A few years ago we planted a native verge garden. The local council supports verge plantings so long as certain conditions including those regarding plant height are followed. We complied, planting a variety of low growing plants, and all was good. Until recently that is.
Our verge garden has survived many things – feet, dogs (ours included), weeds, wheels, several very hot summers and pests. It has co-habited happily with all these risks and generally thrived, provided shelter and food to many little critters and enjoyment to us and others. However, recently there has been one scourge too many – in the form of the local council and its trusty contractors.
We received a circular from the council advising us that our slab footpath was to be replaced with a poured concrete path. The reason for this was stated to be that concrete paths have no tripping hazards, are cheaper to maintain, and are smoother for prams and wheelchairs. What the council didn’t mention was that the footpath was being widened.
To be honest we knew that the footpath replacement, and probable widening, was coming as this had happened, over time, on surrounding streets. I was caught between a desire for it to happen, so I didn’t have to wonder when it would, and a desire for the council to forget about our section of footpath.
When the contractors first arrived I asked them if they would like me to cut the garden back – no they would do it and they would be careful. Fine I thought. And so I watched from the lounge room to see one guy standing on one side of the garden demolishing half the plants – and another guy standing/stomping on the remaining ‘unaffected’ section digging up what had been ‘pruned’. I calmly (a miracle) suggested that it might give some of the remaining plants a small chance if they both worked from the same side. A small positive.
On next viewing we noticed that our Eucalyptus caesia (grown from seed and lovingly tended for the last 3 years or so) was in danger of being damaged by our hose which was connected to our tap (all well and truly inside our boundary) as it was being stretched across our lawn and used by the contractors. Not happy Jan.
At this point I decided I should move to the backyard – I thought it might be best if I couldn’t see what was going on. But then the concrete truck arrived so I stayed – for better or for worse.
As the large unwieldy concrete truck lumbered back and forth over the strip of verge lawn, my spirits plummeted as I came to the sad realisation that the only thing between the truck and the new path was the remaining sliver of verge garden. The dizzy limit was seeing the remaining plants stomped on during the levelling process when the contractor could have, more easily, stood on the lawn to complete this process. Time to have words.
Whilst I understand that the contractor had a job to do, the comment from one guy that he had a hundred other things that were more important than my plants – the job, the traffic, the weather etc etc really didn’t help. I pointed out to him (perhaps not so calmly) that they were important to me. Things were not looking good until I asked him if he had a hobby, a boat perhaps that he wouldn’t like damaged, and that this was my hobby and just as important to me as something that was important to him. This did at least seem to make some sort of impact and he said he’d be as careful as possible.
Whilst I am sad about the plants, the overwhelming frustration is the ‘couldn’t care less attitude’ displayed. I know they just see me and my garden as an annoyance but I would have been much less of an interruption if they had just displayed a bit more care through the process. And in this allegedly environmentally enlightened world, why is it that plants are often seen as far less valuable than a car or a boat or a painting. People that wouldn’t think to damage / vandalise something like a car or a painting, don’t appear to think twice about stomping on a plant (and often won’t even see it). Maybe the next generations will do better – maybe.
Anyway the verge garden will rise again – and yes it is an opportunity for change, renewal and improvement. But wouldn’t it be nice to think that we might also see a change in attitude, both to plants and other people’s belongings.
So now we have more concrete and less nature – and this from a council that recently adopted a new policy to encourage open streetscapes and landscaping whilst reducing the amount of hard surfaces – go figure.