Our house sits on top of a hill, alongside a gravel road and nestled behind a row of tall, leafy eucalyptus trees planted by my father-in-law 40+ years ago.
Eucalypts — otherwise known as gum trees — are a very hardy group with plenty of annoying features. They’re not pretty trees: they don’t change colour in autumn nor have blossom in spring. There are no lovely scents or delicious fruits appearing on our trees. The bark peels off at the drop of a hat, it seems. Great swathes of the stuff, which blows all over what passes for our front lawn. Accompanied by myriad dry leaves, these cover the grass and blow into the carport every time the wind picks up.
Gum trees are vigorous. Their roots suck the goodness from the ground all around, and those pesky leaves create a mulch through which very little will grow. That’s my excuse for not having a decent garden.
In autumn, winter and spring, the tall shadows slide over the house, blocking out the precious sunlight far too soon. On the other side of the row it’s bright and breezy. Behind, in our garden, cold and grey.
And yet we will never chop these trees. For their good far outweighs their bad.
When the wind is howling along the road, stirring up a choking cloud of dust, there’s not a speck on our side of the trees. During summer’s scorching heat that early shade is a welcome relief. So many storms have beaten on those trees: they’ve withstood every one. No windows have been broken, no trampolines tossed, no rubbish bins rolled: the trees are our protection and shelter.
So here’s to the gum trees. Long may they stand.