Friday, 24 April 2009

Horse Chestnuts

The horse chestnut trees are now in full flower in London and the suburbs - the grand specimens pictured above are part of the spectacular horse chestnut avenues of Bushey Park, adjacent to the better-known Hampton Court. The horse chestnut is perhaps the most extravagantly beautiful of our trees in spring, when the early, tender green parasols of leaflets are followed in short order by the dense 'candles' of flower spikes. The early show is all the more to be relished now that the trees are under attack from disease and from leaf miners, causing premature leaf fall, rusting, and even, in places, a failure of the conker crop that is so much a part of the British autumn. The more reason to enjoy these fine trees at their best - and now's the time, as the Slow London campaign gets under way...
Oddly, the horse chestnut hasn't been a great favourite with painters - with the glorious exception of Samuel Palmer, who time and again captured its beauty, its geometry and its abundant spirit.


  1. I like horse chestnuts too. I like the particular shade of green light that passes through their leaves as they first spread. It seems to make the air around the tree glow a beautiful caterpillar green. And later on it summer when the leaves are at their full extent, the tree offers a feeling of enveloping protection as you stand beneath the huge dark canopy

    So I suppose you could say I like the essence or soul of this of this tree even more than the tree itself. They are splendid trees.

    Have a good weekend!

  2. You're so right Will, that's exactly it - and that reminds me that there was one painter who captured that light-through-horsechestnut-leaves perfectly, so perfectly it became almost a trademark: Tissot (hugely fashionable, very slick and accomplished Victorian).
    A good weekend to you too! If this weather breaks, I shall be seriously vexed....

  3. James Tissot -- one of my all-time favorite painters. Oh, don't call him "slick" -- his best work was not; it was insightful.

    Horse chestnuts remind me of France, but now looking at your gorgeous photos, I'll associate 'em with England too.

    Oh, wish I were there. Well, in August -- if my husband ever gets on the stick and puts our trip together -- we will be somewhere in G.B. Can't wait!

  4. never heard of this tissot chap, I just googled him, and yes - VERY victorian!! (including a wife who committed suicide to end her debilitating consumption! Such melodrama!)

  5. Hate to say this Nige, recently had to fell two chestnuts, thirty five year olds, had developed dual trunks and become a bit of a liability, plenty more though, the bees love them, sitting under the chestnut can require ear defenders, this year has been a delight, Amalanchier, Spirea, Rhododendron now at their showiest, even the lowly bird cherry on the hill are showing off, the gorse is dazzling in full sun. All in all, a very good spring.

  6. Spring seems to bring splendid and great variety of trees, the The horse chestnut trees is the one I like most, because of its form and everything.