Sarah Coles


Twelve years ago I planted a Sophora japonica, the Chinese Scholar Tree – I liked to think of writing under its shade, and I’d seen one with pale pink pea flowers. It’s also called the Pagoda Tree. It has pinnate leaves, with leaflets twinning each other giving the whole tree a light airy feel.

My tree grew and grew. Its shade soon covered the terrace and much of the garden. Its leaves blocked the gutters in winter, causing Bob aged 86 to climb a ladder and clear them out. What if he slipped? So last winter I got Bill aged 56 to pollard the tree. He climbed a ladder and did the job. Five ugly awkward stumps stood out at the top of the trunk.  Gone was this lovely tree.  ‘You’ve killed it’ Bob screamed. ‘I just did what I was asked’ said Bill. ‘It’ll be fine, wait for spring’ I said. Spring came, other trees were in leaf, but not ours. ‘I’ll plant another flowering tree’, I said, ‘a magnolia, it will look glorious.’ ‘Not in my lifetime’ said Bob.

April passed. Most of May passed. Nothing. I hugged and pleaded with the tree. I watered and fed it. The stumps were unmoved.  Then, it relented and showed a tiny sprout of green – I felt like Noah when the dove returned with a leaf. Mid June, and green shoots all over the place. Now, it has a wonderful uneven mop head. I bought a Fiskars telescopic tree lopper to safely and easily keep it within bounds. No more ladders. Relief all round.  Still looking a bit rough, but it can only improve over the years.

Never give up on a tree, said a friend, until the end of July. Keep hoping.

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