Emergence of Hebe hostility in Bowral


We liked the place, after driving through it, almost immediately. The friendly canopy of the Manchurian pear and mixture of fig, gum and casuarinas trees was a welcome relief from so many other properties that we had seen. You know, the sort of entrance that features a bare driveway with the garden totally dominated by pretty flowering things that conform to the owners wish to be on top of everything, including the garden. Nothing ever, ever, above gutter height, we’ll teach those trees a lesson; seems to be the motto of so many.

Not only the shaded and shade and sun dappled driveway, the communal gardens also has a rather lovely advanced hedging of dark green Hebe, Japanese boxes’ and bay laurel. Another huge feature was the curved driveway. We had bought the place almost without having seen the inside of the place, our future home. What can one say about bedrooms, lounge and kitchen? They had high ceilings and the space was reasonably well planned. The bathrooms were large and simply furnished with enough concealed plumbing to flush toilets and showers, even a full length bath. It was the entrance to the eight townhouses that decided our choice more than the bricks and mortar. It made us feel good and uplifted.

The town houses are lived in by their owners but two are rented out. For reasons I have never understood ‘renters,’ as a general rule, don’t ‘do’ garden, but ‘owners’ do. It’s as if ‘owning’ brings out the need to differentiate from those that don’t ‘own’. I mean, when I say that ‘owners’ garden, it’s often just the mowing and raking leaves that constitutes gardening. Even raking is an over-statement; they now use awesome equipment to move leaves. They, the blowers, look as if on a mission in Afghanistan routing out cells of resistance. They wear helmets and goggles with a determination that frightens even the most determined Magpies and possums. The leaves shrivel up in advance.

Of late, there has been an emerging danger in that a couple of owners in our cozy compound now want to change the communal status quo with the Hebe hedging to single Camellias. We all know that watching the telly’s Edinburgh Tattoo on New Year’s Eve is about the most boring thing we could be found out about or accused off. Well, I have a thing about Camellias. I suspect that camellia lovers also love watching military events, including the Tattoo. It goes further; Camellia lovers also vote liberal and probably hate boat people. From my days in Revesby, the Camellia has always represented a kind of straggly ambition to some status of non-growth, a stilted subservient form of ‘frozen in time’ limbo much desired by many and often achieved. You could buy all the Camellia fertilizers, all the cow manure, you could mulch, spray, put copper sulfate underneath each leave. The Camellia would triumph over all and refuse to admit to any life or growth, not even a single leave would sprout…

Well, for those couple of owners, whose names shall remain anonymous, the Camellia and watching military tattoos have proven my non-judgmental theory to fever pitch. One owner, early in morning, at the crack of dawn, massacred three lovely mature, dark green Hebe. When I walked past with Milo, I couldn’t believe it. We had, at an earlier extraordinary meeting, agreed to shaping and rounding of the hedging.

We agreed to this when a new owner expressed the wish to cut down some lovely bay hedges and replace them with Camellias. We were put on high alert. Helvi and I quickly rounded up support from pro Hebe owners. Just in case! We wanted the new owner to feel welcome but also let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that the mentality associated with Camellia’s is somewhat frowned upon. I mean, how can you feel good when walking past Camellias? They are so…. kind off…. dare I… so utterly boarding houses in South Kensington in UK…. So boringly stinking flowers on the foot paths of suburbia… the buds often just fall off, despairing of life…they need a good dose of…Round-Up.

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