city of trees

September 16, 2012

‘I must have trees all about me’  (Roger Deakin Notes from Walnut Tree Farm and if you love trees, then read another of his books, Wild Wood). I have decided that I must have trees too – I know I seek them, and am transfixed, and worship them. Even in cities, my attention is focused on trees – the atmosphere and functionality they provide – the species – the planting and the management – part of my job, I suppose. In Montpellier, a thoughtful close planting of umbrella pines providing shade and also pump oxygen into the urban environment. Behind the Cathédrâle St-Pierre, there’s a simple piece of tree planting – a group of young slim stemmed celtis; a tree I’ve become aware of physically and emotionally as the branches of a mature celtis inhabit my present abode. Both pine and celtis are native to this area.

Most folks wouldn’t get excited by this structure but, for me, the promise of an afternoon in Jardin des Plantes part of Faculté de Médecine is quite thrilling. My friend below wasn’t as excited as me – seen it all before!

Cannas looking even more exotic with a backdrop of pines. A touch of decorative planting within the area set out to show all the trees growing in  Mediterranean  basin as well as those with parts that were, or are, used medicinally. This olive – over 200 years old – has a ‘trasmocho’ apperance although it hasn’t been  pollarded.  Roger Deakin writes a good deal about ‘trasmocho’ – a favourite treatment of trees.

Beautiful clean multi stems on lagerstroemia with just a hint of the flower heads high up – unusual and very pleasing to see this treatment –  and the most stunning ancient trunk of a Maclura pomifera. Huge limbs, supported by strong stakes, spread out in a 10 metre radius with new shoots erupting from the ground around.

More bark and stem texture . . .

. . and a monument with good advice.

A stand of cupressus, stone bench, a vase and frothy tamarix . . .

. . local vases from Anduze. Vases that are better without plants.

Some more decorative finds on the walk around.  An old rather rusty cupola, on what I presume is a small observatory, surrounded by ricinus and spent gypsophilia. Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, and echinacea  . . .

There is a restoration programme happening within the Botanic Garden. All the order beds by this orangerie were in the process of being cleaned out and replanted. Other elements from past centuries form part of the circulation in the area of palms . . .

. . chusan palm fronds quite sculptural here.

Strolling back to the Promenade du Peyrou with its sweeping views across the surrounding countryside of Garrigues, Cevennes, Mediterranean and Mont Canigou near the Pyrenees, I note the foliage on the pollarded plane trees  – more trasmocho – is turning to camouflage with the gilt ornamentation on the metalwork. Platanus orientalis, native to the area, are suffering.

Louis IV expresses pride in the tree planting. I agree – stunning.

The trees along this city street,
Save for the traffic and the trains,
Would make a sound as thin and sweet
As trees in country lanes.

And people standing in their shade
Out of a shower, undoubtedly
Would hear such music as is made
Upon a country tree.

Oh, little leaves that are so dumb
Against the shrieking city air,
I watch you when the wind has come,—
I know what sound is there. Edna St Vincent Millay

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