Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Down Under Blues

In 1980 my father, newly retired and with time on his hands, decided to become an urban farmer. After time researching at the library and going through seed catalogs, he decided to go the exotic route. Over the next few years, with varying results, he planted jicama, carambola, chayote, and sapodilla. He also planted a carrotwood and a silver oak tree.

Thirty years later I inherited the old homestead and a large yard in dire need of tender and not so tender loving care. The carrotwood and silver oak trees, in particular, needed my immediate attention. They had grown into green monsters that threatened to devour the back yard.

My inquiries about them at the county horticultural office brought instant reprimand. “Those are opportunistic invasive trees from Australia. You should cut them down.”

Their candid remarks were surprising and a bit irritating. After all my father’s and later my work, cutting down trees was not an option. I would revisit that decision many times in the following months.

The carrotwood tree has proved to be a royal pain where I sit. A tropical evergreen, the tree was introduced to Florida in the 1950s as a decorative ornamental variety. Bad move indeed. The fast growing exotic produces tons of flowers and then tons of seeds. The seeds and seed casings end up on the lawn and are soon followed by a two week shower of dead leaves, a dry land deluge of epic proportions.

Turns out the seasons down under are the opposite of Florida’s. Australia’s fall is our early summer, which means I must rake up all that @%^&%$*!! leaf litter in 90 degree heat and humidity.

My father left me a lot for which I am grateful. An endless summer of windblown rained-on dun colored leaves is not one of them. Aussie go home!

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