Discover more from Born Free Press
Vernacular/Nostalgia #1: cedar trees
‘I have a bit of a thing for using French knots as foliage.’
Welcome to the first of my new fortnightly newsletter, Vernacular/Nostalgia. I’ll be using it share some of the outputs of my non-writing creativity and curiosity practice – my embroidery and mixed media art, my photography, as well as some of my favourite archive finds.
I’m kicking off with a post that includes all three of the above.
This is a lithograph of the Chelsea Physic Garden showing a view towards the river, featuring two large cedar trees. Founded in 1673, it’s the oldest botanical garden in London.
The cedar trees were imported from Lebanon in 1685 and were the first of the species to grow in the UK.
I came across the above image in the Wellcome Collection archive at a time when I had a bit of a thing for using French knots as foliage in my embroidery. (To be fair, I still have a bit of a thing for using French knots as foliage.)
Last weekend, I dropped by the garden – which is focused on medicinal, herbal, and other useful plants – to see how the above scene compares today.
Alas, the cedars are no more.
While I was there, I bumped into the garden’s Director, Sue Medway. She told me the cedars got too big and had to be felled. They were gone by the 1840s.
But their legacy lives on. Medway said it is thought – and she believes it is a strong claim – that all other cedars growing across the UK today are descended from propagations of the Physic Garden specimens.