Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Poem Lovely as a Tree

Whenever we go tree shopping I always find myself thinking of the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer, a poem that as a child we were made to memorise and recite over and over again on numerous occasions in primary school. Even during typing class (do they still have typing lessons in school nowadays?) one of the exercises that we had to do to pass was to type the lines of this poem arranged in a way to form a symmetrical shape of a tree.

Tree shopping, what a bliss!
Ahh memories! Memories of a poem that was overused in school with its simple, melodramatic lines and religious overtones written to exalt the virtues of trees. Overused it may have been (and it possibly still is) but this is just a testament to the  simplicity, effectiveness, and beauty of the poem. A big kudos and a lasting legacy to the poet who penned it.  

So tree shopping it was for us last Saturday, albeit an impromptu, spur of the moment decision. I know I just mentioned on our previous post that we stayed at home and gardened for most of that day but connected to that was the urge to start reinstating plants that will provide structure to the garden. With the clearing out starting it would also feel great to commence some planting too. And what way to start this process than to put in a beautiful tree we've always wanted to have in the garden but never had the space for it until now.

Given the space (and fortune) I'll happily have all of them!
This is the Tibetan Cherry, Prunus serrula 'Tibetica', a tree introduced into cultivation by Ernest Wilson in 1908 from Western China and is one the finest trees available mainly for bark interest but its graceful habit, form, and not so large size are also notable features. The bark can be polished by regular hosing and even rubbing to further enhance its most attractive feature. There is a beautiful specimen of this that greets visitors to Kew Gardens via the Victoria Gate entrance and ever since we caught sight of this elegant tree it immediately went into our wishlist. And from last Saturday it finally leaped from our wishlist into reality and into our garden.

I couldn't find any of our photos of ones growing at Kew so I borrowed this from Loree of Danger Garden who took this photo when she visited Kew Gardens in 2012
And here's another one taken by Loree (she does take fab photos!) - Prunus serrula 'Tibetica'
I do love trees, perhaps just as much as Joyce Kilmer indicated in his poem (okay, perhaps less melodramatic and religious). In fact whenever I get asked what would be the first non practical thing we would do if we acquired acres of land (hypothetical question but who knows, it might actually happen in the future) to garden I always say I want an arboretum, much to their surprise as they almost always expect that we'd say something like an arid bed, jungle walkway, or even a large pond. Fortunately for me Gaz shares the same sentiments on this matter. We'd still have those of course, given the chance but an arboretum would be really nice.

Given the generous space I could happily indulge in collecting Sorbus, Prunus, Magnolias, Acers, various conifers, you name it. Small trees, large ones, slow growing, fast growing, long lived, short lived, legacy, newly introduced, etc etc! And then underplant these trees with various bulbs that would come up and flower in succession through the seasons. Galanthus, Trilliums, Daffodils, Aconites, the list can be endless.

Snap! That's me daydreaming now! Better get back to reality and focus on this one particular plant, or should I say tree for now.

So after spending most of the day clearing and tidying up by mid afternoon we cleared enough space of an area to make way for a tree. There used to be a common elderberry tree, Sambucus canadensis growing sort of in that area and just behind the fences that provided some structure and privacy to the garden but that's gone now, perished by the fire (and rootball subsequently dug up just in case). So a replacement was necessary and this tree immediately sprung into mind. We still had about three hours of daylight left to do anything in the garden and we took advantage of this by immediately driving to a garden centre within our area that we took note of before that sells larger specimens of this tree for a reasonable price.

Not a bad size for price and will provide instant height and impact
We got there, made our choice amongst the best of what they had that is tall yet will still fit in the car, paid, and tied up the top growth with the only thing we had available then to tie it up which was literally a tie (we were a tad unprepared) then headed straight back home.

Why use a rope when you can use a tie!
Unloaded the car, dug up a hole, then presto, there it was in its new home. We forgot to buy a tree stake then so that will follow soon.


We thought it would be nice to cap off that day by planting out a tree that's we've wanted for awhile, and also symbolic that the road to recovery of our garden has truly begun.

Prunus serrula 'Tibetica'
And there it is, in it's new home, and playing with a few plants potentially for underplanting by positioning the pots.
Yes it was spontaneous but so, so satisfying! It all starts with that beautiful tree, more plants to follow later.

Prunus serrula 'Tibetica'
The fences will be sorted out, painted, and blended away later on but for now we're just admiring and appreciating the presence of this tree in our garden
Now back to the poem, after me saying how overused it was Gaz tells me he is not familiar with it at all! Perhaps it's just me and my school contemporaries then? I'm sure that's not the case.

But for those who are not familiar, let me share to you:

Trees

by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


Mark :-)

37 comments :

  1. I love this tree... only wish I could grow it but my climate is too harsh. I first saw it as a full sized specimen at Agapanthe, a garden in Normandy, and fell in love with its smooth, colourful bark. I hope your tree gives you all the joy you anticipate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Pat! An older specimen truly is a sight to behold. We're delighted to have it as a new addition to our garden :)

      Delete
  2. Absolutely stunning bark, both in terms of color and texture. There's something very special and meaningful about planting a tree, isn't there? Maybe because we don't get to do it very often. You sure chose a fantastic specimen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed Gerhard :) like you know you're doing something really good. Your feelings must be similar when you start planting that new border you have with those nice tree and plants you just bought recently.

      Delete
  3. It's an ab fab tree just for the bark --but those manky pink flowers are really naff but on the plus side they do not last long :-) If you have planted it in ideal conditions it will do everything you expect --very quickly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're the second person to say that to us Don, naff pink flowers which fortunately do not last long :) pleased to hear it performs pretty quick

      Delete
  4. It's a beautiful specimen and a fitting plant to denote the re-christening of your garden.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Being a visual person my eyes were soaking up the photos way ahead of actually reading the words so I had time to think "hey I know that tree!" Before reading that I'd taken the photo. What a wonderful purchase, and you're right, there is nothing quite as special as a tree purchase. As for the poem I never had to type it in the form of a tree but I do remember it well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Loree! Seeing the photos must have given you a sense of dejavu. Glad to hear there's also someone out there who's very familiar with the poem :)

      Delete
  6. Hello Mark and Gaz:

    As Mozart is to music, so we have always considered trees to gardening - i.e. the highest and purest form.

    We are certain that your newly planted tree will provide you with many years of enjoyment as you watch it grow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jane and Lance, that is such an eloquent way of putting it into context, appreciated :)

      Delete
  7. Such a super tree, I give mine a polish each time I pass it to go to the greenhouse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looking forward to the stage wherein we can start doing the same Pauline :)

      Delete
  8. Oh thanks for introducing me to a new poem :) Typing lessons in schools are long gone. I like the idea of word shaping though. What a splendid choice of tree. A most fitting celebration to mark your garden's journey back to recovery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A pleasure to introduce you to a new poem Anna :) typing lessons sounds so ancient so not surprised they don't have it in school anymore. I remember those manual chunky typewriters with ribbons and all

      Delete
  9. That´s a beautiful tree!!! I think I didn't see it when I went to Kew. Ahhh, what a beautiful place!
    It would be awesome to have the space for an arboretum.
    Your story about that poem and how people learn it in school made me think... It may reflect the important relationship of english people with plants, in an ornamental way. Actually, the poems that I had to learn in school were great poems, but they were about El Cid, an important hero in the Middle Ages, or about an old wise man, or about love. Although there are some poems about trees even if we didn't have to learn them at school. But it´s fun to think about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's so much to see in Kew that it's also easy to miss this one Lisa :) hopefully you'll be able to visit that place again soon. Interesting thoughts about the cultural reasons as to why certain poems are more favoured than others of which ones are taught in school. The simplicity of the poem I suspect is the main reason why it was taught so much, and the religious time as well growing up in a catholic school.

      Delete
  10. I greatly admire this tree when I see in in other people's gardens and nurseries. How wonderful that you have one of your very own! Congratulations on adding a new member to your plant family!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I searched for photos of this one Peter one of the ones that came up were yours :)

      Delete
  11. I haven't seen the poem in its entirety in years, but even those who were never hit over the head with it will recognize certain phrases, like "a nest of robins in her hair", that show up out of context and for good reason. Speaking of which: your lovely new tree is good reason to celebrate. It already exhibits pride of place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that poem has several parodies too Ricki. The tree is in a good spot indeed, just need to make sure we don't plant too many things in front of it as to obscure the view of its bark :)

      Delete
  12. Your tree selection is amazing! The bark is fabulous! Even with a large property like ours, eventually one runs out of room for additional large specimens. I love trees of all types, and an arboretum would be wonderful. The tree poem was never pushed on me as a child, and I loved it then and still do. By the way, we were not required to take typing, and I never took that class. I regret that very much now, as I am constantly limited by bad typing habits acquired when I taught myself to type.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Debs :) the bark of this tree is fabulous indeed and loved it the moment I laid eyes on it. I look back now at that typing class with fondness, rows and rows of pupils typing. Mind you I still kept some bad habits!

      Delete
  13. A very nice choice, Boys - it will look amazing once it gets established. And how handy that you carry a tie around with you! D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We hope so David, and quite soon too if we're lucky :) having a spare tie in the car certainly comes in handy every so often!

      Delete
  14. Love the tree bark. It alone makes it worth having. I bought my Paperbark Maple for the exact reason also. The bark is so cool on it. I'm assuming this one does not get too big also which is a bonus.
    Cher

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed Cher :) it shouldn't get that big, a good tree for small gardens too

      Delete
  15. Glad you included the poem. I knew parts of it, but had forgotten some of the middle. Anyway, I am sooooo in love with your cherry tree! I just love the bark of cherry trees. I even planted one here - but of course, it died as they don't grow in our heat! Well, I hope yours grows big and strong and beautifully. I think you made a fabulous choice. There's just something about trees that is a bit awe-invocing. I think that's why that poem has always been so popular.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I glad to hear you love our choice of tree Holley! And yes there's something about planting a tree, that feeling that you're doing something really really good :)

      Delete
  16. Aaaagh, I will now have that blasted poem echoing around my head all day!! I had to learn it too, though thankfully I didn't have to do the typing exercise. I am with you on the beauty of tree though, an arboretum would be fabulous, and I have always fancied a coppice too, but in the mean time, great choice of tree, and what a lovely shape it already is. Perfect way to end a gardening weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed Janet :) and it is a nice poem at least!

      Delete
  17. Awful poem, but a fantastic choice for a tree. I love all trees with interesting bark. I scrub my birches and I peel them too. I know you are not supposed to and it is a shameful habit but who could resist? Anyway they look very good on it as does your lovely Prunus. It will get better and better as the years go by.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lot of gardeners do scrub their birches :) not surprised as they look so good after a good clean up, they positively glow! Thank you and very optimistic the prunus will leave up to its promise.

      Delete
  18. Love this post. Naturally. But why let lack of acreage keep you from having your arboretum? I find myself always looking for spaces in my garden for "just one more tree." Congratulations on your beautiful new tree.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to reply to our post, we love reading comments and hearing your views.

Due to the increased level of spam, please note comments on older posts are moderated and only published after approval. All new comments are read and any spam is deleted.