Caged memories

May 20, 2014

Tasmanian only has one small deciduous shrub — nothofagus gunnii / Deciduous Beech — whose tiny leaves turn golden yellow in the autumn of our southern hemisphere year. It is alpine and grows far from where I live on the coast.

If I want to witness a change of colour at Windgrove, I must go inside the three caged sanctuaries of the possum proof—wallaby proof gardens.


The large garden has two apple trees and they are now beginning to drop their leaves in preparation for their winter dormancy. What few leaves there are at the base of the tree is enough to spark my imagination and I’m back on my childhood street of Grixdale in Detroit sixty years ago kicking and running through mountainous piles of elm leaves that had been first raked off the lawn and then placed ceremoniously at the street’s curb before being ritually set afire. Smoke lingers in my clothes for days.


In a smaller dome, the leaves of the blueberry bushes are nothing if not vibrant even though their startling reds signal each leaf’s death throe. May I go out in such grandeur, visibly standing proud in the autumn of my years.

Knelling down and touching these leaves, my imagination once again carries me back into the Michigan forest where dormant blueberry bushes (we called them huckleberry) were trod upon as my mother and I went searching for deer with our bow and arrows. She, Artemis, with a 55 pound bow; me, the novice in training, barely able to pull back a 25 pound bow.

During deer season, the smell of rain moistened decay of the deciduous undergrowth is etched upon one’s sensory memories never to be forgotten. Even now, when I take an autumn walk beneath the Hobart Botantical Garden’s avenue of birch trees, I’m fifty years younger.


Oh, the flag of autumn. How glorious you are.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Hood May 27, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Hello Peter – like you, having grown up in the northern hemisphere, the autumn leaves spark fond memories and a connection to a deciduous landscape not common here – hence our planting birches, maples, oaks. I’m currently raking leaves that nourish the berries and it’s a real pleasure. But the richness of autumn colours this year seems to have been more enhanced than I can recall in previous years. The blueberry leaves redder than red, and maples brilliant in their yellows and oranges. A real delight and I’m pleased to read of the rekindling of your autumn memories. They come around annually for me too. Best wishes.

John Caddy May 20, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Peter, Going out in grandeur is not our usual lot., but I have no doubt you will be visibly standing proud, maybe on the tennis court and knee-wincing It’s the color change that troubles. Do you want a flare of gold or apoplectic red? Despite Autumn’s example, you are too subtle and playful for primaries, a unique mix. Thank you.

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