An appreciation of the life of a cherry tree

I probably love trees far too much. And this is what happens.

Back in the spring of 2007 we decided to liven up a rather boring (as in, privet hedge, lawn, nothing else) back garden with some fruit trees. So after a spot of research – what size? What type? Are there local varieties that do well in sunny, frosty Yorkshire..? – we chose two pear trees (Conference and Buerre Hardy) and the cherry tree (Stella). These were joined, two years later, by a plum – a present from my workmates in Leeds when I resigned the job there. Tsar – of course!

Round about that time, the cherry produced its first fruit.

To my shame I have no pictures of it in blossom, so here’s a neighbouring tree I spotted more recently when photographing some consequences of this year’s amazing dry, quiet spring.

Our tree grew rapidly, outpacing our ability to harvest anything from it – the birds always grabbed the lot first. Until this year.

Was this brought on by 2020’s uncanny, clear spring? Or simple maturity? Or, strange to wonder, the tree sensing its days were numbered – because we were beginning to talk about it as a problem?

Harvest (well, a tiny part of it)

This year we picked more than 500 cherries, each magnificent. As every year, I keep the stones (along with the dozens I find on the lawn where the birds have dropped them!), scattering them, throughout the autumn, in any place I think could do with a tree.

Autumn.

At this point we were still just thinking the tree could do with a drastic prune. We’d done this before – about three years ago – but that only made it grow faster! By the time I took this shot, it had grown taller than our garden is wide. The two little pear-trees on their modest rootstock were really struggling.

So. A tree-surgeon came and did the deed.

The red hue of the wood is painful to see. As if I’d murdered someone.

I shall miss our tree. This time of year, I miss the shapes I could see in its branches – and the shadows they made on the kitchen wall when I turned the lights out last thing.

But its giant roots had stalked under the lawn and reached the house, putting up new trees along their lines as they did so.

Our cherry tree was a victim of its own success.

It hasn’t gone – its roots are still alive. The new trees that grow from them, I know from having severed roots before, won’t die as a result of being cut off from their giant Source.

We shall dig them up, and plant them elsewhere.

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