Every morning since the beginning of November, as I have opened the blinds and looked out my bedroom window, I have smiled. Our cabbage tree is flowering. This is the first time in 17 years that we can remember it flowering so abundantly, bringing us such pleasure. The unfamiliar scent is strong and sweet, and I look forward to the berries that will come, and the birds they will attract.
Cabbage trees start with one trunk, with long, narrow, green, sword-like leaves. Gradually the trunks split and branch out, a head of leaves at the end of each limb. They are sculptural, fun, and distinctively New Zealand. But for too many years the cabbage tree in my front garden only had one stem, and one head. Our tree was an under-achiever, and I looked enviously at other cabbage trees in the suburb, with multiple branches of lush leaves. Then a few years ago our tree flowered for the first time. It took a year before we could confirm that it had, in fact, split. Joy! Now it has clearly forked, and two separate leaf heads are visible. This year, the flower stems are so large and strong, we are very hopeful it will fork again.
There is another reason our flowering cabbage tree makes me happy. The Maori predict a good summer if cabbage trees flower profusely. Everywhere I look at the moment, I see cabbage trees in flower, their large, wheat-coloured stalks tempting, teasing, with the promise of a long, hot summer. I am ready.