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Books Street Trees

London’s Street Trees revised edition is officially launched

It’s been a busy few weeks in the tree publishing world. Hot on the heels of virtually launching the Great Trees of London Map last week, last night was the official launch of the fully revised edition of London’s Street Trees.

Over 60 people joined the Zoom which involved the publisher, Graham, and I speaking about how the book came about. I went on to give a presentation about some of the things that have changed since the first edition was published. These include the appearance of new species like the Pineapple Guava and the Peanut Butter Tree, the impact of Sheffield on raising awareness of the threats street trees can face, and how in south east London, Street Trees for Living are providing a model for the future of funding, planting and maintaining street trees.

If you missed the launch, it was recorded, and the very committed can view all of it here (it is over an hour long, so you might need some fortification lined up before you start watching!)

Boom: Will book launches ever be the same now that we’ve have discovered Zoom?

Since the first edition of London’s Street Trees was published, what then seemed like a very old fashioned street tree, the rather lovely ‘Pauls’s Scarlet’ cultivar of Hawthorn, appears to be having something of a renaissance. And, as it’s May Day, I shall end this post with some Hawthorn or May blossom. It’s looking particularly lovely this year…

Mayday: The striking double pink flowers of ‘Paul’s Scarlet’, a street tree of the old school

If you’d like to buy a copy of the new edition of London’s Street Trees, it is available from Amazon, direct from Safe Haven and from me too! Just click the button below to buy a signed copy.


Categories
Books Street Trees Urban landscape

London’s Street Trees gets an update!

Three years ago, my book, London’s Street Trees was published. Since then it’s been through three print-runs and has been the subject of kind comments and favourable reviews. And today, I’m very pleased to announce that a new, expanded and fully revised edition has been published by Safe Haven Books.



Tree Nut: One former Islington urban forester clearly had a thing for C
aucasian Wingnuts, planting dozens of these huge, spreading trees across London’s most densely populated borough

In that first edition, I calculated around 300 species and cultivars could be found on the streets of London. I have since discovered Hackney alone has over 350. And while that borough has the most remarkable and diverse collection of street trees in London, there are still species not present on its streets that can be found elsewhere: Islington has over 100 Caucasian Wingnuts, there’s at least one rare Catalina Ironwood in Chelsea and a handful of Cork Oaks in Southwark. 

This new edition is larger in every way – it’s physically bigger, has more pages and includes more tree species. It also includes hundreds of new photographs, the result of three years of my continued obsession with London’s trees.

Rare fruit: A persimmon ripening on a Stoke Newington street tree

But just as the number of species has increased (a decade from now I would not be surprised to count upwards of 500 species and cultivars), so has Londoners’ interest in them. What began as the novel idea of one or two guided walks to inspect the street trees is now, nearly three years later, a regular activity. Even in the current health emergency, I have been able to harness the latest technology and lead virtual walks allowing people to join from all over the world. Above all, I report how Londoners are raising funds to plant their own streets with resplendent species like Persian Silk Tree, a species admired in the pages of this new edition.

Anything but: Plane trees mature into handsome trees that define London

The diversity of today’s urban forest is relatively new. A century ago, A. D. Webster wrote in ‘London Trees’ that ‘nothing very remarkable is to be found in the way of street trees in London.’ Sixty per cent, he estimated, were London Planes, then the height of arboreal fashion. Now, it’s only around 3%. But that is because the overall number and diversity of trees has increased dramatically, not because we have lost thousands of Planes. So, to Webster’s generation, and those before him, we owe a debt of gratitude for the mature giants that now define this city, and the very desire to plant street trees at all. It was only fifty years earlier that the first street trees were systematically planted along the Embankment. Now it would be hard to imagine London, or indeed any city, without them.

We could think of the last 150 years as a great experiment, and one we are still engaged in. The pace of change in the urban forest is rapid. The humble Field Maple, the glamorous American Sweetgum and the rare Paper Mulberry thrive in what appear pretty unfavourable conditions. 

Space invader: Trees of Heaven, once the favoured tree of Bermondsey’s tree planting heroine, Ada Salter, are now a notoriously invasive species

Of earlier species like poplars, by contrast, only aged examples of these magnificent billowing trees can be seen on the street. The attractive, fast-growing Tree of Heaven was once commonplace in places like Bermondsey, but its propensity to jump ship and opportunistically take up residence wherever it can has made urban foresters less keen on what was once considered a wonder tree. But as the looming climate emergency makes the benefits of trees in cities more obvious, one of the most remarkable, and hopeful, things I’ve noticed is just how fast trees can grow on London’s streets. In just a few years, a vulnerable sapling can transform itself into a confident adult tree. 

Then again, since this book first came out – Sheffield happened. Campaigners had to fight a long battle to save hundreds of magnificent, mature street trees from the axe. It shows, I think, just how much we value our urban trees, and how far we are prepared to go to protect them.

Street trees reflect the aspirations of a city, the conditions of the present and our legacy for the future. In London, grand oaks and planes offer a direct connection with the glories and inequalities of its past; exotic Olives and Crêpe Myrtles celebrate our multicultural world city as well as its changing climate, while Tulip Trees, Dawn Redwoods and Ginkgos will grace our streets for generations to come. I hope you enjoy discovering them all.  


If you’d like to buy a copy of the new edition, it is available from Amazon, direct from Safe Haven and from me too!


Categories
Street Trees Urban landscape

The London Street Tree Publishing Event of the Year, Possibly

I have an announcement to make: my book, ‘London’s Street Trees: A Field Guide to the Urban Forest’ will be published by Safe Haven Books at the end of May 2017.

Final Cover hi-res

This book documents my own journey of discovery, not just of the great variety of London’s street trees, but also their fascinating stories. I’m extremely pleased to include a Foreword from London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who will face the challenge of improving our air quality during his term in office, I’m sure that planting many more trees in the city will be part of the solution.

To quote A.D. Webster, who wrote the – dare I say – ground-breaking book London Trees; Being an Account of the Trees That Succeed in London, with a Descriptive Account of Each Species and Notes on Their Comparative Value and Cultivation. With Guide to Where the Finest London Trees May Be Seen in 1920: ‘Nothing very remarkable is to be found in the way of street trees in London.’ Nearly a century later I can confidently report that this is no longer the case. I have counted well over 150 distinct species, and at least another 150 cultivars or varieties. I am sure there are many more than this and I am also sure this number will only increase.

Londoners need only walk a few minutes from their front doors to encounter a hugely diverse and endlessly fascinating urban forest. My book is a celebration of the forest, its diversity and its beauty. It is a guide to the many unexpected, even improbable, species to be found around the capital, from Anerley to Walthamstow, and an attempt to shed light on things many of us never knew about the trees on our streets.

Most people will be aware of London’s own eponymous street tree, the London Plane – in itself unique among cities – and no doubt many could recognise one, but according to the London i-tree eco project report, Plane trees account for less than 3% of London’s street trees. I hope this book will go some way to helping you identify the other 97%.

Here’s a few spreads from the book to whet your appetite:

Chequer This Out: Wild Service Trees can be found on London’s streets

Feature Rich: One of many articles about the urban forest
Trail Mix: One of four London street tree trails

You may want to read more, if so, you’ll have to wait until the end of May, but you can pre-order on these sites:

Amazon

Book Depository

Waterstones

I hope to do some events around the publish date including walks and talks which I will announce on Twitter closer to the time.