I love trees.
I have realised that they are fundamental to my wellbeing. My emotional response is visceral.
As you know I am an urban gardener for the most part. We have parks near by with Sweet and Horse Chestnuts and Oaks. The roads are lined with Maples, London Plane, Cherries and Acers. I am lucky to have the benefit of a beautiful Robinia in the next door garden and a majestic Cedar two doors down the other way. I planted three Silver Birch in my front garden a few years ago and was given a Hazel whose roots are supposedly impregnated with truffle spores. If I had a pig I could encourage it to seek out the truffles that may be beneath the soil.
These beauties old and new are the backdrop to my life.
As a child I lived in a village that has a common three minutes run away. It is graced with the most beautiful central tree lined Avenue. A ten minute walk away up the hill through the wheat fields is the bluebell wood filled with Hornbeam and Beech trees filtering the light to the woodland floor. I think this was the time when subconsciously I fell in love with these majestic beauties. With my two brothers, one younger, one older we had adventures climbing trees, making camps being away from the house, being independent.
I like trees in the winter months. You really see their character. Unusual bark, which I am often blinded to by the gregarious greens in the summer, become visible. The shape of the branches reaching for the sky outlined on a crisp sunny day. The gnarly roots at your feet. The personality of the tree comes alive. The natural decoration of Plane tree seeds hanging like baubles waiting for the warmer months to explode their seed all over London. Catkins on hazel trees dancing in the breeze. These things are hidden when in full leaf.
At Easter for many years we went to Little Missenden to spend the day with relatives. It was the time of year that the trees start to put on their spring greens. That fresh colour that Farrow and Ball can’t replicate. Almost luminous, the trees glow. It would be a talking point with Diana, my mother-in-law, both of us agreeing how beautiful trees look at this time of year. They haven’t succumbed to the slightly jaded look later in the summer when the leaves have reached their peak leafiness and you can see that it won’t be long before the shade you are sitting under will start to tumble to the ground.
The changing colours of autumn trees painting the sky the russets, oranges, and yellows of an early Van Gogh landscape always delight and dismay me. The knowledge that as the evenings get crisp and the days shorten this natural artistic display will again be packed into bags to become leafmold for another year.
I have been thinking about trees a lot recently. They are under attack from all sorts of pests and diseases. In childhood tragedy struck when the beautiful avenue of Elms in the village had to be felled when they succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. They were replanted with disease proof alternatives and these many years later have grown up to be a passable replacement. The trouble is our natural heritage is being threatened. Sweet and Horse Chesnuts, Ash, Oak, London Plane are either critically threatened or suffering in a worrying way. It has made me feel despairing.
But one story I read a few weeks ago has revived my spirits. The landscape designer Marian Boswall has newly landscaped the area round Fenwicks of Bond Street. She has planted a new English grown Elm. Ulmus ‘New Horizon’ is an Elm bred to be resistant to Dutch Elm disease. These once mighty trees lost to our landscape in our lifetime are making a come back. I for one feel a great happiness about this.