Trees W8 Posted on April 30, 2013

There are cars circulating in London at the moment scattering petals as they go from the accumulation on their roofs. The odds are they come from Kensington. The Royal Borough is blossom-crazy, with sometimes spectacular, sometimes frankly garish results. I hadn’t realised, I confess, before it became my borough, what an arboretum of street trees it contains, or what a show they make in April and May.


The theme tree in our street is our native double white cherry,  Prunus Avium ‘Plena’. It was one of our favourite trees at Saling, a sumptuous white cloud in April and as prettily motley as cherries get in autumn. There must be forty in the street here, ranging from craggy old veterans to novices only planted last year. The disadvantage of cherries in pavements is the way their roots emerge from the ground as writhing monsters – as gardeners know only too well.

I wrote a while ago about the ludicrous planting of the Avenue de Champagne, that noble address in Epernay, as an arboretum. When local authorities hire enthusiasts, people who love trees too much, I fear this is the result.

When I first saw the bare weeping tree in our neighbour’s garden I took it for another cherry. Now it is in leaf I am thrilled to see it is the exceedingly beautiful and rather rare weeping Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum “Pendulum” – so pendulous, indeed, that its branches would reach the ground without judicious pruning. Passers-by walk under a beautiful green parasol over the pavement. Its little heart-shaped leaves are now a brilliant tender green. In autumn it will turn everything from cream to scarlet – and the street will have that warm sweet elusive scent of strawberry jam.

There are some almost-avenues in neighbouring streets, with the trees correctly uniform on both sides. Ours, though, is a bit of a muddle. There are two old planes, a couple of limes, two hornbeams, a scattering of the default street tree today, Pyrus “Chanticleer”, and (horror) what looks very like the dreadful Prunus “Amanogawa”, that pink scarecrow from Japan.

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