We live in the shadow of a church, with one of the few intact cemeteries and yards left in the inner city. We appreciate this small space and always frequent the annual spring fair, full of bric-a-brac, hoping the money we spend tends the grounds and the sandstone building.
At one fair, there was a sapling Jacaranda for sale, a beautiful meter-and-a-half high tree, a slender unbranched trunk crowned with a great shot of fern-like hair. I’ve always loved these trees, especially against the storm-grey skies of late spring. The electricity in the air excites the flowers to bolts of violet neon.
I felt sorry for this tree, its majesty pinched by a small plastic pot. But a few weeks before, we’d planted a Jacaranda in our front yard, struck from a cutting. Could we squeeze another into the small rear garden? We’d made plans for a lemon tree. Jacarandas grow tall and broad. No. Sadly, no room.
In the days after the fair, all the unsold plants were left strewn on the shadowed side of the church. The Jacaranda leaned seducingly against the buttress. Each evening on our walk we again debated the logistics of the tree but now with an added imperative; it had been abandoned. I gave it the remains of the dog’s water bottle. But no. Again, we thought, no.
Sunday evening is the only time there’s any action in the church, a discordant crew groan songs of high praise with tuneless melodies and voices, out-of-tune guitars and thwacking drums. Outside in the yard, un-tendered children run wild and we retire with our dog to a further-a-field field. As we pass, the children climb the sapping gum trees along the verge. They rip and bend the fresh widow-maker branches until they tear off at the knuckle. It would seem the children of this god have no need to care for nature.
One Monday morning, I found the Jacaranda, wrenched from its pot, slung against the sunny-side buttress, roots exposed, its feathery head wilted and scorched in the sun. I brought it home and placed it in a shaded bucket of water. By the following morning, it was turgid again, the frond-like branches erect. I left it for a week or two and then planted it in a pot, sure the few viable roots wouldn’t draw enough life from the soil.
But it defied all the odds. It didn’t grow, but it kept its head up. Over the summer we asked friends if they would like a Jacaranda with a story for their yards. No one had the space and so there it stayed, in the corner of the yard. Weeds grew in its small patch of soil.
In late autumn, our neighbours clear felled everything along the shared fence. We could now see directly into their kitchen, every movement in their yard and all her Hills Hoist washing airing in the breeze. Over winter, the sun shifted dramatically and the lemon tree we’d planted languished. We moved it to a big pot and a permanent patch of sun and planted the Jacaranda.
And something very odd happened.
Within three weeks, it grew at least five centimetres but also sprouted a fan of new fond-like branches. The growth rate was so spectacular. But as soon as it raised its head above the fence, our neighbour complained, saying it was an inappropriate tree. It was odd he should talk in terms of appropriate/inappropriate given that his dog often barked for 8 hours without breath. But he said we’d planted it on the sewer line and it would send roots down in to the clay pipes. I know Willows do but do Jacarandas?
So out it came again, into another pot and we moved it so I could see it from the kitchen window while I cooked. And there it stayed for a number of years. It grew taller and taller despite the lack of soil and the air-space competition from the other neighbour’s fig vines. And there it stayed.
Last month, some friends came for coffee. The tree was now very tall, a good three metres, still straight but bowed a little by neglect, a mess at the head like an unmade bed. They had recently moved to a new house and I asked if they’d like a Jacaranda. Cindy’s eyes flared. They would take it. The following weekend we removed it from the pot, wrapped its roots in plastic and cut back some of the upper branches. We threaded it through their small car, its head hanging out the front passenger’s window. They live not so far and got it home in one piece.
Now, hopefully, the Jacaranda’s wanderlust is extinguished. It has a patch of sun, a corner of a yard, and it can just grow, unperturbed and unimpeded.