Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tree Follower

I’m not sure how I managed to miss all the tree following activity last year, so I’m relieved that Lucy Corrander has picked up the baton to carry the following forward - at least now I have a second chance to get involved. This post therefore is the first post of mine to focus on a particular tree, and will hopefully be continued throughout 2012 to show how the tree changes, grows, breaks, and shines, amongst all the other fantastic trees at Compton Verney. I’m certain I’ll be writing about other trees and plants too, but do look
 for the posts
  titled ‘Tree Following’ for a closer look at a specific tree. More tree followers and their special trees can be accessed via Lucy’s blog, and the link is at the bottom of this post.
Struggled I have to select a tree to follow for the year, as I work with so many special ones - I have been like a kid in a sweet shop trying to narrow down the choice. Imagine trying to pick from a pallet of over a thousand trees, many of which I surveyed last autumn, spending a little tie with each one checking for safety and interest. Should it be evergreen or deciduous, fallen or upright? Should it be hard or soft-wood, native or introduced? What a dilemma!

In the end I have decided to go with something quite plain, or to be more accurate – A Plane. I guess at this point many of those who are familiar with this tree will be thinking of London, where many of these trees have taken up residency alongside those beautiful Georgian terraced houses. Platanus x hispanica, as it is botanically know, is one stunner of a mature tree, with so many positive attributes that it is easy to see why it has become so popular.

Compton Verney, London Plane Tree, 2012

My particular tree is to be found at Compton Verney, in south Warwickshire growing alongside a lake which forms part of the Compton Pools. There is lots of history attached to the area immediately surrounding the tree, and with Compton now operating as a respected art gallery and museum - history continues to be created. In the photograph above, the tree in question sits proudly alongside a beautiful 18th C bridge, and the whole scene forms part of the design implemented at Compton by Lancelot Brown between 1768 and 1774. Prior to this, a baroque garden layered itself across the grounds, and before this a medieval village was located just beyond the bridge shown above. I shall in future posts try to set this tree in a historical and wider context, but for now its name alone gives food for thought.
Platanus x acerifolia, also known as Platanus x hispanica, is a hybrid tree believed to have P. occidentalis and P. orientalis as its parents. P. occidentalis is a native north American sycamore, whilst orientalis can be found across a wide area from the Balkans to Iran. The cross reputedly happened in Spain, where the two parent species were planted in close proximity to one another, and the rest as they say - is history!

Compton Verney, Sphinx Bridge with Plane Tree, 2012.
That's enough of the scientific information for
 now, as I'd like to focus on the Compton tree itself. I guess that with so many trees at Compton, this one falls into the trap of being just another tree to most visitors, and in some ways it could be questioned as to why this one stands out in particular. Almost all visitors, now and in history, would have approached the mansion via the bridge in the photo, and just at the moment when the tree is perfectly placed to shine - it is upstaged by the incredible mansion placed across the water. That being said, the tree, once one stops to focus, is a beautiful specimen. It stands tall with the typically Plane-like straight stem, with hefty branches arching gracefully down to touch the water. Grown on a grassy bank adjacent to that fine 18thC bridge, with remnants of Mahonia struggling to survive in the dry shade at its base.

Compton Verney, 2011.
Yes it can be said that even I haven't studied this tree, not with a camera at least, for the bridge, art works, the lake and mansion always seem to draw my focus. I have no photographs as yet to show you how special the tree is up close, yet I've walked past it so many times. Yes I have enjoyed seeing its mottled trunk, with its patchwork of greens, greys and brown. I've picked up sticks following storms, and have raked and cleared up the huge palmate shaped leaves that fall in quantity in the autumn. I love the tree for what it is, how it has been used in garden design, and for what it gives once allowed room to grow. 
I'll be getting up close and personal with my camera during the year, and maybe even take a few snaps of other Planes while I'm out and about. I'll also draw together some interesting facts that underline why this tree is so favoured in our capital, and in parks and gardens across the land.
Until next time, enjoy your 'Plane' spotting!
I'm a Tree Follower - What About You?


Kit Berry said...

Ooh lovely, Gary! I too am about to start being a TF and echo all your sentiments. What a stunning tree you've chosen! I recall a beautiful and absolutely enormous plane tree in Abbotsbury, Dorset which entirely changed my views on the species. Yours is spectacular and I'm looking forward to reading all about it and watching it throughout the year. I have a soft spot for plane trees: my mother (sadly deceased) as a little girl during the war, was very fond of plane trees. She lived in leafy Surbiton - presumably in the 1940s leafy with plane trees amongst others - and felt so sorry for plane trees because her step-mother had told her that she was such a plain child and would find life difficult because of it. So the "plain" trees were her friends and she felt an affinity with them. That story has always pulled my heartstrings - and now I too love plane trees.

Gardener Gary said...

Hi Kit, Many thanks for your comments, they are very touching. It is always lovely to hear of someones attachment to a plant, as they are always unique and interesting. The Plane tree as discussed suddenly becomes more of a friend and companion when viewed through the eyes of your mother, and adds a much appreciated personal touch. Thanks again, and do check in now and again, as I'll try to track its growth over time. Kind regards, Gary