A BOOK OF TREES

I waken to glorious sun.   This year there were weeks – months it felt like – when he never deigned to put in an appearance at all;  and after a long period of leaden grey skies and daily bursts of rain, the sun is welcomed with wonder as the life giving source it is.   I lie in bed and watch him rise behind the trees and consider I could be a sun worshipper as pagan peoples were.

When we were last in London with Elisabeth, I realised what an absolute failure I had been in educating my children in the skills of identification of trees.   My father made an excellent job of teaching us this, but clearly I have been completely useless.

Standing at the window of Elisabeth and Rob’s apartment in the middle of London, we could see lime trees with their delicate heart shaped leaves and their double drum sticks.   Elisabeth looked puzzled – she clearly only associated ‘lime tree’ with the citrus variety.    I enthused about the lime (or linden) – it produces the finest honey, thick, greenish and tasting faintly of peppermint, but as it flowers early in the year and since honey is best created in warm, moist conditions, it is not always that the weather, the strength of the hive, and the flowering of the tree coincide.   Lime tree honey was prized above all else in our house – my father was a beekeeper – even over the delicious heather honey.

Across the road was a horse chestnut, a large and handsome tree, laden already with small round conkers.   This made us recall one of the legends of their own childhood, when there would be conker ‘competitions’, where you mounted your best conker on a string and struck your opponent’s conker, hoping to smash it and win the game.   John at that time travelled weekly to Geneva, so he was able to bring back conkers which were three times the size of the native varieties but otherwise indistinguishable.   Victory was assured.   (There were dark murmurings about the origin of the winning conkers, but who could prove anything?   You didn’t (at that time anyway!) require a certificate of authentication.)

Also on the street were the ubiquitous London planes, common enough because able to resist the pollution of the city, but still a fine tree, and further along we could see a graceful birch with its elegant silver bark, its delicate outline and  dainty little leaves.

In the large, private and communal garden to the rear which has been cultivated for over 150 years exotics grow in the micro-climate that is created there, and we spotted a banana with its giant leaves flourishing against a sunny wall.

I thought of the pleasure Elisabeth and Robert can have watching the seasons change through the altering colours and growth and decay of the leaves, and what a wonderfully restorative and life giving thing a tree is.

Like the sun.

I think I’ll buy Elisabeth a book of trees.

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

2 Responses to A BOOK OF TREES

  1. Eugene Windsor says:

    Yes, I agree about trees. I can vouch for the fact that our father taught us about the names of trees as to this day I am pretty good at identifying the common British trees, whereas hardly anyone else I’ve ever met has a scooby. There’s also lots of good science in favour of trees, as they take in CO2 and give out oxygen, so reducing the greenhouse gases that contibute to climate change. Of course, if you burn the logs, all that carbon is released again.

    You’ve got a minor detail wrong, though, about the Lime tree. It flowers in late summer, towards the end of July (well, that’s late summer up here…) The honey, as you say, is special, with just that hint of peppermint but, at least according to John, the tree requires a combination of warm, muggy days and warm muggy nights to give forth its nectar. If the day is too hot or the night is too cool (and in Scotland you are almost certain to get the latter, if not the former) there won’t be any any nectar, and hence no honey. I’ve occasionally seen Lime honey on sale (though of course as a result of labelling regulations it’s increasingly difficult to be specific about the type of honey in a jar) but it is never anything like as good as the stuff we did occasionally get from the bees.

  2. adhocannie says:

    Knowing that the honey was rarely obtainable because it wasn’t always warm enough when the flowers blossom, I just assumed it was early summer. Late summer, indeed – Scotland must have even a worse climate than I had thought!

    Alexandra went through a phase of designing gardens and would ask people what they would like. I said a river, and a lime tree walk. (Joanna said, Don’t bother about Granma – her ideal garden would be Sussex!) But think of the honey from a lime tree walk!

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