The importance of trees - and shade - to the gardener...
Home & Garden

The importance of trees - and shade - to the gardener...

TO me, female gardeners are more open and generous with one another than their male counterparts.

They converse and pay compliments to one another at the drop of a hat.

Look at what the famous Vita Sackville West had to say about the cottage garden expert of the 1950's, Margery Fish, on the publication of her book We Made a Garden.

''It is a book written by a  woman who, with her husband, created out of nothing, the sort of garden we should all like to have, a cottage garden on a slightly larger scale...I defy any amateur gardener not to find pleasure, encouragement, and profit from this book," she said.

This was indeed a magnanimous review.

Apart from her many books, Margery Fish's was quick to point out that given a choice between a sunny and a shady garden, she would pick the shady one every time.

I would choose similar. My reasoning, (and hers I presume) is logical, for there is not only a sparkling cast of shade-loving plants from which to choose (ferns, trilliums, erythroniums, primulas, blue poppies, spring bulbs, hostas etc) but the atmosphere created by an overhead canopy of living foliage is truly enchanting.

To sit beneath the light dappled shade of a small garden tree, feeble with the burden of its own scent, or near a specimen able to drool off its pendulous flowers one by one till the nearby ground metamorphoses into a lake of yellow (or blue or red) is one of the most immensely pleasurable dimensions of gardening.

Simply listening to the wind gently moving and rustling overhead is to become aware of yet another superbly gratifying garden experience.

What a boring and uninspiring garden is one devoid of a tree's shape and structure, its light and shade, power and beauty.

The smaller the garden and the more featureless the surroundings, the more reason there is to take the woodland tack. Looking at the small and medium gardens in my area these past few winter months I have found that there is no comparison between those animated by silver birches, magnificent Amelanchier and glossy evergreen camellias (for example),  and those sitting empty and dismal awaiting the arrival of the first daffodil in the front garden, or the bleaching linen on the washing line out back.

National Tree Week U.K. may not arrive until the very end of November, but I exhort all gardeners to plant yet another tree in their gardens this spring and to guard it for the future. Now I may not have that magnificent Amelanchier mentioned above, but I love it as if I had.

The spring flowers are milk white and less anaemic than white cherry blossom, and in autumn its leaves turn a brilliant orange/red. Being deciduous, the new leaves arrive about the same time as the blooms; unfurling sheaves of bronze turning to a glossy, mid green as the days of mid-summer approach.

In autumn, the foliage becomes drained of blue to take on a red-purple mantle which lasts until the very hardest frost wipes them clean from the frozen branches.

The snowy mespilus (its common name) can produce fruit in season; holly-sized berries which are sweet and juicy, red in summer, ripening to a deep purple-black, as the seasons advance.