I planted some trees yesterday. Well, some were shrubs. But they all were ‘sort of’ trees, all British natives, and all researched carefully.
For a boggy area, a willow and an alder. A bit further up was an elderberry, and in some dryer sections were a hawthorn, a crab apple and a sloe.
As trees go, they were quite cheap, whippy saplings with just a couple of years’ worth of growth. They were planted carefully, with compost to encourage the roots and guards to discourage dogs that liked sticks from playing with them or rabbits from munching them.
It wasn’t the easiest thing to identify from the bundle of brown twigs I ordered which tree was which. For one thing, the labels only had Latin names on them. But luckily I can distinguish my Sambucus from my Prunus and only had to google one of the names for confirmation.
Tree planting is curiously satisfying. Unlike herbaceous plants, you know that trees will be present and visible in the ground you plant them in for years to come. They won’t fade and disappear no matter how long the grass grows. They have an air of permanence, of presence. They make you feel curiously proud – I did that. I planted that tree.
Trees change a garden’s microclimate. If you can get a tree to grow in a boggy bit, that bog will start to drain a little. If you plant a tree in an unshaded garden that gets full sun, after just a few years you will find beautifully dappled shade instead. A bank of trees can make an exposed site more clement. And even one tree planted can help reduce your carbon footprint.
I would love a campaign where everyone, every year for the next 5 years, was given a tree to plant. Whether in a park or a garden or beside a muddy pond or a narrow lane or busy road or in the middle of a housing estate. Each resident, everywhere, plants a tree a year.
Imagine how much greener the country would be. Turn boring municipal parks with unused grassy fields into community woodlands. Plant trees into all the gaps and dividers between spaces in a car park. Put a tree on that corner of grass and dog muck at the end of the road. Have a bank of native shrubs to the side of the corner shop.
If you have any green space I heartily encourage you to plant a tree. It doesn’t really matter which as long as its a native, or at least something related to a native and deciduous, so you get the wonderful seasonal variations. If its a small space, pick a native shrub instead. If its no space, do you have a local gardening group or friends of your local park that you could join, who’d give you space to plant your tree? Or, ask at work – if your office or factory or shop has outside space, your boss might even allow you to put your tree there – stranger things have happened.
Trees are timeless. They are stately, calming, proud and structured. They give colour, flowers, fruit and shade. They weave a gorgeous interplay between branches and sky, even in winter. They are a statement of permanence in a transitory world and a statement of your faith in the future.
Go plant a tree, if you are able. It is so, so worth it.