Trees – Weathering the Storm.

Tall, broad, weeping or not, most people love trees, even if they fail to realise it. Trees texturise our world, from landscapes with twisted ancient groves, in tucked away valleys, to clipped street trees or standard fruit trees in a homely garden.

Trees grow, attract, and enrich life, they even produce the air that gives us life. Yet, as tough as trees are, if storm events have taught us anything, it is that trees are at risk and vulnerable.

Century old trees on the lakeside at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire, England, image by Gary Webb
Reflecting on earth’s incredible trees, here at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire.
© Gary Webb 2022

It is commonly taken that mature trees are solid and everlasting. Their roots will have spread far through the earth, having driven themselves between miniscule particles in every direction, anchoring every specimen firmly to its spot.

In many species, thick, ridged bark encloses and protects softer inner tissue within a trunk. Yet as we look higher, increasingly smoother and more flexible bark can be found cloaking branches, stems and twigs, where frequent breeze driven movement is guaranteed.

Firmly rooted and bank-binding yew tree roots at Upton House & Garden, Warwickshire.
Firmly rooted and bank-binding at Upton House & Garden, Warwickshire.
© Gary Webb 2022

Trees then, with their strong cores, space owning crowns and flexible tops are dynamic, strong and resilient. They’ve evolved to endure, to last, and to grow in number in most environments, indeed, some examples are proven to have lived for centuries.

But when storms touch down, I worry, for each and every unshielded champion. Decayed twigs will rain down for sure, inflexible branches will fracture and fall, to spear the soil or shatter upon the ground below.

Wind waves will rock stems and heave root-plates until long established roots are torn apart. Trees therefore, our constant companions are vulnerable, and once touched personally by a storm are rarely the same again.

Broken cedar tree branches after an overnight storm
Cedar wood damage after west winds blew.
© Gary Webb 2022

Seeing footage of trees snapping, shattering and toppling over recent days should leave an impression, as it has for many storm events in history. Having worked on many cleanup sessions where fallen wood lay strewn across wide areas, and where mud, sweat and tears were inseparable, I also feel for those who are tasked with the unenviable task of clearing away the remains.

Trees will always be at risk from storm events, that is a fact, and dealing with broken trees will always be a labour of love. But trees are, in the main, survivors. Like humans, they will in most cases find a way to endure and adapt, and it helps to take inspiration from this.

Centuries of history live on through this yew tree at Compton Verney, Warwickshire. It’s ridged bark like laughter lines on a mature face.
Centuries of history live on through this yew tree at Compton Verney, Warwickshire.
© Gary Webb 2022

Trees and people are interlinked, and we must continue to invest in them and support their survival; especially where we’ve made environments so challenging for them. We have been fed, clothed, housed and warmed by trees since the beginning of time, we have even been transported around the globe by them, and we should respect that.

If then we lose faith in our trees, if we begin to worry that repairing or replanting a tree isn’t worth the expense, worry or risk, then I’d urge us as a community to think again. We must especially preserve veteran and ancient trees carefully, for unlike buildings, which have the potential to rise again from the ashes, trees never can.

Shade giving trees at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire, positioned on high ground over looking the River Dene & water meadows.
Shade giving life giving trees at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire. Long may they thrive.
© Gary Webb 2022

Through any storm, irreplaceable, historically or botanically important specimens will fall, and their presence will be mourned by many. But in response, what should we do? How can we fill the vacant space that inevitably is left behind?

Practically, I suggest we look closer at the mechanics of any storm individually, and at each particular tree that has been impacted. I would also suggest looking to those trees nearby which survived the storm and ask questions of them: How did they weather the storm? Are replacements available in case they were to fall in future? Is there anything we can do to protect them? We must not just clear up and put the sorry event behind us, but learn from it.

There is much to learn from storms and the attention they bestow on our beloved trees. Survive them we must, but learn from the wreckage what we can before focusing on the new opportunities that will present themselves; for a new generation of life-giving companions.

Plant trees for your grand children, as they say, or plant trees for yourself. Whatever the reason; just keep on planting! 🌳🌳🌳.

Gary Webb,

Gardening Ways – a personal blog about plants and gardens.

Tree Connections

I’ve been wanting to write a little piece about trees for a while now, but as often the way, it’s been just another post on the to-do list. However, when our friends on BBC Gardeners’ World produced a special program dedicated to trees, I was inspired to get out my notes and to revisit that post I’ve been meaning to write.

Limes in the morning mist.

Like many other people, I’ve a long held interest and fascination for trees, and not least for the fact they can grow from the smallest wind blown seed to enormous, living and breathing structures. How they establish a root hold and adapt their growth, melding with the environment they find themselves in is nothing short of extraordinary.

My Gardeners’ World Video

I’m delighted to record that after watching BBC Gardeners’ World on my screens for what seems like an eternity, I finally made it onto the screen myself! Okay, it was a video I’d sent in about me and my garden but still – I’m very chuffed for my clip to have been selected, and I’ll be walking around with a rosy glow on my cheeks for the weekend at least!

At home, Spring 2021

Last Spring

I’ve written in my journal before about how the pandemic impacted my gardening world, in as much that whilst enduring the first lockdown I was fortunate to be able to continue working. I say fortunate because I live for working with, in and around gardens, and to think of having to stay indoors, or to have been restricted to a small space would likely, well, I can’t even begin to think.

My Sensory Garden

Do you have a sensory garden? If not, are you sure?

I find myself sitting at a little bistro table in my garden with fingertips poised near the keyboard. It’ll be my first post for a few weeks you see, after life, as it does, got a little heavy. But with a few moments of peace available I’m determined to reignite my writing brain and post something interesting, or useful at least so here goes; a post about my sensory garden.

Blue hyacinth flowers in a rusting, tin pot, in the garden
Hyacinths punch well above their weight in terms of scent – these are incredible!

Sense of Smell

Take a patch of moss…

I was dazzled in the garden yesterday, and not for the first time by a patch of moss. This patch was part of a larger one growing very happily on the lower part of a tree trunk sheltered by hedges. The patch was soft but tough, rooted firmly to its spot and wrapped tightly around the west face of the tree – a shadier space in the garden could scarcely be found.

Its brightness captured my eyes for a while, shining as it was on a dull February day. One of those days when the sun only occasionally appeared, and only then like torchlight through the fog.

My Gardening Ways

Garden blogging – what’s it all about eh? Why do I invest good money in a WordPress blog site, only to invest more valuable time in the creation and editing of articles? (Articles that generally get caught up in the tiniest corner of a loose outer strand of the World Wide Web anyway!)

A recent article of mine…

It’s cathartic and therapeutic, that’s why. It gives me opportunity to ponder the incredibly diverse world of plants and gardens, to consider the never ending revelations, and it gives me a very personal and creative outlet. This I believe is more important than the ‘stats’ behind any blog, stats that I don’t make time to study and play to anyway.

Trust In The Gardener

Many people have ownership or responsibility for an outside area, a conservatory or balcony. The idea though of actively working one of those spaces into a garden, of cultivating plants or improving that space does not always come easily.

I’m not a gardener,” and “I know nothing about plants,” are statements I’ve heard many times, and it’s often through a fear of failing, of being judged or maybe, of having a space for growing but not knowing how to approach it.

Time’s well spent in the garden….

Now I’m not for a second going to judge or wag a green finger of disgust, because everyone is their own person, in their own unique situation and gardening shouldn’t be a forced activity. Indeed, gardening actively for some people can be next to impossible.

Just a Rusty Old Garden Tool?

If you’re of a like mind, I’m certain that at some point in time you’ll have found yourself wondering through a historic property, maybe past garden buildings at a Georgian Manor House, or through a farmstead developed through the Victorian period. Maybe it was a rural museum you strolled around, peppered with Tudor structures and land managing paraphernalia, or even a cottage garden where you stepped carefully along wiggling blue brick pathways wide enough just for one.

Photo of an antique garden roller At Calke Abbey
An Ironcrete garden roller enjoying retirement at Calke Abbey

Whatever place it was, I’m sure you’ll have happened across a rusty garden implement or two – and I’m not talking about the gardeners!

A Love for Trees

In my formative years as a gardener, I can honestly say that I never thought that trees would play such a significant part. I mean, I learnt about them, planted a few, chopped bits off a few more and did my fair share of ident’ sessions, but did I really get to know and understand trees?

A backlit autumnal oak ​at Sulgrave Manor, with the setting sun right behind
A backlit autumnal oak at Sulgrave Manor

Naturally I grew up with trees all around, as most people do: trees in our family gardens and down the street, a huge conker tree in the school playground, even the Christmas tree in the corner each December. (OK, maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch!) But did I really take proper notice of them?