Rus in urbe Posted on July 11, 2019

Was ever a little terrace house as sylvan as ours? In front a magnolia, a myrtle, the 40 foot double-flowered white cherry in the street and an exceptional rarity, our neighbour’s weeping Cercidiphyllum, alias Japan’s Katsura. The katsura was already my favourite tree: to find one cascading its exquisite light green leaves outside our windows is outrageous good fortune, and when in autumn it turns a motley red, yellow and crimson and smells like strawberry jam I have to pinch myself. Not even Kew has a weeping one this size; people on the pavement stoop to walk under its great umbrella of green and seem to love it.

At the back we look at our own park-size sycamore, a dark tower far higher than the house, our neighbour’s walnut, rapidly catching the sycamore in height and exceeding it in the extent of its shadow. Beyond the walnut is a golden catalpa, an apple tree and a row of limes. Beyond the sycamore a house-high bay tree, beyond that an acacia….. in sum, nothing but leaves.

London provides a sound-track, of course: builders, sirens, helicopters, but in summer the houses around are hidden; we might be in the country. The Meyer lemon on the veranda is in full flower (and also fruit, the wonder of the citrus family). There is no more piercing, nose-grabbing scent; it drowns all others. The tinkle of water in the basin below joins the scent to seal the garden off from the world.

Hugh’s Gardening Books


Trees was first published in 1973 as The International Book of Trees, two years after The World Atlas of Wine….

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The Story of Wine – From Noah to Now

A completely new edition published by the Academie du Vin Library: When first published in 1989 The Story of Wine won every…

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