Saturday, May 31, 2008

Valentines Park

Recently, I went to revisit Valentines Park, Ilford. This was where my daughter Molly grew up and where we spent many hours- pushing her round in her push-chair; teaching her to ride her bike; feeding the birds on the lake. Then later, pushing my aged mother round in her wheel-chair; feeding the birds on the lake.....taking her close to her favourite Oak trees so that she could touch and gain strength from them.

Ilford was not a romantic part of London but in this park there was always something beautiful- and here it was, blooming.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Worldwide Tree Destruction

Still reeling from the cull of Santa Monica's Ficus trees, here in the UK I turned on the BBC 2 television program "The Trees that made Britain" and immediately experienced deja vu. The two Presenters, both from Kew Gardens- Tony Kirkham, Head of Arboretum and Jon Hammerton- were saying how there is a nationwide policy to fell large, mature trees, regardless of their environmental value. As in Santa Monica, they are replaced with small, easy to maintain trees- described here as "Lolly Pop Trees".

In a London street they showed a magnificent, healthy 100 year old London Plane Tree being cut down. The reason? The roots of these beautiful trees soak up the moisture from the native clay which in turn can cause subsidence to the adjacent buildings. Rather than risk large insurance claims, the council prefers to cut them down and replace with the said Lolly Pop trees. As always, money is the explanation...

To quote William Blake: "The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in their way".

The Trees that made Britain

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ficus Tree's Obituary

Santa Monica City Council: Democracy or Dictatorship?

Over 10,000 of Santa Monica's citizens and visitors wanted the beautiful Ficus Trees of 2nd and 4th Streets to stay there, continuing to nurture the health of the environment and the physical and mental health of the people.

Treesaver's made every effort to come to some compromise. Only this week, Treesaver's committed Attorney- Tom Nitti- proposed that the City could cut down the 3 trees that their consulting Arborist had identified as having "High" failure potential (i.e. potentially dangerous to the public) in the presence of an independent arborist. The trees should then immediately be examined for internal evidence to justify their arborist's evaluation; this would be an educational opportunity on which to re-evaluate the 4 trees in the "Medium" bracket. These could then be pruned accordingly. The ones given a "Low" rating should be left as they were. Let us remember that there were never any in the "Severe" potential failure bracket.

What could be more reasonable than this? apart from anything else, it would have restored our faith in the City Council, giving them some credibility and showing they listened to the citizens who employed them.

But no, it was too much to expect them to be reasonable. Early on Friday morning the two streets were blocked and guarded by the Police, the chainsaws were brought in and 23 of these utterly beautiful Ficus trees were rapidly, callously slaughtered- trees that could have lived for another 100 years. Further trees were cut down on Fourth Street.

Photographs and video recordings taken by Treesavers who managed to gain access, showed healthy cross sections of the sawn Ficus trunks and branches- no sign of the "integral decay". Was this why the trees were rapidly composted, to destroy evidence that would have proved that Treesavers' arborist, Alden Kelly, was right in thinking there was nothing seriously wrong or untreatable with the health of all but possibly 3 trees?

We have lost the trees but we have made, literally, thousands of people aware of their senseless, criminal destruction. We have learned how thousands of people love and value trees. It has been a great learning experience and we will not give up........

The accompanying moving photo of a "laid out" Ficus was taken by Scott Smith as well as the two poignant video recordings on YouTube, linked below.

Ficus Trees Cut Down in Santa Monica

Ficus Trees Down at School

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Some Blossom Paintings...

And here are some paintings of trees in blossom. The first three are by the very English mystical/romantic painter Samuel Palmer, painted in his beloved village of Shoreham circa 1829 to 1831. The next ones are by the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, painted in Arles and Saint-Remy in France between 1888 and 1890. Both painters were obsessive in their intense love of nature.

Ashmolean, Oxford

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

More Woodland Flowers

At this time of year yet another white woodland flower- which also has an overpowering, nostalgic, smell- is the Wild Garlic, which forms a dense carpet in many woods. Together with this you often find a plant that is not white- the very mysterious, magic Lords-and-Ladies.

White and Yellow

As well as being overwhelmed with the powerful smells of May flowers (see previous post) one is also overwhelmed by the colours of this month's flowers- everywhere in the English countryside there are snowflakes of white flowers and blossoms- May, Rowan, Horse Chestnuts, Queen Ann's Lace, Daisies- with a generous sprinkling of yellow- Dandelions, Buttercups, Cowslips.

Monday, May 5, 2008


May blossom- the first of the heavy, nostalgic smelling white flowers of Summer- a smell that overwhelms you and is on the edge of being unpleasant, it is so powerful. First you have the May, then the Rowan. then the Elder and also the Meadow Sweet: all have variations of this overpowering Summer scent.

My mother having been born on May 1st 1900- and her second name predictably May- there was always tension, checking whether the Hawthorns were flowering on her birthday. On her 100th birthday on May 1st 2000, I found some blooming and turned her into a May Queen, with flowers in her hair- although as her African Carer had done her hair in unfamiliar "top-knots", the sprigs of may had to perch in these rather than forming the traditional wreath I had imagined.

Coincidentally, her Great Granddaughter- my Great Niece- was also born on May 1st.

It was appropriate that my mother had a flower in her name as she loved flowers and all nature. A Scot, her first name, Armyne, was also right for her, as she was passionate about the Scottish mountains and there is one called Ben Armine.

Walking in the Bath country today, on a damp, muggy May afternoon, the rain brought out the smell of the first May flowers and I remembered Armyne. I also remember with pleasure her saying on that 100th birthday: "I've had a very shiny life".