More decades ago than I feel like counting, after what might have been my tenth adolescent tantrum of the day, my mum demanded 'What do you want?'
''Trees,'' I said. ''I want to look at trees.''
So Mum loaded up the car with me, the younger kids, the dog, a pile of sausages, bread rolls, and tomato sauce (Mum's version of a balanced meal) as well as her boyfriend, on parole for armed robbery, and we went to look at trees, down by Moreton Bay.
Brisbane was in the tail end of a cyclone just then, so the trees were whipping past almost horizontal and I found out later that we only got the sausages cooked because her boyfriend had taken the gents toilet apart for kindling. But the trees were wonderful...
Humans evolved with trees. They make us feel good. You may not have noticed feeling happier when there are trees around, but you do. Feel disconnected to the world? Lie on the ground beneath a tree and look at the sky above its branches. Grumpy, lacking motivation? You need a cup of something good (your choice of beverage) sitting on a blanket with your back to a tree. Are your kids adorable but sending you just slightly bonkers? Build a tree house and take your drink up to it, then pull up the ladder and drink it slowly, for three minutes of peace.
Travelling to look at trees is not simple as I write this, and may be even more complex by the time you read it. Which means we - all of us - need to make sure everyone has trees around them, local trees.
Slight problem: trees take years to grow. Even a fast-growing tree like wattle or snow gum needs at least five years to look wonderful. An oak needs 30 years, which I only realised a few months ago when my grandsons told me how much they loved their 'old' oak tree. I planted that tree from an acorn found on the footpath in Farrer (no longer guaranteed as a source of acorns) and then forgot about it. But if I'd never planted the acorn there'd be no majestic giant now.
So what trees can you grow now? You only have a tiny flat? Think bonsai. 'Small' does not necessarily mean 'not a tree'. It's a matter of perspective. An old tree has gravitas. The trunk has individual shape, if not lichen. Old branches have seen a lot.
Just remember that a bonsai needs more care than a big tree, not less - their whole life support is in that tiny pot. Water often, and if the non-bonsaied version naturally grows outside, the bonsai will still need to live outside, on the balcony or - possibly - a sunny table by a window, with a few holidays outdoors.
A patio or spare doorsteps? Try a Ballerina apple tree, tall and slim as a ballerina and about the same height, but you'll get apples, not Swan Lake. Dwarf mulberries peaches, nectarines ... you may even get fruit this year, and definitely blossom.
Next to the house, preferably a tree which won't dig up the foundations or wriggle into the pipes? Sorry, every tree's roots will invade cracked pipes to get the water. If the pipes are sound they are safe, as long as you go small: dwarf fruit again, perhaps, espaliered against the wall.
But if you have space - big backyard kind of space, or a footpath, or have permission to plant six trees for your the local school - plant the kind of tree that will grow enormous, like oaks, or at least 'large', like lemon scented gums.
Small sticks or seeds that will grow into giant trees are a promise to the future: we are giving you trees, just as the gardeners of the past gave trees to us.
This week I am:
- Discovering a grove of giant mulberry trees that I planted 40 years ago and forgot about. Wattle trees surrounded them, and then gum trees, but the trees survived. Well, six of them survived, not the 20 I planted, but those six are massive. We will be picking many many mulberries this spring and summer.
- Planting purple asparagus. We already have some purple asparagus, and giant white asparagus, and several varieties of green asparagus, but you can never have too much home-grown asparagus, especially the extra sweet purple.
- Carefully watering the three blueberry bushes I bought mail order. The rest of the order is fine, but blueberry bushes like water, even when they are only 20 cm tall.
- Finally remembering we no longer have to buy our lemons - the post drought/bushfire flowering finally has given us a crop of Tahitian limes, and even a few lemons.
- Celebrating the seedling hellebore by the front steps that has just produced its first bloom ever - spotted and striped reddish purple, and spectacular.
- Watching the rain make the jonquils droop, and loving it.