This is the second in a series of serious articles on important gardening subjects. One could argue that, having done 'pruning', the next logical step in a country garden is to start the burning...
Lots of Pictures of My Bonfire
Environmentalists, take heart! I do employ a sensible, scientific sifting and selection process. Please understand that I do make mulch and compost. I fill rubbish bags with fallen Autumn leaves from my Oak trees. All kitchen scraps are thrown on the official compost heap behind the rhubarb (which is raided daily by Rusty the dieting dog).
Three Main Culprits
I have no immediate neighbours to annoy with plumes of billowing smoke. My garden system simply requires that I burn, and there are three overpowering reasons why. Meet the culprits, three messy tree-shrubs which feed the Moosey flames all year round.
Australian Eucalyptus trees, which we call gum trees, are the worst offenders. They shed bark, leaves, and tree branches throughout the year. So why? Why? Why do I still accommodate them? It's worse - I admire my gum trees. I think I even 'love' them. I even have gum trees growing in the house lawns. I watch the Big Gum swirling and moving against the night sky, and I feel quite emotional. I could never, ever get it chopped down - though the firewood would last a decade.
I love New Zealand Cordylines (Cabbage trees) - they occupy a strong place in my heart, and my garden. Spiky, iconic, silhouetted against a blue New Zealand sky, my Cabbage trees drop their old leaves like worn clothes. What's wrong with that? I love them unconditionally. No matter how messy, I automatically clean up after them. It's definitely a conditioned mother-reflex, one which the bedrooms of the Moosey sons have long experienced.
Cordyline leaves are very burnable. They wreak havoc on lawn mowers, wrapping themselves around the blades. Even the industrial strength shredders at the council dumps can't munch them up. So I have to burn them - I really do!
Old Flax Leaves
New Zealand flaxes are also horribly tough of leaf. My scientific experiments suggest that the 'break-down' of the Head Gardener would occur before any Phormium leaves in the compost started decomposing. Ask anyone who has operated a shredder or chipper what they think of Phormium (flax) leaves - you'll hear some colourful language!
Or check with reputable mower of lawns - for example, Non-Gardening Partner. He'll tell you how flax fibres love to wrap themselves around mower blades. Oops!
So these are the three main reasons why the fiery colours of Autumn will be echoed in the flames leaping from my burning heap. Red of face and fragrantly smoky, I will maintain my lonely dusk rake-leaning vigil. I promise only to burn what I have to burn.
Today I found the charred handle of my favourite hand digger in the ash pile. Oops!