The jacarandas flowering early in Kirribilli are a sign of good times ahead, says North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson. “They are beckoning us outdoors,” she said, surveying McDougall Street’s Instagrammable trees that are now turning purple.
“It is as if they know we need cheering up after our long winter lockdown. Jacarandas represent rebirth, wisdom, wealth and good luck. Just what we need,” Cr Gibson said. In some cultures, if a jacaranda’s trumpet-shaped purple or lilac blossom lands on someone’s head, it means that person will be lucky.
As a result of a new jacaranda policy agreed by North Sydney Council in late September, Cr Gibson said council will give away 300 trees to residents.
The trees will extend the “jacaranda footprint” that attracts weddings and tourists arriving by coach, foot and stand up paddleboard and canoe to Milson Park over a six-week season that usually peaks mid-November.
To address complaints by residents about traffic and rubbish left behind by crowds, Cr Gibson said the council will install more portable toilets, clean existing public toilets more frequently, and implement crowd management measures and install signage.
It is hoped the new trees will encourage visitors to disperse to other jacaranda-lined streets in Kirribilli, visit a greater range of shops and cafes and set the scene for a local jacaranda festival in the future.
If the 300 trees prosper, they will triple the number from the existing 158 to create a “jacarandaville” across the harbourside peninsula.
“[Jacarandaville] sounds like an American movie on Netflix,” Cr Gibson said.
Like all good dramas, Kirribilli’s jacarandas have a royal backstory and only exist thanks to a breakthrough in science.
McDougall Street’s 30 mature jacarandas were a gift from the town of Grafton, and were planted in the 1930s as part of a beautification program started by Her Excellency Lady Gowrie. She wanted to ensure the approach to Admiralty House at Kirribilli was pleasing to visiting royals.
Long before then, Sydney had fallen in love with Jacaranda mimosifolia, the South American tree that many people wrongly believe is native to Australia.
In 1868, the Herald reported, “No garden of any pretensions can be said to be complete without [a jacaranda] … Its beautiful rich lavender blossoms, and its light feathery foliage, render it a gem of the season.”
Problems propagating the trees at that time had made them out of reach for “all who love a garden”. That was until a breakthrough involving a bell jar, silver sand and a cold pit by a member of the Horticultural Society of NSW, the report said.
The article reported that the Jacaranda mimosifolia at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, thought to be the same large tree that is now in flower today, “was well worth a journey of 50 miles to see.” When it was planted, the tree was one of the first and only spots people could see a jacaranda.
At Milson Park this week, Zenim Ouk from Chippendale and Iren Loch from Ultimo got in early. “We came here last year but it was too busy,” Ms Ouk said.
They were taking photos for Instagram, and put the trumpet shaped petals on their fingers like gloves in much the same way that generations of Australian children have played with the flowers.
“I look like a witch,” Ms Ouk said.
Even without the overseas tourists, Cr Gibson forecasts the jacarandas will be popular this year. “People will be coming from all over Sydney, locals will be out enjoying jacaranda season more than they do usually. We actually had my grandson’s seventh birthday here on Saturday.”
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