In praise of trees.

On my weekly photo tours  my camera is usually focused on the flowers since they are the pictures people usually respond to.
My love for the Gardens however are mostly generated by the trees.
They are the enduring elements of this wonderful place, and aside from Horticultural Hall, some of them are the oldest parts of the Gardens.
True to Loudon’s Gardenesque style of gardening, there are a large number of species represented. 140 of them. From evergreen to deciduous, there are a multitude of forms. From upright to weeping, and native to grafted trees, there are rich palate of colors: red leaved, yellow, silver, blue to all hues of green . The leaf shapes are also fully represented from the pinnate of the Ulmus (Elms) to the dichotomous shape of the Ginkgo biloba. The trunks are smooth, rough, exfoliating, dull or shiny.
People interested in studying the morphology of trees can find all the characteristics represented in the trees of the Gardens. It is a true arboretum, a term which was coined by Loudon in 1833, to represent a collection of trees used for scientific study as well as aesthetics.
Many of the trees of the Gardens  have stood through many generations, through times of war and times of peace, through catastrophes natural and otherwise, and they have given shelter from the heat, the heartbreak, the romance…
If only they could speak, like they do in JRR Tolkien’s writings, what stories they could tell!

Ulmus americana (Elmtree) at the Halifax Public GardensThe largest of the trees. This Ulmus americana (American Elm) was planted in the mid to late 1870’s as part of the Grande Alleé. Richard Power used the alleé concept to join the Peoples Garden to the Public Garden to form the present day Public Gardens.

Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ (Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar) at the Halifax Public GardensThe smallest tree. This Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ (Atlas Cedar) may look like a dwarf but it will grow up to be quite a large specimen. It will require patience though, due to its slow growth rate.

Fagus sylvatica 'Pendula' (Weeping European Beech) at the Halifax Public GardensThe favorite tree. Ask anyone to name their favorite tree and this Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’ (Weeping Beech) will be it, most times.

Cornus kousa (Flowering Dogwood)Too popular? The fastest way to devalue a tree is to overuse it. I first fell in love with the Cornus kousa (Flowering Dogwood)  in the mid 1990’s on a trip to Georgia. It’s a great tree especially in summer and fall, but it’s being planted everywhere now and is loosing its appeal (at least to me).

Castanea dentata (American Chestnut) at the Halifax Public GardensThe survivor! Castanea dentata were once 3 billion strong in Eastern North America. Today there are only 100 trees with a diameter of 2′ or more in the same area. There are two American Chestnut trees in the Gardens. The Chestnut blight which decimated the species is spread during hot and humid summer weather (not a norm for our region).

Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii' (Camperdown Elm) at the Halifax Public Gardens

THE most sought after tree in Victorian England. The Ulmus glabra ‘Camperdownii’ (Camperdown Elm) was all the rage due to its rarity. This is a grafted tree and cannot be reproduced by seed. All specimens come from cuttings of the original mutation, found by the forester of the Duke of Camperdown who had the brilliant idea of grafting it onto the trunk of a Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra).

Ulmus americana (American Elmtree) at the Halifax Public GardensThe oldest trees. The Ulmus americana (American Elms) on the corners of Horticultural Hall were planted in the Peoples Garden after the building was built. The garden of the NS Horticultural Society was also used as a trial garden and when it was sold and joined the Public Gardens, Richard Power planted 2000 trees in and around the Gardens, many coming from the nursery belonging to the Society.

Laburnum (Golden Chaintree) at the Halifax Public GardensThe prettiest tree? There are three Laburnums (Golden Chaintree) at the Gardens and when in bloom they never fail to draw attention. One is by the lower bridge and the other two on the west side of the Victoria Jubilee Fountain.

Quercus robur (English Oak tree) at the Halifax Public Gardens

A tree with history. Chosen by the great-grandfather of the overdue Royal baby, this Quercus robur (English Oak) was planted in 1939 during the Royal couples historic tour across Canada a few months prior to the beginning of World War II. This species is known as the ‘wood of the navy’ as it was traditionally used in the construction of ships. A salute to our maritime heritage of which there are many in the Gardens.

Ulmus glabra var. Lutescens (Yellow Elmtree) at the Halifax Public Gardens

My favorite tree. The Ulmus glabra var. Lutescens (Yellow Elmtree). There is another fine specimen by the Victoria Jubilee fountain and the yellow/chartreuse leaves positively GLOW!

Though many trees were felled by Hurricane Juan, those that remained rejoiced in the new sunlight and air that was reintroduced . As a group, the 673 trees contained in the Gardens are a testament to the resilience of Mother Nature and to the never-ending circle of life.

All copy and images copyright © Serena Graham-Dwyer, 2013. If you wish to use any part or whole of an image, in any manner, please contact us.

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2 thoughts on “In praise of trees.

  1. Thanks Serena for giving pride of place this edition to the tree. Very beautiful, very informative, Thanks again, Lyndon.

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