Passion for trees
Anyone who has been following us on social media will know of the devasting impact that we have experienced as a result of ‘ash die-back’. We are passionate about trees and have planted hundreds over the past 50 years.
The Ash trees were just the start of a major overhaul of our woodland areas. Tragically our specialist confirmed our suspicions that our remaining two Walnut trees were also dying. Sadly these trees had to be cut down, beautiful trees that had been grown from seed nuts by the previous custodians of this house. Another loss was a Catalpa (Indian Bean Tree) a tree grown from beans purloined from a majestic tree in the centre of Monmouth.
Ash trees and Sycamore were the gifts of nature planted by the wind. We were staggered how many huge trees were interspersed amongst the species trees that we had planted ourselves. A Sweet Chestnut tree gifted to us by a forgetful squirrel – now grown tall and producing nuts.
Of the species trees one of my favourites is the Paulownia (Foxglove tree). What a delight are this tree’s gifts of large purple flowers that sit in ginger suede cups followed by ‘art nouveaux’ style seed pods. Although nearly 80 I am still growing trees from seed. I have a number of babies of this wonderful tree – under whose shade I will never sit but delight in organising shade and beauty for the next generations.
Paulownia flower buds which appear during the winter.
The glorious foxglove flowers of the Paulownia tree. Which I should add is very fast growing. I have one that I grew from seed about four years ago and it is already over 8 ft. high. And if grown as a coppiced shrub it does not flower but the leaves are huge making it a fabulous architectural plant feature.
Little self-set treasures are carefully potted up and wait for their final living space, either in our grounds or gifts for friends. The birds have planted many Bay trees. Berries taken from very large parent trees that started life as a decorative backdrop for a fashion exhibition in London 30+ years ago. Neat little 4ft high formal standards, at the time would have been thrown out if we hade not rescued them. They now provide a shaded canopy over a large area of the garden that was specifically designed as a low maintenance sheltered retreat.
So our quandary now is what we should do with the wood from 50 + trees. We have a wood burner. But there is more firewood than we would need for the next two generations after our needs are satisfied?
Then we began to examine the trunks and branches. Damage done by squirrels, normally cursed for causing precarious dead branches are now seen as beautiful with intricate curls of colour and texture.
Some pieces have already been turned into bird boxes. Made to provide accommodation for the guardians of the vegetable garden as exterminators of aphids.
The walnut trees, cut below ground, show the most exciting creatures drawn in dusky earth colours.
The orchard Cherry and the wild Cherry have surprised us with vibrant orange rings in the branches and the tree trunks.
Trees into art
So at our advanced years are we about to embark on an entirely new creative career? We have a good starting point in that Charles, in a previous life, taught Design, Craft and Technology. His hobby was working with wood as an art form as well as traditional furniture and boat building. He even has experience with resin which is a new technique used in creative wood crafting.
Inspiration taken from nature’s tree art
In the meantime, I too am using the inspiration of nature’s art to explore new ideas in the creations of textiles. I have longed to have more freedom to design and create more of my major art pieces and the pandemic has allowed me to explore new ideas without the pressure of having to make money to pay other people’s mortgages!
We are not only artists but also are curious and inventive – we love experimentation.
The walnut tree spilling out its last sap. Would that work as a natural dye? Yes of course we tried it! A tricky exercise mid-winter wrapping a piece of silk crepe-de-chine over the severed trunk and then having to batten it down to stop the wind from stealing it and throwing it out to be battered by the elements. So here is the rarest and weirdest colour created piece of silk.
Memories returned of the time when we used to hand paint the lengths of silk outside on the clothes-line. The silk was anchored with photographic pegs onto which we hooked apples! This weighting was vital having experienced a 10 yard length of bright red silk escaping from the line and then being dragged by the wind like a huge wreathing snake-like kite. It eventually landed some distance away entangled and knotted up in a thorny hedge.
Another memorable incident was when we had puppies. Someone called to ask what colour they were and I replied truthfully ‘yellow with purple spots’. Understandably she was annoyed until I explained that the puppies had spent the morning in the buttercup filled meadow and were covered in yellow pollen. A quick run under the clothes line where we were painting with purple provided the ‘purple spots’. I seem to remember that she had one of the puppies but returned it because it was too boistrous – a Staffy boistrous – no way – haha!
Favourite mossy branch on which to perch!
A surprise bonus – grey oyster mushrooms appearing on the trunk of a beech tree. A delicate colour theme echoing the walnut dyed silk?