Lime Trees at Compton Verney
Between the South and West (Wild flower) Lawn is a grove of mature Lime Trees at Compton Verney. Planted in a horseshoe pattern, and between the trees a gravelled, serpentine path snakes through the grass. Standing stately as high as the mansion itself, the trees are largely pollarded specimens where the top branches have been pruned back, whilst way below Winter Aconites carpet the ground with their yellow blooms showing from Christmas through to early February.
The trees themselves are beautiful, dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and were planted we believe to frame views to and from the mansion house. Aside from their aesthetic value, they also offer a wealth of opportunity for wildlife, and offer a very important roost for Noctule Bats.
The trees are certainly worth seeking out if you visit Compton Verney, and are unmistakable at any time of year due to their distinctive form – branches sweeping the ground, large protruding buttresses supporting each trunk, and dense clusters of twiggy growth around three metres above the ground. At any time of year they are beautiful to see, with refreshing lime green leaves in spring moving to butter yellow through autumn. The image above was captured in November 2016 looking south, with the middle pool behind.
Below are some facts and figures which may be of interest – but do visit and study them for yourself – the are indeed a sight to behold!
Tilia x europaea (synonym: Tilia x vulgaris)
Commonly known as:
Common Lime or Linden Tree
A deciduous tree up to 40m tall. Bark is generally smooth and grey. Masses of sucker growth appear from the base, then again at around 3m high. Leaves are broadly heart shaped and shiny. Limes feature fragrant bee pollinated flowers alongside bracts in early summer. The bracts or keys that accompany the flowers are yellow in colour and help the tiny nut-like fruits disperse further from the parent tree in autumn.
Lime trees are found in one particular location at Compton Verney, between the west lawn and south front, planted in a ‘U’ shaped formation. The trees date from both the eighteenth and nineteenth century, indeed a late 18th century path around the west lawn cuts through the plantation.
It is no happy accident that the ‘open’ end of this lime grove faces towards the Georgian chapel, which sits to the north slightly above the mansion. However, it is believed that these limes act primarily to frame landscape views both from and to the mansion.
The ground beneath supports a large plantation of Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) which look stunning through January into February.
- Common Lime is believed to be a cross between the small leaved lime (Tilia cordata) and the large leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos).
- Common lime is noticeable by its many shoots or suckers that sprout from the base of the trunk.
- Lime tree wood is light, close grained, and intricate designs can be carved for decorative purposes. Lime wood was the material of choice for the late 17th / early 18th century Dutch wood carver Grinling Gibbons, who gained commissions in places such as Chatsworth, Blenheim Palace and Hampton Court.
- Limes were planted in their thousands at estates, and in gardens around Europe, in part due to their ease of propagation (from those many suckers!) but also for their toleration of pleaching, or high level hedge-like trimming which was popular in the formal design period at the turn of the eighteenth century. Compton Verney has evidence of a formal garden layout of the same period.
- Lime trees are very attractive to insects, especially bees. Aphids are also drawn to lime trees and their secretions fall, coating everything below with sticky ‘honeydew’.
- Despite its common name, the tree is not the source of the Lime fruit, which comes from Citrus plants.
- ‘Bast’, the fibres of the inner bark are strong and elastic when stripped and have been used in past times to make string and rope products.
- Lime trees can be processed in many ways, and have been used medicinally for centuries to remedy gastric ailments and ease hysteria symptoms.
- And finally, lime tree branches have been traditionally coppiced as fodder for cattle, who graze on the foliage – this improves their milk.
Gary Webb, Head of Landscape & Gardens at Compton Verney.