Trees, as they grow and even long after their death possess a significant ability to support life, and after felling (sorry to bring the tone down!) their secondary uses to support and heat the homes we’ve lived in, to act as tools that feed us, and even as transport to carry us around are incredible. We mustn’t forget of course that their fruits also come in useful from time to time, and I’m not just talking cider!
As a gardener, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some very unique trees over the years, along with some people who, to one extent or another have also demonstrated love for trees. Naturally, for this post at least, I find myself considering some of these people, so randomly I have chosen just three who have demonstrated a particular connection with trees. I’ll change all names for anonymity, but if you think you’re one of the chosen three you’d be more than welcome to add some thoughts in the comments.
Number one is a person that I know to have formed a connection with the stunning tree that is Laburnum, commonly known as golden chain or golden rain tree. The mere mention of this tree should, I hope, take your memory to warm May days when long racemes of the brightest yellow flowers rain down and shout for attention. Let’s not dwell on the fact that all parts of this tree are poisonous!
My first person has planted numerous Laburnums in gardens over the years, often to the exclusion of any other tree species. All of the trees, without exception have established and grown rapidly, giving presence to their space and delighted with flower displays – often in their first year after planting.
For me, this tree will always be linked to a character who’s worked hard to create beautiful gardens, and who strives to keep these stunning trees upright and neatly pruned. They sometimes like to lie down I have to say – the tree that is, not the person for they rarely sit still for long, and their mind too is active needing to see results from their gardening labours, and relatively quickly too.
Number two person brings a very strong connection with the common lime or common linden tree, Tilia x europaea. I was fortunate to work with this person some years ago when restoration of some very large and important lime trees was necessary. The trees were incredibly complex and congested specimens that would need detailed study before difficult intervention work.
I recall the time this person took to understand the trees, first and foremost. Time spent studying, understanding the fungi forms that had formed a decaying attachment, the bats that were resident, the weaknesses and stresses in the timber, before prescribing and seeing through the conservation work.
Would the work ever be complete – unlikely, could the trees ever be considered ‘safe’ – impossible to say, was a balance between aesthetics and ecology possible – 100% certain – there was no other way.
Person two could of course be linked to several other tree species, such was their devotion and respect for trees. However, it is lime trees, when remembering this persons connection and care for trees, that comes to the fore. I can’t look at an old lime tree now without wandering what they’d make of this or that one, and thinking of how they’d stood in awe and puzzlement beneath those towering and congested trees all those years ago.
Number three person and their tree came into being maybe four or so years ago, when a particular example was threatened with felling to make way for the popular (NOT!) HS2 railway development. This person I know enjoys being around plants and gardens, and always radiates positivity whenever I’ve worked with them.
Their tree, as I’ve assigned at least, is a wild pear tree, or should I say, ‘was’ a wild pear tree. Yes, whilst this might read as a sad association, it’s with heartfelt respect that I recall numerous conversations of how much a particular tree meant to this person.
The tree of course was known as the Cubbington Pear Tree, which had grown quite happily for over two hundred years and was believed to be the second largest in the country. I won’t get into a long and ultimately sad story here of the tree’s eventual demise, but suffice to say that my person played an admirable role in the fight to save the tree, a tree that is now forced to live on through words and pictures, largely because of those who failed to understand the relevance or importance of trees.
My third person joined the ranks who appealed and campaigned to save that tree, fruitlessly in the end I’m saddened to say. Will the tree ever have understood the pain this and many others felt as it was removed? I doubt it. Will Mrs. Pear ever forget the years leading up to the tree’s removal, or the tree’s physical form and presence? I very much doubt that too.
So, to Mr. Rain, may your trees be upstanding and shine brightly for years to come. To Mr. Linden, your wonderful work will I hope continue, and your subjects will be all the better for it, and to Mrs. Pear, I salute you and your devotion to preserving a single and very special tree, long may it live on in our hearts and minds.
Whilst I could very easily continue with more people and their tree connections, I shall gracefully close this post here – before I end up writing a small book! I hope though, in the very least to have got you thinking about your relationship with trees. Do you have a favourite species? Have you planted one and how is it growing? Indeed, which tree might you link with me?
I’d genuinely love to hear of your tree, or in the very least – of your assumed tree name!
Gary Webb, Gardening Ways