When I walked into the garden centre the smell of pine hit me in the face, hard. The scent evoked strong memories. Memories of toilet cleaner, pine fresh. ‘Enjoy a merrier Christmas with the sweet scent of Fresh Christmas Trees this season!’ banners announced.
When we first bought one of these US imported trees in Singapore I was positively amazed by the strong scent. It invaded every corner of the house, and after a few hours I was less impressed. The tree started to give me a headache. The Norway spruces I was used to in Europe smell much more subtly. Only if you bury your face between its branches the lovely smell will envelope you. Walking past, brushing the twigs ever so slightly, will let bells in the tree ring, and send a small whiff of pine scent into the air.
After a week or so in our house, with no air conditioning, the Singapore heat had turned most of the needles or our US Noble Fir brown. The scent, however, permeated from the barren stalks as strong and fresh as ever. It was then that I realised the truth about the ‘sweet scent of fresh Christmas tree’ the garden centre promised. A spruce in the tropics, who was I fooling?
So this year, when the pine fresh toilet cleaner hit me, I decided on a different approach. I wandered along several garden centres until I found something that would fulfil my purpose: a small Monkey Puzzle tree. In a pot. At a fraction of the cost of the US Noble Fir.
When I took it home, Linde was immediately excited. A tropical Christmas tree! Tijm, less so. It is not a real Christmas tree, he moaned. It took some explaining, telling stories about the spirit of Christmas, about the cluster of branches of the casaurina tree that I had as a Christmas tree growing up in Borneo, that with their long, droopy needles looked even less like the real thing, to persuade Tijm of how cool our Monkey Puzzle was. But after we decorated it, we all agreed it was just perfect for our jungle house patio.
Just a short distance from our tropical Christmas tree, across from the gate into our garden, stands a full-size Monkey Puzzle tree, fifty feet high. Our furry neighbours, the macaques, love playing in it. How will they react to the baby one filled with colourful decorations and sparkling lights? I’ll tell you once I find out.
Only, our Monkey Puzzle has one little problem: it does not smell. Maybe I should buy some air freshener? Pine fresh…
Merry Christmas to everyone!