The Queen’s Green Canopy, a nationwide tree-planting initiative, is underway to mark HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, finds Melanie Cable-Alexander
Melanie Cable-Alexander looks at The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative which is running in 2022 to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.
HRH The Prince of Wales’s private orchard offers sanctuary to many heirloom fruit trees – which can now be enjoyed as a heritage brandy, says Kevin Pilley.
While many royal dukedoms were available for Princes William and Harry, few were deemed appropiate. Sarah Pratley investigates the disgraced royal dukes that continue to be a historical hazard.
THE QUEEN’S GREEN CANOPY
It’s Tree-bilee Year. All over the country, estate and landowners, schools, cadet groups, girl guides and care homes are being urged to ‘plant a tree for the Jubilee’ and contribute to creating what’s being called The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) to commemorate her Platinum Jubilee in 2022, the first time a sovereign has ever reigned for 70 years. No one is more supportive of the project than her eldest son, HRH Prince Charles, patron of the QGC, who has through most of his lifetime been a green pioneer and campaigner, often against conventional public opinion.
When he launched the project by planting a verdun oak at Windsor Castle with his mother at the end of the tree-planting season in March 2021, ruddy, outdoor-faced and happy, he said of trees: “Quite simply we cannot live without them… Planting a tree is a statement of hope and faith in the future.”
The message resonates with James Saunders Watson of Rockingham Castle, Northamptonshire, who is on a mission to plant 950 trees to celebrate not only Tree-bilee but also the 950th anniversary of the completion of the original castle, once a royal property and then a Watson family home for 450 years. “We have planned to plant 950 trees in the park and gardens, a mixture of specialist trees and indigenous hardwoods. We have found a number of old maps, which include a series of lost avenues which we will look to reinstate. These are now going to be registered as part of the QGC.” He also wants to celebrate “such a wonderful anniversary” in a way that captures the imagination. Tree-bilee “is one of those projects that appeals to everyone,” he says.
Tree-planting does indeed appeal to everyone, including HM The Queen, who has planted some 1,500 specimens all over the world. The idea crosses generations, cultures and political dispositions. Frank Field, Baron Field of Birkenhead, is one of the key figures in Tree-bilee. Like Prince Charles, he is a green warrior, sits on the panel of QGC, co-founded the charity Cool Earth in 2007 to combat climate change by “working with local communities around the world to protect endangered rainforests”, and created The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy in 2015.
He was championing reforestation before most of us were born and has an eponymous education trust that is pioneering how schools plant trees to celebrate Tree-bilee within their curriculum – state and private schools alike. Mark Unwin, headmaster of Handford Grange Primary School in Cheshire, is deputy chief executive of the Frank Field Education Trust and explains: “We are supporting the project as a whole in producing education materials, in particular with the Woodland Trust.”
The Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest tree conservation charity, has donated some three million saplings to the project, encouraging schools and community groups to take part. One of the most touching stories surrounding Tree-bilee involves Bill Ellingworth and his son-in-law, Julian de Bosdari, both of whom are related to The Queen and Prince Charles. Ellingworth, a former chairman of the Imperial Typewriter Company in Leicester and then a farmer, was a lifelong tree pioneer. He was a man who couldn’t help collecting and planting acorns, sometimes “when no one was looking in the dead of the night”, says de Bosdari, smiling at the memory. Much of the hedgerow and avenue planting in Ellingworth’s home town of Laughton, Leicestershire, is testimony to him.
He loved trees, so when it came to the 100th anniversary of a tree in Laughton, planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1896, he took a photograph of his grandchildren beneath it, some of whom were great-grandchildren of Lord Mountbatten through Mountbatten’s granddaughter, Lady Amanda Ellingworth, a second cousin to Prince Charles and married to one of Bill’s six children, Charlie. The two children of Charlie’s sister, Frances, were also photographed under the tree.
Frances’s husband is Julian de Bosdari, who, inspired by his late father-in-law, happens to be another tree lover, so much so he owns a tree and shrub business called Ashridge Trees in Somerset. He also developed the habit of collecting fallen acorns and storing them in his pocket, like a jay storing food for winter, which is how oaks are planted naturally. “Six years ago, I gathered five acorns from that same Laughton oak,” he recalls. He nurtured them into saplings to be planted to commemorate The Queen’s Jubilee. One will be planted in Laughton and will be photographed with the same children who were pictured under the Queen Victoria oak.
Similar initiatives are underway elsewhere. At Madresfield Court in Worcestershire, John Chenevix-Trench is “currently working on a plan to create an avenue either side of a public footpath on the estate and get the local primary school to help plant it – but they don’t know that yet. I think it will be very good if we can make it happen, and a fitting commemoration of this remarkable milestone for Her Majesty The Queen.” In Kent, author and journalist George Plumptre, who is also on the advisory board of QGC and chief executive of the National Garden Scheme, which raises some “£3 million per year for nurses and health beneficiary charities”, is rallying his “pretty unique audience of 3,500 garden owners” to take part. And in Sussex, James and Lady Emma Barnard, owners of Parham House, one of the most spectacular Elizabethan houses and gardens in the UK, have been on a tree-planting mission. As Lady Emma says, in the autumn of 2019, “during a walk with my family through the ancient deer park at Parham, we collected acorns from the veteran oaks, many of which have been standing since well before the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Our head gardener sowed them and cared for them. We intend to plant them back in the parkland as part of Her Majesty’s Tree-bilee year.
“We are thrilled to be nurturing the next generation of these fine, venerable trees that have stood watch over Parham for centuries.” In a touching addition, Lady Emma adds: “If ever there is a Queen Elizabeth III, we hope that her subjects will be able to enjoy them.”
Further up in Norfolk, the former Royal Horticultural Show president and chair of QGC, Sir Nicholas Bacon, and his wife, Susan, are planning an avenue and new planting of parkland trees at their home, Raveningham. Speaking to the gardener and presenter Alan Titchmarsh in the run-up to the virtual Chelsea Flower Show on 19 May 2021, QGC’s official launch date, he explained the importance of the scheme. “This is a marvellous way to celebrate The Queen’s indomitable service and duty to this country over the past 70 years. We need more trees, because they are a magnificent part of our landscape. Sadly, over the past number of years many have been lost through development and neglect.
In addition, “They are an easy win for our climate change agenda. We know they filter the air, they consume carbon dioxide, exude oxygen and make people feel better. So long as they plant the right tree in the right place at the right time of year, then they will last for another 100 years, which will be an absolutely fantastic legacy of The Queen.”
However, there are voices of caution, not least that of rewilding pioneer Isabella Tree at Knepp Castle, West Sussex. “We’re not planning on doing anything like this for the Platinum Jubilee. Being a rewilding project, we’re not into planting trees at all, but encouraging natural regeneration instead.” She refers to a cartoon on the castle’s Kneppflix channel, to explain her point; it shows how natural planting occurs.
But she is being less harsh than she may sound. “That said, if you’re going to put a spade in the ground, the best thing you can do is to collect seeds locally, from wild trees with local adaptation, and use those saplings rather than a commercial nursery,” which is what Julian de Bosdari’s Laughton oak tree was all about. “Above all, we need to preserve the genetic diversity of trees – something you can only get with naturally grown trees – if they’re to stand a chance against climate change, disease, pollution and everything else we’re throwing at them.”
Garden journalist and author Tim Richardson, who founded The Chelsea Fringe Festival 10 years ago in London, which coincides with the Chelsea Flower Show, is similarly thoughtful. “It is a little bit of a myth that trees are for future generations only, because trees grow faster than people realise. If you are 60 (or 90 plus in the case of The Queen) and plant a tree, you should be able to enjoy the result. Young trees are very beautiful.” He refers to the “great tree specialist Alan Mitchell, who said he preferred young trees because it is as if they are displaying their jewellery to you through its leaves. You can enjoy them in a more intimate way.” His point is to “urge older people not to think that tree-planting is just for young people.”
When the Chelsea Flower Show took place in September 2021, this was very much in evidence with the Royal Horticultural Society’s show garden for QGC designed by David Dodd. Out of seemingly thin air he created a ‘lush, towering green and purple woodland made up of 21 trees, including multi-stemmed Swedish birch, hornbeam and beech’. Nevertheless, part of QGC’s remit is to celebrate older trees: its aim is also to ‘protect a network of 70 ancient woodlands across the United Kingdom and identify 70 ancient trees to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of service’. This leads de Bosdari, aged 70 himself, to quote an old proverb: “A man who is truly at his happiest is the one who plants a tree under which he does not sit.” Age counts after all.
THE QUEEN’S GREEN CANOPY: HOW TO PLANT TREES
- The king and queen of British native trees are the oak (pictured above) and beech tree. A golden rule is never to plant them together, because they prefer different soils: oak likes clay and beech prefers lime-based, lighter soil.
- Create a ‘bucket-shaped square hole’ for trees. Roots don’t like hitting corners and when they get to them will spread out rather than going round and round and suffocating.
Think about how far the roots of the tree will spread – they will follow the pattern and shape of the height of the tree so give them space and make sure they are planted with enough room.
- Jays (above) and squirrels are nature’s ultimate propagators of trees. Follow their rules and allow nature to take over.
- The tree-planting season is predominantly between November and March, though with climate change timings can be stretched. However, don’t plant oaks before December.
- Go to the Woodland Trust (woodlandtrust.org.uk) for good tree-planting advice or to Kneppflix to follow nature’s own pattern (look for ‘Knepp Natural Regeneration Cartoon’ on YouTube). Ashridge Trees also has a good section on tree-planting skills (ashridgetrees.co.uk).
- Spread trees at least two metres apart and don’t forget hedgerows create wonderful avenues for flora and fauna. If you don’t want to plant a tree, plant a hedge. They are nature’s motorways and just as valuable as trees.
- Plaques to commemorate your tree planting initiative are available from QGC (queensgreencanopy.org).
- QGC is inviting everyone to upload their Jubilee initiative on to its tree-planting map.