I want to share something with you. This story is for renovators, home owners and anyone helping to create the places where we live.
As a primary-school-aged-child, with short 8-year-old legs, my walk home from school each day took me through a route determined by culs de sac, speed and safety. The vista was of the suburban landscape familiar to anyone growing up in Brisbane. Frangipani trees, umbrella trees, post-war homes and the sounds of children playing (who had shorter walks’ home).
Often the summer rains chose a quarter past three to fall. The small gang of school-mates and I would, serendipitiously, pass a large umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) around that time. One day we took this opportunity, the literal common name and a branch each. And we learnt that when held aloft, the branch performed well against the light beginnings of a summer shower.
Now as an adult I hold a special place in my heart for that tree, that way home, that street, the house with that tree, and the lateral thinking experience. The choice that home-owner made to plant that tree gave me and my friends something more than just shade. It shaped, in a small way, who we are today. As does the entire built environment we grow up in.
The Brisbane City Council’s Neighbourhood Shadeways program has achieved the goal to plant two million trees by 2012.
This sensibile move to shade walkways and bikeways from our punishing summer sun also has an impact on us in other ways. It can be a landmark, a memory, it can teach problem-solving skills, provide a habitat for wildlife, encourage family walks after dinner, support our unique biodiversity, reduce dust and is just nice.
When considering your on-street foliage think about how it will impact the community and your family. It’s well worth a little thought as it may change someone.
This post was inspired by Roman Mars’s podcast ’99 Percent Invisibile’ Episode 67. If you want to know more about the built environment and how design impacts us I highly recommend it.