Virtual Walk.

I’ve thrown the morning paper down with disgust and despair and retreated to the study. The two main stories concern Dubya’s latest blathering on the hopelessly complicated Iraqi situation and the happy news that new pandemic-potential diseases are now developing and spreading at the rate of knots. Happy breakfast, everyone.

As I sat down, I realised that this is possibly the last time I will write from this desk because tomorrow we move the furniture to the storage unit and the house will be bare and empty, awaiting the arrival of the new people. I will miss this place terribly and up until now have scarcely allowed myself to think about that aspect of leaving. Twenty-one years of living, loving, hating and growing are embedded here and you don’t leave all that without a backward glance. When we arrived, it was to a large grassy paddock, protected from the cold southerly blasts by a large row of lawsoniana. There were no other trees, except for a huge old-man pine, which was felled to make room for the house. There were no gardens, no shrubs or bushes, no flowers, no vegetables.

If I raise my eyes just a little and glance out of the window, I can see a row of raised beds running along the length of the house. One is full of primulas and their glowing jewel colours defiantly light the grey morning and provide a contrast to the flowering quince above them. Its pink flowers cover the bare branches which are alive with waxeyes who are there for the tiny insects that live among the petals. They visit every morning around this time and are deft little acrobats, navigating with ease through the sharp thorns and hanging upside down by their strong little feet. They are not in the least bit shy. At first, you only see one or two, their green and grey blending with the bark, but watch for a moment, and you will see that there are six, eight, ten, dozens, moving in the tree and on the ground beneath. Suddenly, they are done and rush away, flying in little swoops to their next destination.

Look a little to the right and the stately deep purple heads of a winter rose rises up from its low lying leaves. It seeded last year and its children, still in miniature, are growing up around its feet. Further on, Grandma’s pinks are just starting to put out their spring leaf tips. If you could come back later in the season and see them in flower, you would be met by a wonderful fragrance. Grandma’s pinks have been with me since our girl was two years old. And speaking of our girl, there is the David Austin rose that shares her name. I chose it because it is just like her – the flowers are a warm deep pink with peach and gold tones at the centre and the scent is heady, rich and voluptuous.

Walk along a little further and you will come to a large bed filled with variegated flaxes, cabbage trees, kowhai and a blood-red rhododendron. This garden really was created with blood and sweat. It once housed three huge lawsoniana whose branches reached out so far that they almost touched the house. Higher that the roof at the two story end, the trees loomed and menaced, their cold shadows blocking all sun and light. The year after H. died, we felled them and the transformation to the backyard was instant.

I could walk you right through the rest of the garden, but I know that I’d lose my blaudience long before we got right around, so we’ll just stop one more time and that is in front of Mum’s kowhai. This is a very significant tree for me. It was grown from seed taken from the huge tree that grew in the backyard at Belmont, my last childhood home. That was a stately being, rising up in beautiful form beside the house. The Wahine storm took it, smashing it and splitting the trunk right down the centre. Mum collected seed from its felled branches and grew a bonsai which lived for years in a pot on the back porch. That bonsai was admired and coveted by many and when Mum died, I whipped it away to the farm and planted it. It has since grown into a beautiful tree. When it flowers in late spring, tui, bellbirds and kereru flock to it’s golden flowers, drinking the nectar and bickering among themselves over territory and mates. Last week, I collected seed from its branches. I plan to sow them in various safe places as we travel around, but I will keep some in reserve. One day there will be a new garden and I’ll sow that seed and maybe in the far off future our grandchildren will lie in the grass beneath a kowhai tree, looking up at tui feeding in the spring.

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