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Gentle rain, and the garden glows green. Is there anything better than being on holiday, being able to go back to bed with a book and a cup of tea while the rain falls softly on the verandah roof?

A friend from Sydney came to visit. She loves trees as much as I do, so on a drizzly day we went to the National Arboretum and joined a tour led by a volunteer with passion, knowledge and dry sense of humour (the best qualities for the job, don’t you think?!). When the idea for an arboretum was first proposed, the site was a burnt-out pine plantation, devastated by the 2003 bushfires. I lived not far away at the time of the fires and I remember my landlord standing on the roof of my little house, hosing down embers until about 10pm, when the wind changed and we knew we were safe. Amazingly, the 90-year-old Himalayan cedar and cork oak forests that grew beside the plantation survived.

The decision to plant an arboretum on the site was in part to symbolise healing after the fires. When the planners stood in the two remaining forests, our guide told us, they realised how different each one felt and decided that the arboretum should be composed of many forests of a single species—rare, threatened, symbolic, international and local—species with spectacular autumn or spring colour and species that would support wildlife. As I listened to him talk, I thought my heart would burst with happiness at the forethought, the vision, the creativity. Each forest is planted in a unique arrangement—for example, the trees in the weeping snow gum forest are planted in a snowflake pattern. From the air it must look spectacular. The original plan was for one hundred forests and so far the count stands at 94.

We stood in the rain and looked out at the panorama and I thought how glad I was that my taxes contribute to this expanse of trees that delights and inspires, a place of beauty that keeps growing not just upward and outward but greener. Trees grow slowly in Canberra. It will be decades before some of the plantings become forests, each with their own special character. “Come back in 80 years and check this one out,” said our guide, waving his arm at a particular forest. We all laughed. Then the woman next to me said, “My spirit will come back.” Mine too.

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