Empty sky

Peace in the neighbourhood has been shattered this past couple of weeks by the constant clanging and banging of bulldozers, ripping the heart out of a house two doors down.

Gloria, the previous owner, was the original owner of the property. I did not have that much to do with her over the 24 years we were neighbours-but-one. Early on I asked if I could have some of her plums; she readily agreed.   I duly returned a jar of fresh plum jam to her. Both our properties had ancient plum trees – remnants of when the area was orchards supplying fruit to Auckland.

More recently, she was wandering the street in her dressing gown, slightly unhinged from reality, and within weeks she was relocated to a local resthome for the short time she had left on this planet.

When I walked passed her front yard, I always coveted the yellow bearded iris – my favourite plant if not my favourite colour – but I did not know her well enough to ask.

A silky oak which has slowly withered and died over the years provided the local tui flock with a perch high above any trees close by. For 24 years those tuis, no doubt several generations of them, have been masters of the neighbourhood. They have a distinct, and discordant, chortle, that sounds as if it stops half way through the melody.

As the bulldozers moved in, and the ground shook underneath me, 2 doors down from the site, I just knew it was only a matter of time before the dead silky oak and the other trees were sacrificed to make way for what I assume will be intensified development. The quarter acre dream is dead in this street.

The bulldozers have done their work. Not before I nipped down the road at dusk one evening last week and pulled up the only remaining vegetation from what used to be a border of flowers along the drive. The yellow bearded iris, bravely standing tall among the dust, was rescued from imminent annihilation and sits in a bucket waiting to be planted outside, with it’s siblings of different colours. Also plucked from the jaws of death an orchid with long strings of gorgeous red flowers. I doubt the bulldozer driver even noticed.

Today, while the earth moving machinery goes on to it’s next job, the chainsaws fired up. I glanced at the trees, and just knew that by day’s end they would be gone, and so it is. The sky is bare to the west. The tuis have moved on.

I have been accused of being a bit enthusiastic with the saw and loppers. There is always a need for judicious pruning, in my opinion, unless you are revegetating a forest. Trees and shrubs grow to their own plan and not necessarily in a way the meets our desires as the co-inhabitants of the space. Fruit trees need to be maintained to ensure fruiting is healthy and reachable. Most hard wooded trees and shrubs are completely unharmed by careful pruning, while their aesthetic impact on a garden can be significantly improved. Get stuck in.


Here he is, the former Lord of the Neighbourhood, blissfully unaware that within a few short days his tree will be gone. He will be gone.

In the interests of protecting the pastoral land surrounding us, I guess we must surrender to the intensification of housing in Auckland. I hope that whoever moves in next will plant trees and maybe the tuis will return.

I am harvesting peas from my former microgreen pea shoots that made it to the garden – so so nice to eat. Entire crop? Possibly 12 pods. Tomatoes are fully formed – I just hope they ripen before we exit for our summer break. If not I will lose the lot to insufficient water and fungus.   Leeks now seeding but looking lovely with their big purple pompom flower heads.   There are worse ways to note the passing of the seasons.

Holidays are imminent. Enjoy.


About Ngaire Wallen

Landscape designer, thinker, partner, mother, reader, wanna-be writer keen to inflict my thoughts on the world.
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