This week is National Tree Week; a celebration to mark the start of the winter tree planting season. And you know what? I really needed that focus today.
How poetic that National Tree Week coincides with the time that many of us are bringing pine trees into the home and adjourning them with all things shiny, bright and festive.
A portion of this weekend just passed was spent watching my 3-year-old daughter dramatically shoving tinsel onto the poor excuse of a ‘tree’ we’ve dragged out of the loft this year — I mean, really, really; it’s the ‘pop-up’, pre-decorated spiral tree that my husband (then-boyfriend) and I put up in our first home together; a pokey 1-bed flat in Hammersmith that didn’t have the space for a Christmas tree of any stature.
When we first removed it from the box those years ago, we laughed out loud and delighted in the fact that it wouldn’t quite stand up straight, then thanked the Gods of the aptly-named Argos (FYI: also a hundred-eyed giant and messenger to the Olympian Gods in Greek mythology, as well as a retail company — I’ll let you decide which one supplied us with a sort-of tree thing) for the fact that the pre-attached lights were battery-powered, and so wouldn’t have us rushing out at midnight to top-up the electricity card when the power once again cuts out.
When we finally reached our ‘settling as a family’ home (the also aptly named, Christmas Cottage) last year, and celebrated our first Christmas together with our son in a ‘real home’, we relished in the completeness of our family of four and our precious, long-awaited little house by treating ourselves to a real tree.
As Christmas came and went, we celebrated the beginning of 2020; a year with so much hope and opportunity — especially now that I had, that very day (2nd January 2020), officially become a freelancer — by taking our very beautiful, very real, Norwegian pine outside and planting it in our dishevelled but well-appreciated front garden.
It flourished through January, dried out in February and died by March.
But low and behold, by the time April’s shit-storm rolled out across the world, we dug our “first proper Christmas tree from our first proper family Christmas’s” shrivelled carcass out from the corner of the lawn, along with every other spiky-hedge, toddler-inappropriate weed and semi-poisonous berry-baring bush and started afresh.
With hope and vigour and a little help from our neighbourhood friends, we planted our lockdown garden, with no thoughts of winter and no desire for evergreen; just a need for fleeting flowers and a hunger for the natural nourishment that homegrown fruit and veg gives both the body and soul. A satisfaction that has lasted well into the Autumn, but now leaves with the leaves, as we have both harvested and raked our way to a tidy, but barren patch — bar a small crop of Brussel sprouts, which we’re willing through the winter, in hopes of joining us at the Christmas dinner table.
With an empty veg patch and a sunken wound of dirt where our former glorious tree once stood; we made the decision that — staying true to the spirit of 2020 — we would very anti-climatic-ly give the old wonky pop-up tree its day in the sun once more (or half-day in the sun, as winter would have it), much less experience the re-occurring metaphor of starting again with a new pine tree, decorating it to within an inch of it’s life, only to watch it crash down day after to day (owing to the afore mentioned, now 1-year-old, son) — and probably repay us with a refusal to root come 2021.
You may recall that I recently joined Woodland Trust‘s Big Climate Fightback, to make my own small scale difference in the fight to stop climate change and secure the future of the planet.
The Woodland Trust were kind enough to send me a couple of crab apple saplings last month — which appear to be happily stretching out in a plant pot, until I have the confidence to transfer them to the ground soil.
Perhaps I’m being a bit precious, but during my enthusiastic ‘how to plant and nurture crab apple trees’ research on the day my saplings arrived, I learnt that this species of tree is associated with love and marriage — and I guess I don’t want to risk them meeting the same fate as our former Christmas tree, and for it to end up jinxing the real things!
Apparently the crab apple is also a symbol of fertility; and as I await a long-known hysterectomy at the age of 30, after years of struggling with infertility myself; there’s a part of me that wants to successfully guide these little saplings to the point of fruit-baring. To relish in fertility in the only way I can personally, without medical intervention — and hey, apparently they make a nice jelly too.
Finally, the tree itself is apparently symbolic of “youth, joy, magic, and surprise… the embodiment of endless possibilities”. And you know we all need some of that after this year; so I guess in the protection of the pot is where these precious young things will remain for now.
Nonetheless, for all my Christmas tree disappointments and Crab apple anxieties, there was a lust for landscaping that I had been ignoring.
As Autumn fades and winter brings with it the threat of frosted earth and frozen dirt, I realised that as this second UK lockdown reaches it’s end, I hadn’t embraced the outside nearly as much as I’d intended, before it shuts its doors to me until the spring.
For all the weeks of weeding and digging, seeding and planting throughout the last lockdown; this time around the closest I had gotten to scratching the soil and scrubbing the mud from my fingernails was the sight of a plastic tree-wannabe, viciously tangled in tinsel at the hands of a toddler, and an over-protected potted tiddler of a crab apple tree.
And that’s where National Tree Week became a celebration to me. In this morning’s modest offering of sunshine, I took to the outside and shovelled the soft soil, until dismissing my restraint in favour of hand-digging and clawing, sifting and smelling (yes, smelling) the dust of the great outdoors to make the room for a great oak tree.
So, as we enter the last month of this crazy old year, I’m proud to adopt the philosophy that ‘even the greatest oak was grown from a little nut who held her ground’. Or something like that.
Learn more about trees
- Why I’m joining the Big Climate Fightback…
- Read about the launch of The Woodland Trust’s Big Climate Fightback
- Help The Woodland Trust save ancient woodlands
- The hidden truth behind the UK’s tree-planting hypocrisy
- HS2 and the UK’s post-lockdown challenges
- Discover The Health Benefits of Going Outdoors
- Learn more about climate change
- Take A guided tour of Saint Lucia’s Babonneau rainforest