Trees . . .
Not far into Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery, there is a short passage where Anne speaks to Gilbert about her dream house – what she simply must have around her when they move to Four Winds Point.
She says: ‘ . . . Are there trees about this house?
Gill replies: ‘ . . . There is a big grove of fir trees . . . two rows of Lombardy poplars down the lane and a ring of white birches around . . . a little gate hung between two firs. The hinges are on one trunk and the catch on the other. Their boughs form an arch overhead.’
Anne answers: ‘ . . . I couldn’t live where there were no trees; something vital in me would starve . . .’
I have to say I agree with Anne. Trees are the frame of my gardens and the frame for the view and without them what sad gardens they would be.
I have row of twelve silver birch trees with glorious pale trunks and they guard the path as one walks to the front door. One in particular is my tree of hope because just when winter has been going on for way too long and I begin to sink into the blues, this tree pops its leaves. It’s always weeks ahead of the others but is a reminder and an inspiration. Each little leaf uncurls into acid green brilliance and hides the tiny finches and honeyeaters in its foliage.
Further up the garden is one of the two Chinese elms. The bark is wonderfully etched and the tree sports heavy foliage in summer. Underneath is a wooden garden seat and when I am having an Anne moment, I sit and imagine I am on top of an undiscovered vista with a new world laid out on the ribbon of the river.
We have willows too. And if ever a tree was eldritch, it is the willow. Its green skirt undulates in a zephyr, its shadows are full of expectation, its billows are a perfect place to hide. I write quite a lot under one of the two willow trees; lying on a wooden sun-chaise, pad and pen in hand.
We have alders as well, which are aggressive and not pretty and break in the wind, but they shade our bedroom from the heat of the sun at its peak. And we have a lazy, forgetful tree . . . it’s a variegated elm and is always the last to come into leaf. Often so late, almost at mid-summer, that I can be forgiven for thinking that it has died rather than just sleeping. But it makes up for it with superb foliage and a graceful growth, it reminds me of a ballerina performing a perfect arabesque.
When we built and landscaped the garden from the raw hillside, we planted about 60 trees and at the farm we have planted hundreds in 6 years with a plan to plant hundreds more. Not a monoculture, but a variety of beauties that will enhance the landscape and feed and protect the wildlife.
You see, like Anne, ‘I couldn’t live where there were no trees.’
PS: All the trees were photographed yesterday and of course, here in Tasmania it is the middle of winter! In vertical order, the trees are the silver birches, the alders and the variegated elm.