22nd December 2016

While we’re getting ready to hunker down for the winter, trees are also winding down and becoming dormant. So National Tree Week (the last Saturday of November to the first Sunday of December) seemed the perfect time to distribute some of our first “King James I” black mulberry saplings for planting outside, as they don’t mind being moved during this period. The King James I cultivars were propagated from a tree that once stood in Chelsea Physic Garden, until it was removed in 1939 to make room for an air raid shelter. We are giving out a hundred of these saplings free to schools, community groups and heritage sites, as part of the Morus Londinium project. The young mulberries will become part of the next generation of trees, telling their own stories to future generations of Londoners. Our very first sapling was presented to Christ Church Spitalfields, to commemorate the Spitalfields Huguenots, ready to be planted in their new community garden next year.

Left: The original mulberry from which all “King James I” mulberries derive (photo courtesy of Chelsea Physic Garden). Right: Two of the 100 saplings waiting to be planted.

In the first wave of distribution, around 60 saplings were sent to sites across London. The furthest east was a Friends group near Hornchurch, and the furthest west was Leavesden Country Park orchard in Rickmansworth. Two of the trees will be part of a new tree trail in an Enfield park. Others are off to community orchards, with fruit ready for harvesting in a few years. Several are being planted by schools, where they will help support lessons on London’s history and King James’s attempt to start a silk industry. Meanwhile, some of the saplings are being planted to take over from ageing mulberries, which may no longer be around in a few decades. For example, a mulberry in the garden to the north of the Tower of London is in decline, so Historic Royal Palaces are planting one of our mulberry saplings there, while another is going to the gardens of Hampton Court.

Some of the locations where the first mulberry saplings are being planted.

Most of the saplings were distributed by courier, while London Bike Hub offered the use of a cargo bike for distributions in west London, using a site provided by Ealing Parks as a base. The ‘green-tree-giving’ machine set off first thing in the morning for deliveries in Ealing, returning for a second round south of the river, in and around Richmond. In all, the bike delivered 21 mulberry saplings. We will be very interested to learn how these young trees get on in their new homes. The Morus Londinium online map will soon show where they are.

The mulberry dispatch bike in Ealing (left) and opposite the black mulberry at Maids of Honour Row on Richmond Green (middle). Right: one of the first saplings planted in a community orchard.

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