. debhuntinbrokenhill
    August 19, 2014

    Hi Adele, it’s an evergreen here in Sydney and we get cold winters, although not as much frost as you. Might be worth a try. Hope you got a good drop of rain over the last few days, we’ve had a beautiful downpour!


    • Adele Hughes
      August 19, 2014

      22mm at both Dulacca & Banchory last w/e. It was just wonderful to hear on the roof! Cheers Adele


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This entry was posted on August 14, 2014 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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