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Written by:
Kathryn Martin-Chambers
05 Nov 2019

Gardeners love flowers; propagating new plants from seed, cuttings or just dividing an over large clump. We love to try new combinations, switch things around and change the colour palette.  Dramatic results can be achieved in just a few weeks with only a packet of seeds.

But the success of a garden as a whole depends on our stalwart friends the trees. They hold it all together, providing the back bone of a garden’s design and a foil for our more ostentatious flowering plants to shine out against. We plant trees to form a shelter belt to keep out harsh winds and enclose our gardens. Trees may be clipped into topiary forms and shrubs cut into hedges to give gardens structure or a focal point.

Specimen or ‘stand alone’ trees can provide us with a shady spot to picnic in summer or a place to shelter from the rain in winter. But trees and shrubs also provide shelter for our tender plants and shade lovers, like ferns. And not only shelter for plants but for wildlife to roost and nest. Berries, fruits and flowers of trees and shrubs sustain birds and mammals over winter, and bees in summer, when many of the trees in our gardens here at Trinity Hall are literally buzzing.

Because trees tend to be so much longer lived than smaller garden plants, they give a timelessness to a garden and often conjure happy memories. I’m sure many returning alumni recognise with joy a tree in the garden, under which they once sat reading or chatting with friends on a sunny afternoon.

We accept the presence of our trees and quietly rely on them, which makes it doubly sad, and in a more practical sense problematic, when disease or other disaster strikes. The loss of a tree, or even a large limb of an otherwise perfectly balanced specimen, can leave a gaping hole in a garden which cannot quickly be rectified. The beech tree in this photograph almost took down the garden wall when it lost a limb just a couple of years ago in high winds. Its wound has healed and tree surgeons have installed some supporting braces to help hold it together, we hope for many years to come.

Trees work hard for us and it is only fair that they are not always condemned to providing a supporting role. At this time of year in particular many of them come into their own and put on a show on a grand scale!