Having met the tree officer to thrash out the future of the trees in the Kitchen Garden I realise I made a number of mistakes. Firstly, never aggressively push the idea of ‘recreating’ a garden as it once was when it is to the detriment of healthy trees and secondly, try to get your tree Genus and species correct before you start.
A tree officer is only interested in the future of the tree and its amenity value. Is this tree important for the village? Is it healthy? Do the wider community care if my the kitchen garden is laid out as it was in 1902? Mostly no. Furthermore, can my kitchen garden ever truly follow this layout when a third belongs to someone else and therefore follows a different plan?
My suggestion that I explain the situation to the Conservation Officer met with an icy blast. So too, my point that I had the support of the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust. At least, I understood they supported me, even if I hadn’t actually met them…
Secondly, it was pointed out that my Catalpa bignoides was a Paulownia tomentosa and my Acer henryi actually Acer something else.. I don’t think this helped my cause. However, 12 years of looking at the Catalpa from my bedroom window across the road and I still maintain it that I had the Genus right, even though at that moment in January there was not a seed pod in sight (often the only way to tell these two trees apart). However, knowing when to back down is all part of the technique here.
Miraculously though, my schemes for the wider site met with approval. I learnt rapidly that I needed to be more flexible and that my desire to plant ‘native’ species might be small minded given the many pathogens that threaten to alter our landscape. We discussed the benefit of alder, hawthorn and birch over ash (obviously), oak and larch. I began to think of planting Celtis species, and perhaps disease resistant elm, both of which would blend well with the native species around them.
In the end, the approval to remove these two trees arrived, probably thanks to the sense and steady arguments of Russell Page, the tree surgeon, who was also at the meeting. Also thanks to the fact that the Acer, needing shelter, was not coping with this windy site. The proviso is that I plant Sequoia sempervirens in a situation of amenity value to the village. The Coastal Redwood has amongst its living specimens the oldest and tallest trees in the world. You really have to admire this man’s sense of humour. I am left wondering where to put this vast tree and how the Duver might look in 1200- 1800 years when this tree will reach maturity and potentially 350 feet tall.
Removing the Kitchen Garden trees was not an entirely happy day, and I did hide. Here is the record of the stumps with branches scattered on the ground and kitchen garden wall flooded with sunlight, ready for the planting of espalier nectarine, peaches, apricots and cherries later in the month.