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A giant of a tree

wildgardencedar02awvThere cannot be many people in the Wychwoods who have not visited Shipton’s Wild Garden. If there are, they should do so sooner rather than later, if only to admire the wonderful selection of trees there. Dominant over all other varieties is the magnificent Cedar of Lebanon towering above and between the two main water features of the Garden.

The Cedar of Lebanon is the oldest tree in cultivation. Those on Mt Lebanon are around 2,500 years old, and the most mentioned tree in the Bible – always a symbol of fruitfulness and strength. The species became fashionable plantings in the mid 1700s, Ditchley being a prime location. The Reede family probably planted the two cedars in the Wild Garden about this time; both flourished, but sadly one was blown down in gales in 1984. The remaining one – our tree, probably suffered damage when very young which might explain why it has three stems, giving it extra strength. This was helped by the previous owner of the Garden, Brian Gorton, who wired the three stems high up (the tree is 35 metres or 115 feet tall), thereby improving its resistance to damage from gales. Nevertheless, the tree is vulnerable to high winds as well as the weight of snow on its branches, as was evident from the loss of a large branch during the heavy snowfall last December.

I know of no other Cedar of Lebanon in the local area. Our example is certainly magnificent, but cannot be described as really beautiful because it has suffered so much throughout its life. Following wind damage some years ago, a large branch had to be ‘amputated’ and of course the prime examples have a single rather than multiple stem. Having said that, it is nevertheless ‘magnificent’!

This tree is very much a focal point for any visitor to the Wild Garden, and its great stature gives dominance to the whole site. It has many admirers. I know of one bride and groom, having been married in Shipton church, who took their photographer specifically to take wedding pictures of them by this tree. Could this have been symbolic of a long lasting strength in their marriage? Long may this tree dominate the Wild Garden.

Hamish Harvey

June – July 2018