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THE OLD LIME TREES AT ERDDIG

for Glyn Smith

 

When the meticulously landscaped gardens

were left to hazard, during the estate’s

long, reclusive neglect, some of the trees

in the two avenues either side

of the wide ornamental canal – whose

perspective frames the classical proportions

of the house – began to grow together

like errant, statuesque teeth. A couple

have been extracted to save the rest.

 

… Limes are almost indestructible – felled trunks

will sprout. Honey bees favour them. For aeons

they have been planted in rows for blessings,

and for battles – their bark used for basketry,

and rope. Their flowers mend the heart, and the soul…

 

Perched roisterously on topmost branches,

here, in autumn, are parliaments of rooks.

Against the sky, in winter, the trees

are wild filigree, black fretwork – in spring

flickering shade in the afternoon’s sun.

On summer evenings, after the park has closed,

dryads waltz amongst them.

 

 

The poem was inspired by the trees, their setting [https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/erddig] – and by an e conversation with Glyn Smith,  the current Head Gardener at Erddig. I sent Glyn the final draft of the poem for comment and asked if I might dedicate it to him.

He wrote:

I really appreciate your poem and thoughts to dedicate it to me. The only comment I might make is this one about time. I’m not the first head gardener, or gardener for all that, to work here and I’ll not be the last. Someone had the vision and had to plant the lime avenues, amongst other trees and flowers. Over the years there have been many others who contributed their sweat to the garden. On those lines I would like to modestly just be one of those dedicated artisan gardeners who made, developed and curate this garden. The limes stand as a testament to those generations of gardeners who over the years were watched over by them, by the limes themselves. In a way we were the children and the limes the parents and teachers in this school. What learning they must have witnessed and how proud they must be of our achievements.

I have been steadily looking at lime avenues on and off over the last few years and it would appear that our lime avenues are, historically, much more important than ever previously thought. Before c.1700 the only limes in this country were small leaved limes, Tilia cordata. A native species and less suited to the lime avenues we see. On the continent there were hybrid limes between T.cordate and T. platyphyllos and it was this hybrid lime that became so popular for avenues. Now called Tilia x europea it became particularly popular in northern Europe and there are now several slightly different forms of it that are broader, taller, or less or more covered in basal sucker shoots. Just walk in any estate where there are limes and you will quickly spot how densely some are shooted amongst their lower canopy branches.

As gardening spread, particularly the influence of French and Dutch gardening on British horticulture, so we saw introductions of this hybrid lime. It probably achieved its greatest influence around the end of the 17th Century and the great dutch influence of the Glorious Revolution and William 111. One of the more recent forms of lime to be introduced and possibly the most common, is Tilia x Europa ‘Pallida’ and our limes are of this. Perhaps it was best adapted to the wetter Dutch lands, and as such prospered best.

We usually see lime avenues planted across estates. It seems exceptionally rare that shorter avenues of trees were planted within walled gardens. That really makes our lime avenues virtually unique and they should be kept for as long as possible.

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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