Gardens Illustrated March 2007 Posted on March 3, 2007

YESTERDAY IT BLEW HARDER than it has since 1990 – judging, at least, by the toll it took. It is the proprietors of avenues I feel for when it roars this loud. No one but I will notice, when we’ve cleared up the mess, what trees are missing from my seemingly random planting, but a gap in an avenue is like a missing tooth.

What a mess there is, all the same. Seven trees down – never the ones that looked particularly fragile or exposed. Our tallest tree, a Canadian poplar (Populus x canadensis) 33m high, landed largely in our neighbour Ken’s garden and partly on the road. Miraculously there was no one around and only one pine was crushed. Long suffering Ken says he won’t miss it. The ones I shall miss most are a big bird cherry (Prunus padus) by the church gate and another poplar, a shapely and fragrant black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) I planted as a cutting 30 years ago, which is leaning dangerously with its roots above ground. One of the bluest of Scots pines, Hillier’s Pinus sylvestris ‘Argentea’, simply snapped (and not even at the graft) in a sustained gust that gave no relief for a full five minutes.

The bird cherry tore its roots out, revealing that honey fungus had been rotting them. There was no sign of it inthe healthy crown. Other trees split at high forks, points of weakness I had not even noticed before. Most trees were simply cleaned of their dead twigs, a litter-storm that covers lawns, shrubs and beds. It would have been worse – as it was in 1987 – if deciduous trees had been in leaf; sails impossible to reef. We have a chipper roaring away spreading minced tree as a deep mulch in all directions. Soon only I will see the gaps and, of course, set about filling them. A tree down is a planting opportunity. The catalogues are open at my side.

Hugh’s Gardening Books

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