Archive for the ‘Potting On’ Category

Stuck Up A Gum Tree

Getting Sniffy About Eucalyptus…eucalyptus leaves

Gardeners are generally quite laid back as personalities – if it didn’t seem like stating the obvious the least horizontal would probably say it’s one of the main psychological perks of the hobby; the well-being derived from the physical processes involved and the close identification with the flow of the seasons.  It’s all in the nature of it… failure and success are as much part and parcel of gardening as life itself.  No matter how difficult last year’s experience may have been the coming of a new gardening season always reawakens a strong sense of optimism.

However, conserving shouldn’t always be aligned with a conservative outlook.  Gardeners have never had a beef about immigration – from Victorian plant collectors exploiting the less obvious wealth of the colonies to the latest semi-exotic introduced and available on a patio near you as a result of global warming – we can take or leave them all in our stride.

Invasive species are the blight on this accommodating picture.  Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Curly Waterweed are an all over the place nuisance like three offspring of an ever growing family with no benefits.  And although not invasive in the same sense of the word  Eucalyptus is growing in infamy by just being there… and next year and the year after also just being there… only a damn sight bigger.

“Sending the guilty to Australia has a certain cultural karma to it don’t you think?”


Eucalyptus is the new Leylandii – its rise and rise over a garden fence near you is like having a second feral child while the first is still in juvenile correction.  Yes… we know it looks great in its natural habitat – cue Waltzing Matilda, sun-bleached vistas of the bush, Kylie Minogue…………… oh sorry (ahem) and aah look at those cute koalas.  But on a grey wet autumn Wednesday in a Dagenham suburb hmmm…. then it’s akin to Antipodean body-builders – all big, butch and oily brash – hanging over the fence trying to impress your daughters with their physique while one of their branches flicks you the finger and another showers your precious garden with unwanted debris like the spray from a can of Fosters.

The problem with Eucalyptus is part and parcel of the lazy gardener syndrome but even more about lazy people in general.  It’s the sort of plant that appeals equally to the uninvolved gardener or the non-gardener – plaeucalyptusnt it and that’s it.  It’s the golden idea so beloved of copywriters of Sunday supplement gardening ads; of putting something in and it will somehow make itself at home without any need for correction or breaking sweat.

Perhaps the lazy simply apply the same hands-off criteria as to bringing up their kids?   The result nevertheless is always the same: others are left to reap the ‘benefit.’  In the case of Eucalyptus… an exciting new range of tidy-up tasks for your neighbours.   Along with directions to the toilets, the coffee shop, the caravan showroom, the garden machinery franchise and the seasonal Santa’s grotto a new sign should be erected for everyone’s benefit in the local Garden Centre –  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A LABOUR-FREE PLANT!

Of course kept under control as a medium/large shrub there is no problem.  And what does this involve?  A few minutes a year; a bit of thought and a set of pruners.  The usual scenario is – Left one year: “I just never got round to it.”  Bit bigger the next: “Sorry the weather’s been so bad.”  Third year: “Yeh, I see what you mean.”  Fourth: “You’re right – that’s big.”  Thereafter“Jeez, I’m not touching that!”  Finally there is nothing more overpowering than the prohibitive costs of a tree surgeon.

Like a delinquent these giants take light, heat and drop litter all year round: hard – very slow to decay – waxy and sharp leaves as brittle as your frosty relationship with the neighbours loiter on your beds and borders.  Longer in situ and harder to totally shift than that virus you got last winter.  All combined with great scroll-like peels of bark that would be great for your next Roman Empire themed-party if you were having one.

“…and another showers your precious garden with unwanted debris like the spray from a can of Fosters.”


Eucalyptus trees offer a perch and precious little else to domestic birds and wildlife and in a relative short time are twice the size of your house – which is disconcerting if they are on the side boundary or your garden is small.  It’s less a case of shade as a permanent twilight.  Isn’t that Robert Pattinson coming out of your shed?  They don’t come with any health warnings as to what their presence will do to your blood pressure anymore than the dreaded Leylandii.  However, you’ll find the inevitable raise is nicely off-set by the downsizing of your property value.  Another cost both to your health and pocket is the potentially large legal fees in extreme cases of dispute.

Light, water, air and fertility in the soil are the four friends a gardener counts on – especially since you’ve fallen out with next door.  The air is always there; the rain also in this isle of plenty – but if not you can do something about it unless your neighbour is a Monsieur Jean de Florette – and fertility is a friendly farmer or chemical firm; you take your choice.  But light is also an airy thing – quite literally so in law.  Boundary/border disputes are only really fun for the lawyers and North Korean dictators in any case.  Although Eucalyptus are usually a singular problem – as compared to itinerant rows of conifers – they sure make up for it in size and equality of complexity.  Sending the guilty to Australia has a certain cultural karma to it don’t you think?

Oil in the tree and rapid timber growth has the Eucalyptus on the agenda of research establishments concerned with fast yields and renewable energy in the UK.  Perhaps the best use of energy conservation would be in not contributing one of these monoliths to your back garden environment without a personal commitment… Go on say it: I do hereby promise not to be the real sap in community relations. 

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