I love trees. I love their variety, colours, shape, strength, longevity, usefulness, and their grounding in the earth. This book also now gives me another reason to love trees – for their history. I’m not alone. Trees are loved and enjoyed by so many of us, and after reading this book, I also know trees have been loved for a very long time. Long may that love continue. If it doesn’t, and they are ignored or not seen as integral to our very existence, then we are doomed.
I have had the good fortune to be able to plant quite a few trees in my life. From corporate events involving photoshoots, to planting them in customers’ gardens, to my own garden. I have even had the opportunity to work for a weekend in northern Scotland helping plant a new woodland on the side of a mountain. We should all plant trees. If the people in our history hadn’t planted trees would wouldn’t be enjoying them now. As they saying goes, ‘society grows when people plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit under’. Thank goodness the people of the past planted trees (although, we also know they cut them down at an unsustainable and shocking rate). This books takes a look at the tree planters (and some of the tree fellers), and the history of many of our favourite trees here in the UK.
The book sets out 28 trees alphabetically from Alder through to Yew. In each section the reader is provided with wonderful photographs and images. The book is a visual delight as well as a delight to read. I was educated while reading it, but the book does not read like a textbook. The author loves trees and the history of trees, and that comes across in the friendly and chatty way the book is written. It’s like you are listening to a friend chat about their favourite stories about trees. I really enjoy learning, and I certainly became more knowledgeable after reading this book.
You are going to gain fascinating insight into the history of trees. For example, Romans billeted on Hadrian’s Wall wrote on the bark of a certain tree in the same way as we would write on a postcard, or send an email today. Well known sayings such as, ‘two bites of the cherry’, and ‘ne’er cast a clout till may is out’, are just two of many sayings that have a link to trees and are explained in the book. Shakespeare is also featured more than once. Nursery rhymes and old songs also feature, such as, ‘rock-a-bye baby’, which is said to be linked to a particular tree. The madness of King George III may well have also first manifested itself one foggy night beside a tree in London.
The author looks at writers from the ancient and more modern past and shares their thoughts with the reader. You’ll discover Pliny (a Roman writer), Gerard (Herbalist, 1545 -1612), Culpeper (Botanist, 1616 – 1654), and Evelyn (Diarist and Gardener, 1620 – 1706), and many more. All of whom had something interesting to say about trees and their uses.
Not every tree growing in the UK features in the book. The author recognises the book would have needed to be much bigger to include them all. He says, instead, he focused on the trees that for him have an interesting story to tell.
Here is a list of the trees whose story is told in the book:
Alder / Apple / Ash / Bay / Beech / Birch / Cherry / Elm / Hawthorn / Hazel / Holly / Hornbeam / Horse Chestnut / Lime / London Plane / Magnolia / Maple / Monkey Puzzle / Oak / Pear / Pine / Poplar / Rowan / Sweet Chestnut / Sycamore / Walnut / Willow / Yew
I really enjoyed reading A History of Trees. I finished it more knowledgable than when I started. I will definitely be looking at trees differently in the future, and I am going to enjoy sharing their story with as many people who will listen as I can. This book would make a great gift for anyone who is interested in history, trees, nature, gardens and gardening.
Do you have a favourite tree? Have you read the book? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments section below.
Mr & Mrs Gardens Limited