Have you ever pondered just what constitutes a garden?
Certainly more than the plants that grow in it or the humble gardener who attends them. For me, a garden is a collaborative, synergistic affair, a symphony of countless interactive organisms, from birds, bugs, frogs and fish to the micro-organisms that live in the soil, without which there would be no growing.
Sometimes I pine for the myriad bird life that filled my old garden; for the bandicoots with their little jeweled scats, the cheeky water dragons, land mullets, carpet pythons, possums, and even, in the early days, the odd escapee wallaby from the adjoining Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. After a weekend of deluge one year, the crocodile enclosure there was compromised so it’s entirely possible that I may have had a croc in my pool. Well, that may be stretching the imagination just a little, but hey – isn’t that the wild wonder of imaginees?
But back to my present garden, equally filled with life, mostly wild, simply on a different scale.
To begin, the garden space appeared to be lifeless apart from a phantom cat that crept in to sleep among the cushions on my steamer chair overnight. I never actually saw it but after a forensic examination and a clever elimination process, I deduced the animal hair left behind was – not human, not canine – but feline.
If there were spiders or soil dwellers they weren’t apparent. The transformation of a space into what became my garden was accompanied by armies of ants and a squadron of mosquitoes, the latter, relentless and lusting for blood – mine!
Over the following two years I determined to create an environment inducive to life. Together with the tireless soil building worms, spiders appeared (often in my hair), along with bugs and other insect life; some good, some unwelcome, but undoubtedly all having a contribution to make. Now little skinks abound and green tree frogs are elusive residents after my efforts to raise a batch of tadpoles last summer. They declare a noisy presence when it rains.
There are birds too, like Noisy Minors and Indian Minors; the latter probably keeping more desirable species away. Parrots, Lorikeets, Black Cockatoos, Corellas, Brahminy Kites, Kurrawongs, Pelicans and other sea birds fill the airspace above me but find nothing to entice them in. Still, I am grateful to hear their cries and see their familiar shapes in the skies above. My dad always said you need to recognise the bird life in your area to really feel at home.
Then there are the introduced species like the gold fish in my pond – a constant confirmation of the Pavlov effect. They see my shadow and expect food; reminding me of family. For once I’m glad I don’t throw a ‘heron slim’ shadow. Equally exotic are rare static bees, apis iocus: refer to pictures and time-distant, school Latin.
Perhaps most exotic and wildest of all is the gardener – me! The only part of my identity for which I can claim such exoticism.
What lives in your garden?