Roses are red, violets are purple…

At my home, Valentine’s Day has always followed the same tradition. I buy seven Valentine’s cards every year: one is for my wife Clare, three are for my children to give to my wife, and the other three are for Clare and me to give to the children. But I don’t get much of a return for this yearly effort – it’s been years since I received a card of my own. So, this time around, I’ve decided to do something different.

Now that I’m involved in Woods for the Trees, I’d like to give my wife an arboreal gift. But which are the most romantic trees? I really have no idea, so I decide to talk to some knowledgeable people and top up with online research. 

On the website Mr. Tree, I learn that myrtle was associated with Aphrodite and Venus, the Greek and Roman goddesses of love, who were often depicted wearing crowns made of myrtle leaves. Kate Middleton included myrtle in her wedding bouquet when she married Prince William. I decide that myrtle is a strong candidate!

Cherry trees produce beautiful blossom in Spring and I know that the fruit is one of my wife’s favourites. It is also features in the Riddle Song, made famous by Joan Baez:

“I gave my love a cherry that had no stone
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone…”

Somehow the chicken reference isn’t doing it for me, so I decide to give cherry trees a miss.

But then I remember what is perhaps the most famous tree-themed present of all:

“On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree…”

I could easily get hold of a pear tree, but I don’t think the gift would be the same without a (live) partridge. In any case, it would be more appropriate as a Christmas present.

Lastly Max, our resident tree expert, recommends the rowan tree: “For me it would have to be the rowan, haunt of fairies, lovely delicate spring flowers, red autumn berries, graceful and slender”. Steve, our branch manager for Middlesex, tells me about the pagan tradition of hanging “clooties” from rowan trees, which adds to the mystery and romanticism.

It’s time to make a decision. The temptation to order my wife a myrtle tree is too great, especially when I find a beautiful potted specimen on The Present Tree. I add an engraved plaque to my order with the inscription:

“Roses are red
Violets are purple
My heart is yours
And so is this myrtle”.

I’m feeling quite pleased with myself now – Clare will be delighted! But then I remember our Woods for the Trees mission to plant native trees only. A quick check on the Woodland Trust’s British Native Trees page reveals that myrtle is not a native species.

Racked with guilt, I find a local seed supplier and buy a large packet of rowan seeds. So this year, my wife will have one myrtle tree and potentially dozens of rowans. In years to come, I’ll be able to start a new family tradition and hang clooties – whatever they are – on the branches every Valentine’s Day.

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