Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are falling fast.
To me, November is the month which brings the fastest change in our trees. Often at the start of the month the autumn colour is at its peak but, within a few days, a cold night, sharp frost or gusty wind can bring them all down in a trice, leaving behind the bare skeletal branches.
November is also the month for Remembrance and so it’s interesting to reflect that trees are often planted either in memory of someone or to commemorate a special occasion. Next year we’ll see a prime example of this as the Queen’s Green Canopy project gets underway in celebration of the Platinum Jubilee.
I wonder how many of you have planted trees or other plants for similar reasons, perhaps in memory of a loved one, to mark a family event or an anniversary. We have quite a few plants dotted around our garden that are always linked to family or friends in our minds. When we celebrated our Silver Wedding anniversary, two gorgeous white ‘Silver Wedding’ roses arrived on our doorstep. One thrived but the other was accidentally swamped until we took decisive action and moved it to a much better, more open site, since when it has gone from strength to strength. Not only do the roses remind us of our own anniversary but they remind us of the people who gave them to us on that occasion, particularly poignant since one of them is no longer with us.
When my Dad died we bought my Mum a ‘Shropshire Lad’ rose in his memory. This is where a little thinking ahead pays off. When Mum also passed away, I was left with the dilemma of what to do with this rose. There was no way that I was going to leave it behind in their garden and so, with extreme determination and brute force, it was brought to our garden where it delights us every summer with glorious sprays of deliciously scented flowers. The day we moved that rose I learnt just how challenging it is to move an established plant with a long tap root! So when my mother-in-law had to move out of her home this year and we were faced with a similar dilemma, I knew exactly how hard it was going to be. Like ‘A Shropshire Lad’, ‘Rosa Evelyn’ (her namesake) proved just as stubborn and was wrestled out of the ground but with inevitable collateral damage. That said, she subsequently produced a flurry of blooms in her new location so we have high hopes for future years.
This summer I acquired another David Austin rose, ‘The Lady Gardener’, on what was a bitter-sweet occasion. This was a carefully chosen leaving present from my colleagues as I said farewell to Kingston University after 29 years. It is a peachy pink rose with fabulous scent and is always going to remind me of fantastic colleagues, fun times (and some stressful ones too), and I’m pleased that it smells fresh and lemony and not of dusty old books and journals!
Another happy occasion plant is our blue Hibiscus which was given to us as a house warming present over 21 years ago now. It has become an extremely well established, thriving shrub standing at least 5 feet tall and probably as wide. It is also loved by bees who delve deep down into its flowerheads and come out covered all over in its white dusty pollen.
I once read about someone who had decided that their garden would only contain plants that bore the names of family and friends. I think that this could become extremely confusing and potentially awkward. I have confused several people by referring to my crab apple tree as ‘Laura’ which is actually the variety. Someone once said, ‘Oh marvellous, you give your trees names!’ which, of course, isn’t the case! It’s just that it seems nicer to say, ‘Laura’s blossoming well’ or, ‘There’s fruit beginning on Nancy’, rather than just mentioning our Mirabelle tree.
When you do plant something in memory of someone or something, there’s always the added pressure of ensuring that it survives well and, of course, ensuring that the consequences of your planting aren’t a burden or hindrance to future owners. So if you are thinking about contributing a tree to the Jubilee celebrations next year, think carefully before you plant!