I had the pleasure of chatting with Toyah Willcox the fabulous singer/songwriter. Her biggest hits include “It’s a Mystery”, “Thunder in the Mountains” and “I Want to Be Free”. We have a mutual love of gardening and so I asked her what her favourite flowers are and she told me all about her garden and her beloved trees.
“Our garden is not only a sanctuary of peace and quiet, a respite from the awful world of mobile phones, a place where Mother Nature still holds court; it is a place of constant rejuvenation.
At my grand age of 61 I am still surprised by the seasons and how a garden has so much to offer even in the short daylight hours of the winter. I often walk in my garden thinking “so little time so much to learn!”
Latin names will always escape me but I have huge respect for plants and how they fill their space, names aside I love the benign presence of all plants.
Living in a place where gardens in the past 100 years have evolved from allotments, to orchards to places of leisure I am keenly aware how non local plants have found their way into our lives.
I adore our neighbours Magnolia sitting within the same space as many pear trees. So we are about to install three mature Magnolia, which will probably have to be delivered from the river at the bottom of our garden.
In our garden are many varieties of apple, pears, peaches but also old traditional trees such as our Medlar. I am hugely protective of it. The Medlar fruit was a medieval delicacy and it conjures images of servant maids gathering the fruit as it becomes over ripe to turn into a sweet jelly not dissimilar to Quince.
Another outstanding tree in our garden is a Mulberry that must be about 300 years of age. Again I feel like a temporary guardian watching over it, knowing that when this tree was planted, all that time ago, the journey it had made as a sapling was from far afield as France…at least….might even have been farther.
But the crown in our garden is a triple plane. This huge magnificent tree is given regular health checks by our tree specialist, to the point we could be called over protective.
Large trees are part of my childhood and as someone who travels the world I am keenly aware that large trees are getting rare. I am hugely grateful for the trees in my garden that are so much older than me…. I love them in spring, when their foliage is bright; I love to draw them in winter when they are dormant.
They majestically watch us and I enthusiastically watch them!”
I would like to thank Toyah for sharing the story of her beloved trees. If you would like to know more about Toyah, she has a great monthly blog on her website –https://toyahwillcox.com/
If you would like to include these trees in your garden, here is more information:
Mespilus germanica – Common Medlar
Medlars are ornamental, flowering trees with a good autumn colour and edible fruits – although very tart. They can grow to a height and spread of 6m x 8m. They prefer full sun or light shade away from strong winds.
The best time to plant a new tree is between November and March. The fruits are ready to pick in late October or early November when they are about 2.5-5cm across, although they are not fully ripe. You can leave fruit on the tree well into autumn to develop flavour provided there is no danger of frosts.
Morus nigra – commonly known as Mulberry
The mulberry tree is deciduous and has a spreading habit. It grows to around 8m x 10m and becomes crooked and gnarled with time, making an architectural feature. It tolerates a range of soils and can be grown against walls too.
It’s good to note that fruiting may not begin until eight or nine years after planting, so you will need some patience! The Morus alba is the tree loved by silk worms.
There are around 200 different types of Magnolia – with different growing habits and flowers, so you should be able to find a suitable tree regardless of your size of garden.
I like the Magnolia stellata, with its striking white flowers in the spring. You can keep it as a bushy shrub or let it grow in to a tree – its ultimate height and spread is 3m x 4m.
Platanus × acerifolia – commonly known as London Plane
This tree is ideal for urban environments as it is resistance to pollution. It has 3-5 lobed leathery leaves which turn orangey-yellow in autumn. It grows to 35m tall and can live for hundreds of years.
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