Tag Archives: Brisbane

Red Poppies

In the spirit of Remembrance and hope I scattered some poppy seeds through my garden earlier this year. My delight turned to dismay as I watched the young seedlings wither only to find out that my enthusiastic husband had mistaken them for clover and had been spraying them with whatever herbicide came to hand. I managed to wash the poison from a few of the plants which thrived and they began producing flower heads. Their next challenge was to avoid being drowned with love from my mother whilst I went away for a month. My daughter tried valiantly to tell Mum that poppies like a dry summer but nothing would dissuade my wonderful parents from determinedly watering my garden.

Naturally they burst into flower during that month in the UK so photos were duly exchanged of the beauty that I was missing out on by visiting my other daughter. I was quite sad about that but you can imagine my excitement in finding there were still a few beautiful red heads adorning the garden when I arrived home, very appropriately on 11 November.


My first oranges

“Curb your impatience,” came my father’s voice from over the fence. It turns out we were both viewing the ripening oranges from different sides of the fence. “They won’t be ripe enough to pick until late June, but then, “ the pause and the smile on his face said it all. “Picking a fresh lightly chilled orange on a winter’s morning, taking it inside and eating it is absolute bliss.”

From my kitchen window I had noticed a flash of orange in the garden and had wandered out despite the drizzle to check the tree.  There is something immensely satisfying about growing your own vegetables or fruit. Dad and I inspected the two-dozen fruit starting to change from deep green to a pale shade of orange.

‘Not bad for a tree that has been neglected for the past 5 years,’ he commented.

Although it isn’t the most Australian of scents, the aroma of citrus blossom was the scent I missed most whilst living in London.  When the bare branches of the trees outside my window were being whipped by the bitterly cold winds off the North Sea, I would imagine being back in my small Brisbane garden with the scent of the citrus flowers wafting up in the sunshine.

My tenants weren’t enthusiastic gardeners and each winter when I visited my parents I would look across the fence at my trees that were ugly and misshapen from the Citrus Leaf Miner and the fruit would be lying unwanted on the ground where the fruit fly were having a feast.

My father who was a keen citrus grower watered the Washington navel tree in my front garden whenever he could in the hope of keeping it alive until I returned but the grapefruit and lemon in the backyard were sadly neglected and only just managed to survive.

Now back in Brisbane my first gardening project was to plant as many citrus as possible. Lawns are out, citrus my new black! In my tiny front garden I have planted a veritable orchard: a Tangelo, a Meyer Lemon, a traditional lemon, two orange trees, a Seville orange, two grapefruit, a lime tree and even a blood orange which I know would do better in a cooler climate.  I can’t wait until they are mature enough to start bearing fruit.

When I told my daughter Sophie about the oranges she sent me a link to a Radio National story about Julietta Cerin who successfully set up and organises a neighbourhood fruit and vegetable exchange market.  Neighbours exchange home-grown fruit and vegetables with each other, also jars for jams and foods made with the produce. I am green with envy at being able to do that. You can watch Julietta on Life Matters  or at Vegie Swap.

I think Sophie is a little premature in thinking I will have enough to share but Dad certainly has so many limes he could do something like this. In fact his lime tree in the front garden is enormous and bears more fruit than he and mum can possibly use either in their cooking or their Gin and Tonics.

Because Mum and Dad live on a small inner-city block, the tree spills over onto the footpath and the low bearing limes are very tempting to passers-by, who do occasionally stop and pick a couple for themselves. Being generous people my parents don’t mind, but Mum said she did get irritated recently as she watched a woman greedily fill a basket with limes. And that same woman has returned to do it again.  Some people are so greedy. I suggested Mum hang a sign from the tree saying that they didn’t mind people picking the limes, but they would appreciate a jar of lime marmalade or lime pickles in return. She is even prepared to put the jars out by the tree.

It does make me wonder whether people are naturally greedy or just thoughtless. I might be tempted to pick one piece of fruit but I would look around for someone to thank and I certainly wouldn’t do it twice.  I am now on the search for gardening forums located around Brisbane and for garden produce to share. Here are a couple of the sites I have found so far are at Brisbane Local Food and Food Connect. I am looking forward to exploring what they have on offer.

Red concrete or a tree?

I returned to Brisbane keen to see how it had adapted into its self-proclaimed image of a ‘World City”. The www.visitbrisbane.com.au site proudly proclaims that Brisbane is “…clean, green, sustainable, friendly, tolerant, multi-cultural, creative, collaborative, energetic, progressive and livable.”  Oops. Let me apply some of those adjectives to traffic calming at an intersection in my suburb.

The Windsor Road / Murray Street intersection is not green but red. It is a study in boring, ugly paving with few redeeming features. Why would our local council build something so pedestrian? This traffic-calming initiative may possibly calm the traffic moving from Windsor Road into Murray St but it does not contribute creatively, sustainably or psychologically to our local community.

Its psychological effect is to make me angry and discouraged each time I drive past as it seems so little design or creativity went into this example of traffic calming. The red concrete island looks cheap and nasty. This isn’t the only example of ugliness in this neighbourhood. At many of the intersections to what are obviously local streets along Windsor Road red paint has been used on the road surface.  It is difficult to know what this red paint is meant to indicate. It certainly doesn’t contribute visually to the local environment and once it starts to fade it looks particularly ugly. It is almost a study into how to make a street look unwelcoming. Surely the Brisbane City traffic planning authorities could have been a little more creative and planted a couple of trees and plant boxes at these intersections?

Here are two pictures of Brisbane’s traffic calming initiatives. Judge which image you would rather see on your street.



There are many studies supporting the fact that trees and street planting bring benefits to the community that outweigh the cost of the initial planting and maintenance.

These studies have identified that tree-lined streets have a calming influence on drivers, causing them to slow down, improving their awareness of their environment, and making them more alert to the presence of pedestrians. This calming influence may even play a role in reducing road rage and aggressive driving habits.

Why if we are being encouraged to reduce our carbon footprint do we not plant more trees and garden beds at intersections? Not only do they absorb the carbon we produce but they also aid in reducing air pollution from car emissions. The shade produced by trees has many beneficial impacts including reducing by 3-5 degrees the ambient local temperature which may impact on the amount of energy local residents use to cool theihouses. Trees and shrubs will also encourage birds into the suburbs.

We shouldn’t underestimate the influence of living in a beautiful environment. A prettier street will encourage greater pedestrian traffic whether it is exercising the dog, riding a bike, or just walking to the local shop. The more people on the street, the more likely we are to stop and chat to each other. This greater connectivity can only encourage a stronger empathetic community.

I think the Red Hill community should inform their councillor that we don’t want to see a band-aid of red concrete placed across our roads as a ‘token’ traffic calming initiative. We should discourage ugliness and insist that design and beauty be integral in all aspects of council planning initiatives.

Does anyone else think along these lines?

A tree is as individual as the person who walks in its shade.