Dear Diggers (Festive Garden Magazine 2018)

Contributions and feedback from our readers

The Native Conversation Continues

Dear Clive,
I delayed renewing my subscription as I am concerned at the continual demonisation of gum trees in your magazine, and hope you can find time to
visit Adelaide where you can see how much gum trees add to our urban landscape and just how loved they are.
Maybe when you fly in (if you come by plane) you might see the beautiful ‘sky garden’ that the canopies of these large gums create. Just a few large gums in every neighbourhood block can help create a wonderful view from the sky, and demonstrate just how these great trees help keep our city cool …
Here in my suburban garden in Adelaide, I have many species of native birds including honey eaters, wattle birds, three or four different species of parrots, willie wagtails, mudlarks, magpies and local mynah birds.
Possums, koalas and sugar gliders also live in this area. I am a twenty minute drive from the city centre. There are MANY gum trees, they are street trees, trees in parks and trees in gardens…
I have turned the garden into an organic garden (plenty of hand weeding), planting fruit trees and creating raised vegetable gardens in the north-facing back garden, and planting mostly native plants, especially those endemic to this area, in the front garden, which now thrive along side the roses, geraniums and hibiscus originally here.
Diggers have supplied all the vegie seeds and seedlings, and I have allowed parsley, lettuce and rocket to be the ‘weeds’ in my garden
so that the unwanted weeds have no room to grow. I have loved watching the vitality of the soil recover and can see how the last three years of organic management has transformed this garden. Insect life is returning and birds visit more frequently. I am also growing plants for Monarch butterflies and there are now many of these drifting around the garden. So much change in such a short time.
Please keep up the good work spreading the word about the benefits of organic gardening, I really appreciate the work you do in this area, and how important this message is.
Please, also, take some time to understand why so many of us love gum trees and see them an important part of our urban landscape.
The damage they are capable of doing is far outweighed by the good they do.
I also believe very strongly, that the severe bush fires we see now are also a product of bad forestry practice, where clear felling has led
to densely-planted single species of gum all reaching high up (with their new volatile leaves) creating updrafts amongst the rows of trees.
I have seen just how differently old-growth forest burns, and feel very sad at the damage done to the high country by clear felling
logging practices.
Penny C, sa

Thanks Penny, I have learned to garner respect for anyone who shortens the name Penelope, after all, isn’t she the faithful wife of Odysseus? And Eucalypts?
Please, I wish people could separate what is beautiful in the bush from what make suitable plants in the totally-manipulated space we call gardens. The rather ugly word is ‘gardenworthy’.
The most popular flowers, the roses and tulips, are poor garden performers if, like me, you value beauty in a garden. The tulip lasts three weeks in flower and 47 weeks out of flower; about 30 weeks below ground when it doesn’t want watering when all its neighbours do. Where can you plant it naturally? The rose is magnificent in bud but an ugly bunch of thorny stems otherwise and, apart from climbers and shrub roses, the hybrid tea is the ugliest plant in most backyard gardens.
So now to eucalypts which I love and spend most of my holidays walking through. But that doesn’t mean they are suitable garden plants.
As far as providing shade, their leaves hang down letting too much light through. Get a thermometer out on the next 40°C day and compare with any other shade tree. We find they are 8°C hotter than most Australian rainforest natives or shade trees. I have visited the Waite institute in Adelaide for over 30 years seeking better garden choices and they have a great collection of eucalypts, oaks and Australian rainforest trees. Take your thermometer in there and see.
Why not go to the Adelaide Botanic Garden as well, because I reckon they have the coolest garden on a hot day and there are hundreds of better shade trees there. I have visited that garden at least 50 times. So it’s not about not loving eucalypts, it’s about me wanting a lush, green, cool, refreshing garden in summer and not getting scorched when I am outdoors in January and February. Of course, you don’t have to agree with me, but I can only give advice based on my experience and having lost a restaurant to bush fire, and also because one of my mates lost his farm on the black Saturday epic when 180 people died. Please you enjoy your summer. Cheers, Clive

A Different Perspective

Dear Clive,
like Sue G in the Spring Food Edition I find people’s emotional reactions to content both amusing and sad – especially when they define ‘natives’ only as eucalypts. Maybe they need to be reminded how fertile and biodiverse Australia was before European settlement?
There was more to First Nation agriculture than simply using fire. Much of the wide brown land we know was created by white farming techniques and tree felling. To learn about this they should read The Biggest Estate on Earth by Bill Pascoe. Or if that’s too thick and daunting then try Ben Pascoe’s Dark Emu. Food lovers and vegans would like Pascoe – he revives recipes using ‘native’ seeds ground to flour. Meanwhile tolerant old you could be left to continue your vitally important life’s work free from hectoring by vegans, gum tree huggers, climate deniers and the patronising young.
Gill B, nsw

Thanks Peter, We did have a fantastic experience in Hobart and Launceston for Blooming Tasmania last week and how impressive were the gardens!
We want to do everything in our power to help raise the standard of gardening in Australia because we lack a cultural base being such a new country compared with Japan, Italy, France and the UK. So getting our tree selection right is almost the most important first step.
Planting the bush out the back door is one concept, but it doesn’t stand up well with a warming climate which will make the flammable eucalypts even more of a threat. 50°C peak summer days are projected, and that is a temperature that causes plant death and deserts in the Middle East.
So we prefer native trees that are drought tolerant but with lush, green foliage that provide much denser shade – which anyone can verify using a soil thermometer next time it gets to 35°C+ days. Gardeners will be staggered at how much cooler these and deciduous trees are compared with eucalypts. Regards, Clive


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Dear Clive,
Yet more on natives … the letters are still coming in (Spring Edition) regarding the appropriateness of native trees in our gardens. Thank you for having the courage to explain so well what I have thought for many years. Your reply to Sarah B re-states your position that has been well and truly explained on several occasions. My wife an I have a bush property in NE Tasmania that is subject to a Conservation Covenant to protect the bushland that we instigated. Like you, we love the bush.
Over the years we have moved eucalypts away from the house and have added less flammable deciduous trees and shrubs. We took over the property from my parents who also loved their garden and trees so we had a big head start. We live in a bushfire prone area so natives have no place near our home. Keep up the good work.
Peter R, tas
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Not all opinions are welcome

Clive,
I love your legacy for the human race. Your contribution is massive. You understand the ancient wisdom of harmony with nature. The articles you and your team publish are consistently first class. You have deservedly earned the deepest respect. You see right through the consumerism and commercialism that threaten survival on our planet. You deserve much better than the disrespect given to you by Sarah B in letters to the editor. If Sarah B wants to be ageist and express her prejudice towards you and thinks she can do a better job than you, she needs to learn respect for wisdom and experience. Your view on natives is perfectly balanced.
I understand you want to be inclusive and I respect that, but as your audience I don’t want to read the negative opinions expressed in letters to the editor towards your excellent work and views. I agree with Sarah B in that it’s time for change.
The scientismists, supergrassers and arrogantly naive have voices everywhere. They don’t deserve one on our forum. People who want chemical mono-agriculture, in the hands of multinational corporations that control our seeds and food, with no regard for the wanton destruction of the genius of life inherent in nature, should be silent here or go elsewhere. Thank you for all you do.
Paul L
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Hi Clive,
Wanted to mention recent walks in the Bunya mountains in Queensland and around the Border Ranges National Parks areas in northern nsw where diversity in these rainforest is astounding. With not a eucalyptus in site – in the midst of drought it’s cool and damp. These are the forests that could save the planet if humans would stop destroying them. Why are farmers still totally strip-clearing paddocks? How many cows fit in a tree? Thank you for your efforts, some of us are hearing you!
Paula K, NSW
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Veganism is not the only answer

Dear Clive and Penny,
I do agree with Alex that consuming less meat has both health and environmental benefits, but veganism for all is not the solution.
Indeed, if the world were to switch to plant based protein then other problems associated with the monocultural farming of soy would present themselves. And I wonder what Alex would do with the millions of animals that currently live because they have a role and a relationship to human beings?A few years ago, Michelle Obama promoted the idea of eating one meat-free meal a week, ‘Meatless Mondays’.
Such an incremental approach, encouraging people to reduce their meat intake is much more likely to achieve benefits, for human health and the environment. Unfortunately, many vegans I’ve met seem
to prefer a position of moral righteousness, which means compromise is impossible if it includes enjoying sustainably and ethically farmed meat.
While that’s the case, veganism will remain a fringe practice.
Sean

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