January 23, 2019

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 15.10.15: No time like the present

You often hear about really old trees that whoever planted them must have had such vision – he never saw what we’re now looking at hundreds of years later, he was only thinking of his grandchildren and their grandchildren, his legacy.

This issue came up yesterday being shown round the lovely arboretum at Dawyck Botanic Garden in Peebleshire where there are superb old trees going back to the 1600s. Looking across at the beautiful wooded valley, with so many old and rare trees brought back by generations of plant-hunters, we also had to think about how to manage succession planting (I learned a lot being in the company of head gardeners and directors of arboreta); these old trees will die and so new ones need to be growing up now to take their place when it happens. At an avenue of copper beeches only recently planted, we’re told “we won’t see them at their best, we’ll be dead, look to the future”.

Well, yes, but they were nice now. It made me think that planting trees is not just about a vision; actually it’s more like having children – perhaps biologically it’s for the future, but you feel it’s for now, you go through life together. Probably that’s biology too, requiring us to care for our offspring.

A curious twist on this theme: Dawyck is the home of a special form of our native beech that is unique in being fastigiate. Beeches are my favourite tree anyway, and I have a Dawyck form in my garden. But the original Dawyck beech was simply a chance variation that doesn’t breed true from seed, and my little three-year old is literally an offshoot of that tree, now 160 years old and 100 foot tall; in visiting Dawyck, I met my tree’s former self!


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