A piece of peace

From the Indy's gardening guru

A Royal Poinciana - known locally as the Christmas tree - not only looks spectacular at this time of year, it also makes the ultimate shade umbrella.
A Royal Poinciana – known locally as the Christmas tree – not only looks spectacular at this time of year, it also makes the ultimate shade umbrella.

CICERO is quoted as saying: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Being in the trade, so to speak, everyone wants to have everything perfect by Christmas. That perfectness is to last the whole festive and new year period. It is when one gets so busy that the only thought is not on material things but on a little bit of peace.

Christmas for the European is fir trees with snow. I remember the pine smell and the delicately woven angels gently turning in the updraft of candles. Somehow artificial snow and flashing LEDs does not cut in the tropics. Then the tinsel town phase arrived. Being a more organic, natural person the plastic replicas rated along with the artificial snow.

Natural arrangements with found objects can make a striking table centrepiece.
Natural arrangements with found objects can make a striking table centrepiece.

The Christmas tree has become a beacon for a pile of gift boxes in most homes. Geometric and artistic Christmas trees have appeared made from shells and pieces of timber. In the new year they will be packed away with mothballs to prevent the glue being chewed by insects and rats. There must be simpler pleasures.

Royal Poincianna are breaking out in a red mantle of flowers. Like New Zealand’s Pohutukawa tree it is aptly named the Christmas tree. The massive canopy to rival any umbrella provides welcome shade. The seed pods have not yet formed (they follow the flowering cycle). The Royal Poincianna will grow close to the coast. Its root system comprises of a tap root and a mat of surface roots. Keep it away from buildings and drains or else these will be invaded and cause blockages. It was an expensive lesson to a home builder who had to clean his septic system twice a year as the roots of the tree treated these cavities as its own private hydroponic source.

Any one can decorate using the minimal approach.
Any one can decorate using the minimal approach.

Heliconia flowers are mainly red, orange and yellow. Being such strong flowers they will stand up without water. Tied in bunches of three, five or seven they become natural adornments for around the family areas. Arrangements will last longer if placed in bamboo vases. The bamboo has a natural sugar that feeds the flowers. The sugar comes with a fungicide that extends the life of the flowers.

Flowers cut from the garden make a much-appreciated gift. There is nothing like the look of a child as he hands up a bunch of marigolds he or she has gathered. The table can be covered in fresh green leaves held down with bleached rocks or coral ornaments. Palms can be woven into gift baskets. Surrounding oneself with all things natural IS in vogue and yet comes so naturally when one is in remote areas.

A fresh harvest of pineapple, the melt in the mouth papaya, the power of a banana smoothie – these are all naturally and readily available. Remember how Vanuatu craved for this post TC Pam. These are the important things – good food fresh from the garden and the neighbouring environment.

The New Year will bring plenty of new year’s resolutions. Amongst them there will be promises of moderation, a renewed dedication to health matters, a forgiveness of past wrongs and a hope for a new future. Most of all, take time to reconnect and have some quality time with friends and family. Head for the big garden, Vanuatu’s environment, it is a neutral territory to be enjoyed by all.royal-poinciana-flowers

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