So what did you like best about the royal wedding? For me, near the top of the list was the prayer penned jointly by the bride and groom. Like the confessional pledge made by Charles and Camilla at their ceremony, it was disarmingly candid and sincere. A touching testimony to the strength of their relationship, it was more impressive than any amount of pageantry.
But it wasn’t the couple’s eloquence that moved me the most. It was something far more surprising. Can you guess? I’ll give you a clue: they were the tallest guests. They were welcomed by Kate’s new father-in-law. And they’ll soon be taking root at Highgrove.
Yes, I’m talking about the trees. Before we were allowed to see inside Westminster Abbey, Huw Edwards gave the floral decorations a big build-up, but trees? Totally unexpected, they took my breath away. It was startling to see their branches rising up, bringing life, youth and vigour to the ancient stone edifice. They softened the vast heights of the Abbey roof, while symbolising shelter from the elements and adversity. For the young couple they alluded to the promise of future growth and life far beyond the ceremony of the day. I wondered whether their leaves were rustling in anticipation as warm air rose from the excited mass of illustrious guests below.
Yet what more natural a decoration for the wedding of a country boy raised in rural Gloucestershire, a stone’s throw from our National Arboretum, the magnificent Highgrove Gardens his childhood back yard? I’ve twice toured the grounds at Highgrove and each time they have struck me as a wonderful place to grow up, and not only for the spectacular treehouse. Remarkable features pepper the place as you move from one garden room to another, from the amusing black and white garden, to the colourful potager, from the fragrant thyme walk to open meadow views. I particularly adore the stumpery, where spent trees gain new dignity. (At Highgrove, old trees never die – Prince Charles just finds another use for them.)
So the wedding trees will now be planted at Highgrove, where they will bring a tear to the eye of many a future garden visitor. As the years go by, tourists will marvel at how much the trees have grown. Maybe in time royal offspring will be photographed playing beneath them. Rather more accessible to general public view will be the new wedding cake tree, rather sweetly planted in the churchyard of St Mary’s by the Duchess of Cornwall for the local WI of which she is pleasingly a member.
I predict that tree nurseries nationwide will now experience a boom in sales, thanks to Will and Kate’s inspired idea. Engaged couples everywhere will be adding saplings to their guest list. No wedding will be complete without a tree or two in the congregation. If I were in charge of wedding bookings at Westonbirt Arboretum, I’d be rubbing my hands together with glee, pound signs ringing up in my eyes: where better to hold a local tree-themed wedding?
Mind you, I hope that the trees don’t completely supplant flowers in the wedding ceremony. If they do, one popular custom will surely disappear: the throwing of the bridal bouquet over the shoulder, to be caught by single girls wishing to be the next to marry. Tossing the caber may be fun to watch, but there aren’t many girls who’d want to catch one.
(This post originally appeared in the Tetbury Advertiser, June 2011)