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.