Archive for the ‘seeds’ Category


Earlier this week, at short notice, and after some watering and pruning and a little stroking of leaves, I put into three polystyrene boxes: 71 grey box, 18 Victorian blue gums, three red stringybarks, two manna gums, and nine messmates, which I then left as instructed on our front porch. The next morning they were gone, 103 seedlings. Off to be planted in the wilds of Pyalong West. Out in the real world. We still have about two and half boxes of smaller seedlings or seeds in the back garden, but our lush little forest has gone. I would have taken a photo except that I  broke the camera (or at least it went into a karmic seizure) after a traffic altercation in Tasmania (the less said the better) earlier this year. So, no photos, and no goodbyes to speak of. And it feels oddly empty.

Really, there should have been a lot more of them, but apparently everyone’s been having trouble this year, and last. Too hot. Too dry. Too erratic. I’d like to think that some of them will one day grow into very large trees. And I do feel quite proud to have got them this far. I was thinking today, as I tend to, about what a bad blogger I’ve been, and what a bad planter of trees (etc. etc.) and then I thought, good god woman, give yourself a break – you may not plant a tree every day, but you plant a lot more than you used to! And I also thought about how I am the sort of person who sets myself hard tasks and then makes them infinitely harder by berating myself for not having achieved them. Some days I feel that all I am doing is ticking off a great to-do list that I add to endlessly, and for which I rarely thank or congratulate myself. And because I now understand that this is not only ineffective but ungentle, I am trying to change the way I am with things and with myself. But the strange thing about all those seedlings was that although they started off as another task (and some days remained so)  some days I would be standing out there in the cold, gently drizzling each plant tube with water from the portable sprayer we got for $8 from Bunnings, and all of a sudden I would find myself in a sort of trance, almost ecstatic. Full of love.


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This afternoon at about 5.30 the heavens opened and the rain came down. So much so that our downpipe became detached from  the garage and for the next half hour it was Singin’ in The Rain (the drainpipe scene). Filled bucket after bucket and raced around the garden watering all the weary pot plants, then stripped off and watered ourselves (outdoor showers), and then the kids filled bottle after bottle with rainwater, which we drank with dinner. Happy family. Happy seedlings. Happy seeds (eucalpytus macrorhyncha – red stringybark – went in on monday). Even the pot-bound mint bush I put in last week is looking sprightly.  It stopped too soon of course, and probably made no difference at all to the water storage levels (Melbourne’s dams 30.3 per cent full according to this morning’s paper). But it made a difference to us. And hopefully to the fushcia gum I planted at John’s on Monday.

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At work I spent too much of the day editing an essay on climate change and fossil fuels. It was so full of detail and so bleak that by the time I left I felt sick with it all. That’s one of the problems with journalism; there’s no getting away from it. I walked back from the station in the rain thinking apocalyptic thoughts. And when I got home, Pete led me outside and pointed to the five containers planted with eucalyptus seeds, only one of which has sprouted. At first I could see nothing different. And then in one of the tubes in one of the containers an infinitesimal dot of green. And then another.

Back inside, I said to my son, “What’s that thing I say to you when you say that everything’s shit and nothing good’s ever going to happen again?”

“Um. Everything’s going to be alright?”

“No, not that! I mean about thoughts.'”

“Oh. Your thinking affects your feelings affects the way you act.”

“You are wise beyond your years!” I said (or words to this effect).

When I looked at the Age website, I saw this photo:


And then an article that said it was snowing in the Victorian alps.

“Mount Hotham Skiing Company senior marketing executive Caroline Wheatley described it as a ‘very light dusting’ of snow.

‘We woke up to it, it was a beautiful scene of flecks falling down. It was quite surprising to see that,’ she said.”


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The other night at counter tea, we looked across the road and saw a nature strip, busy with plants, and a woman with a blue wheelbarrow making her way across the road towards it. Aha, I thought, a guerrilla gardener! The next day when I had coffee with my friend Zig, she started telling me about the same nature strip. It turns out she knows the woman, who is not officially a GG, but that she and a group of locals have adopted the strip and filled it with flowers and vegetables, which they water with the grey water kindly donated by the pub we ate dinner in. I won’t say where it is, because technically it’s not meant to be there. The council apparently knows, but turns a blind eye. They’re afraid someone will drop dead or stub their toe and then sue. So this little garden lives on, thanks to the locals, and unofficially the council, on the side of a busy inner suburban road, and if you’re hungry you can wander in and pick a cabbage. But try to put something back if you can.

This week we also planted eucalyptus globulus bicostata – which sounds better as Victorian Blue Gum. More tiny piles of spice. I am getting quite good at dividing the seeds into ever smaller mounds. Now we have three boxes again. (Only four more to go…) Before we plant I ring our local tree project organiser to fess up about the disaster. I’m tripping over my words, but I can almost feel him shrug over the phone. Whatever, it is, he says, it’s been done before. We arrange for more seeds to be delivered.

Yesterday Pete planted eucalyptus obliqua seeds (below, but much much smaller in life!), which apart from growing up to 90 metres high (way too big to be hidden in a veggie patch) also turns out to have been the first eucalypt species described in 1788, having been collected from Bruny Island, Tasmania on one of Captain Cook’s Pacific expeditions.


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I wake in the early hours of the morning. Someone, a dream figure – no, Pete – is standing next to the bed, saying my name. His voice is tight. Something has happened. He sounds as if someone has died. “I’ve dropped one of the boxes of seedlings,” he says. Together we go out to the dark back yard. Outside the door is a mound of broken polystyrene, seed tubes and potting mix. I want to cry. There is nothing to do; it is done. We go back to bed. Pete had woken to the sound of rain – almost the first in two months – and remembered that the tubes needed to be under cover. The seeds were so tiny that it might only take a few fat rain drops to blast them, cartoon-like, out of the safety of their tubes In the dark, he had carried the cartons, each on its bit of worm farm, one at a time in under the awning at the back and onto a second and smaller table. As he let go of the third box, it simply crashed over the edge and onto the brick paving. Forty-eight tubes. We make our way silently back to bed. I for once have the wisdom not to share my priceless thoughts as to how Pete might have managed the situation better. Besides I could easily have done the same thing myself. We are bad parents. Bad.

Now that it is done, we lie for a while longer in heavy silence, before I ask, “Do you know which box you dropped?”.


Each of us is doing the calculation. There is a one in three chance that the box that fell was the one that housed the seeds that might have been sterile. There is the same chance that lying broken on the ground beneath a pile of potting mix and pots are our tiny green sprouts, our fragile insurance against the future.

“Don’t look,” I say. Oh coward. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

More lying in the dark.

“I can’t bear it,” says Pete at last, and so we get up again and walk silently though the darkened house and Pete turns on the outside light, while I peer closely into the remaining two boxes. The leaves are not heart-shaped after all. They are like tiny kidneys, snuggled up in matching pairs. Back in bed we hold hands in the dark, relief pulsing between us, but for a long time neither of us can sleep. Pete is having flashbacks (the tipping; the sickening thump). When I finally doze I dream of misfortune and loss.

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