Somewhere out there, perhaps my parents still have it, is a photograph of yours truly in a Brownie uniform, planting a tree. At least I was assisting some local dignitary by handing them the shovel. I very vaguely remember the event itself. Anyway, stored in my memory bank, this event has always been filed under the ‘Queen’s Silver Jubilee’ but thinking about it now, it was more likely to have been connected with ‘Plant a Tree in Seventy Three’. Or maybe it was to celebrate the opening of a new toilet block. Whatever, it was definitely some very special event that prompted this planting.
Customers often buy trees from us to plant in memory of a loved one and sometimes we send them by mail order, so the customer is relying on us to select the best for them. Choosing a tree in this instance is always poignant. Occasionally we’re asked for advice on planting a tree to celebrate the birth of a child – a lovely idea I always think. There is something about planting a tree that shouts out to the world – ‘I am alive and I believe in a better future!’ But to so many people, the idea of planting a tree strikes a chord of terror in their hearts.
I live on a new estate. The house is clean, modern, energy efficient and a stone’s throw from the nursery. I’m lucky to live on the periphery of the estate, so one side of the house looks onto what’s left of the original woodland, before the developers bulldozed the rest. The other overlooks twelve or so of my neighbour’s gardens. And from this aspect I can’t see a single tree – not one tree in twenty gardens! It’s ironic that the road I live on is called ‘Magnolia Way’ because there isn’t a damn single Magnolia.
Imagine the perfume in summer of a street lined with Magnolias, instead of wheelie bins.
The name can surely only refer to the colour of the paint. The legacy of the minimal amount of obligatory planting undertaken by the developers 10 years ago is a few Euonymous and Cotoneasters – I can’t even remember the others even though I’ve passed them a thousand times. It’s an absolute triumph of the most unimaginative, ubiquitous, non-descript, bog-standard, industrial estate-style planting imaginable.
My neighbours’ approach to gardening seems rather similar, with neatness, ease of availability and moderation of growth being held in highest esteem. God forbid that any plant should dare to raise its head above the 6ft panel fencing parapet, or put on any show of vigour or exuberance. And the thought of a tree – those damn things that grow big and cast shade and drop leaves and make a mess and undermine foundations.
Even the tiniest of gardens would have room for a Pencil Cyprus. We've found birds nests in ours.
What a shame because our lives are surely impoverished by living in a treeless environment. So this year I am on a mission to persuade anybody who comes through the nursery gate to plant a tree (or at least a shrub that can be trained into a small tree). It could be a ‘Diamond Jubilee Tree’, An ‘Olympics Tree’, or a ‘2012 End of the World Tree’ (that last sales angle probably won’t work). But really, we shouldn’t need a special occasion to plant a tree.
Birch cast a light, dappled shade and in winter the white, peeling bark of Betula jaquemontii would liven up a small garden.
1. Loree+/+danger+garden said...
Hallelujah! I wish I could put you in direct contact with my neighbors.