If I want to understand how to age well, I need look no further than our heritage trees. As each decade passes, they grow more and more beautiful. They thrive as they mature. Their foundations become firmer, their trunks and limbs, with a little judicious pruning, grow stronger, and they stand tall, and mostly straight, with body and tree memory in tact. How do they do it?
In my previous post, I wrote about the oldest exotic tree in Christchurch which can be found in the grounds of Riccarton House. Although the tree is well over 150 years old , it is thriving and bearing fruit. There are many other notable trees around Riccarton House. One of the” younger” heritage trees is the magnificent Weeping Lime which was planted in 1855.
Here are some images of the Weeping Lime. It was hard to capture the size of the tree. And equally difficult was obtaining a photo which caught the wondrous green tent created by the weeping branches. It was so lovely under the canopy that I wanted to lie down next to the trunk and dream away the afternoon.
A few metres away from this tree of loveliness, is a special protected area known as Riccarton Bush. It is home to the last remnant of 300,000 years of floodplain forests and is possibly the oldest protected area in New Zealand. In Riccarton Bush we have the privilege of experiencing primeval forest in the midst of an urban landscape. Whilst the exotic trees amaze me with their age, the native, primeval forest is truly incredible. Inside Riccarton Bush there are kahikatea trees which are 600 years old. I didn’t have time to photograph these trees but here is a glimpse of the entrance to the protected area and the start of the walkway through the Bush.
First the predator proof fence,
John Deans, farmer and lover of trees, who settled at Riccarton Bush, requested before his far too early death in 1854, that this native area should be preserved and protected. The family honoured his wishes and now our city does too.
So, back to my question. How do trees age so well?
Here’s a few my thoughts: they source their food locally; they consume only what they need ( have you ever seen an overweight tree?); they exercise moderately apart from the occasional vigorous workout in a gale; they engage with their environment and are open branched and hospitable, and giving; they are even-tempered (ever seen a tree giving out the equivalent of road rage even when we pick at its leaves, carve its bark, leave our rubbish about , are loud and abusive within its presence, and climb all over it?); they are tolerant and share their shade equally with the least and the greatest; they are creative (look at their intricate shapes and textures); and they know how to adapt and incorporate and store each year’s learnings into a type of wisdom and knowledge that ensures they will survive and thrive for centuries. And as with people, trees age even better if we offer them love, affection, freedom and dignity to age at their own pace. Wow! I am going back to the Weeping Lime some time soon to see if ,by standing under its canopy, I can breathe in some more of the art of ageing treefully.