Mulberry Tree Following 8/7/14

Another month has past and again it is time to tell you new and exciting things about my chosen tree. I am a day late in joining in with the Tree Following meme hosted by Lucy at Looseandleafy. It is not too late if you want to join in. You can link in with her blog until the 14th July.

The tree is still sitting here, or rather sprawling; Mulberry trees seem to collapse and carry on growing from a prone position. This tree is very old so I am not surprised that it has decided to lie down. I think that it is very sensible, I’d do the same if I was getting on for 500 years old. Specially if I could lean on my elbows and grow new arms.

The fruit is coming on nicely and getting a bit red although it has quite a way to go before it is luscious and wine dark.
IMG_0440  Somebody has decided to make a home at the base of the tree.

But apart from that there is nothing much to report. There has been a barn owl about here for the last few weeks. I saw him once and I hear him screech at night. I wish he would come and pose for a photo in the tree. But there are no birds when I look. Not so much as a sparrow. So once more I will turn to Shakespeare for some inspiration.  The Bard never lets you down.

William Shakespeare bought his house, New Place in Stratford-upon – Avon in  1597. He moved in when he retired from London in  1610. The house was one of the best in Stratford.  He died in the house in 1616.  Being a man of taste and discrimination he planted a Mulberry tree in his garden before he died.

In 1756 the Reverend Francis Gastrell bought the house. By this time tourists came on pilgrimages to see the former  home of Shakespeare. They were particularly keen to see the Mulberry tree which Shakespeare had planted.  Gastrell said that he was tired of being annoyed by so many visitors and had the tree cut down. The people of Stratford were so angry that they broke Gastrell’s  windows.

An enterprising chap called Sharp acquired the wood and found a local woodcarver, George Cooper who carved souvenirs from it. Even then people were thrilled to own something made out of Shakespeare’ s tree. There were an astonishing number of souvenirs that appeared from this tree; rather like the teeth and bones of saints really. Or heads of John the Baptist, of which, I believe there are several in circulation. Even now these souvenirs turn up sometimes.  (Carvings from Shakespeare’ s Mulberry, not The Baptist’s Heads. Although these probably do as well.)   Last year a beautifully carved tea caddy carved by Cooper sold at Christies for £13,750. It has a bust of Shakespeare and his coat of arms carved into it. It also has Cooper’ s name engraved on it.

It seems that Francis Gastrell was in some sort of dispute with the authorities about taxes. So not content with destroying the tree, in a fit of pique he demolished the house in 1759.  The people of Stratford were so incensed that they sent him to Coventry. Eventually he was forced to leave the town and a by- law was passed that nobody of the name of Gastrell was allowed to live there again.

The site of Shakespeare’ s house is now an Elizabethan knot garden. The adjoining house is called Nash’ s House and it is a museum. You acquire admission to the garden through the museum.  There is a Mulberry tree in the garden.

David Garrick the eighteenth century actor had a cup carved from Shakespeare’ s tree. It was presented to him by the Mayor of Stratford in  1769. His party piece was to stand up with his cup and sing a song of his own devising:

‘Behold this fair goblet t’was carv’d from the tree

Which oh my sweet Shakespeare was planted by thee.

As a relick I kiss it, and bow at the shrine

What comes from thy hand must be ever divine!

All shall yield to the Mulberry- tree

Bend to thee, blest Mulberry

Matchless was he who planted thee.

And thou like him immortal shall be.’

It goes on quite a bit more, but you get the picture. One hopes that his acting was better than his poetry.





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51 Responses to Mulberry Tree Following 8/7/14

  1. pbmgarden says:

    Never realized how much Mulberry trees figured into history. Interesting.

  2. coastcard says:

    Good to see those mulberries ripening. As a child I was intrigued by the silk farm near Lullingstone Roman villa … wonder if it is still there!

    • Chloris says:

      I don’ t know about that one. I wonder if it was a very old one. Perhaps it was the offspring of one the Romans brought. I know the Romans valued mulberries highly.

  3. sueturner31 says:

    We stop at the Falcon Hotel across the road from Nash’s House…Sometimes getting the 4 poster room on the corner where you have a good view of the gardens and the school on the opposite corner…love your Mulberry tree.

  4. alderandash says:

    Makes we want to plant a mulberry even more!! 🙂

  5. bittster says:

    Another brilliant post on a tree which refuses to change out of its housecoat! If you keep this up I may also need to add a mulberry.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Frank. Can you get Morus nigra over there? Your native one is Morus rubra which I gather seeds around rather too enthusiastically.

      • bittster says:

        Mulberries are available but not very common (other than the self seeding rubra or alba(?) which just show up uninvited). There’s a weeping one which can be found, plus some named fruiting varieties, and also a sterile one (or is it all male, I’m not sure) used for shade down south. They’re hardy little trees regardless.

  6. Flighty says:

    An most enjoyable, and informative, tree following post. xx

  7. Pauline says:

    Lovely story about a lovely tree. Yours has certainly deserved a lie down, after 500 years it must be tired!

  8. Kris P says:

    You manage to make what I feared would be a rather dull post something extraordinary. I look forward to next month’s post.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Kris, I am finding out so many interesting things about the Mulberry tree that I didn’ t know before. I am really enjoying it.

  9. Hollis says:

    Another great story! thanks again. Did you know that the link to your post on Lucy’s page doesn’t work? The address includes 2014/07/07, rather than 2014/07/08 which does work. Obviously I managed to get here anyway.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you very much and thanks for letting me know about the link. I don’ t seem to be very good at getting links right. But I have been back to Lucy’ s blog and adjusted it.

  10. Cathy says:

    Can you manage all this mulberry education month after month, Chloris? I wonder if some of the carved things are a bit like the things supposedly carved from famous ships’ timbers?

    • Chloris says:

      Wel, I must admit, I am finding it quite a challenge to come up with something fresh each month about the Mulberry. Still I love learning new things.I have a mind like a magpie and I love quirky bits of useless information. Well, not entirely useless, you never know when you are going to need to know 100 different facts about the Mulberry tree.

  11. Cathy says:

    A great story Chloris, and wouldn’t it be nice to own a little carving from Shakespeare’s mulberry tree! I am keen to see how the fruit progress too. Thank you for sharing all this lovely information!

  12. Debra says:

    I just love this series on the mulberry!

    • Chloris says:

      Thanks Debra, I’ m finding it quite a challenge to find something new to write about it each month. But I am finding out all kinds of things that I didn’ t know about the Mulberry tree before. So it’ s good.

  13. Interesting story on Shakespeare’s mulberry. Here mulberries are considered to be something as a nuisance tree as they make a mess and will sprout everywhere. But maybe this is a different kind of mulberry.

    • Chloris says:

      I think your American trees are Morus rubra which seed around a lot. This is Morus nigra. I don’ t know why it never seems to seed around. It is highly prized because many of the trees are very ancient like this one and also because it has luscious fruit that you cannot buy in the shops.

  14. Chloris what a fascinating tree you have with so much character….I had not realized that mulberry trees could grow from that position. And I loved the history behind Shakespeare and his mulberry…fascinating stuff….what a wonderful post chock full of so much!

  15. Chloris says:

    Thank you Donna, researching a tree with so much history is proving to be great fun.

  16. Caro says:

    I love the personality that you’ve given your mulberry tree! This tree following lark really stretches the imagination – I’ve been fascinated to read the Shakespeare connection, what a mean man that Gaskell was! I’m wondering whether all mulberry trees are prone to lying down with age – there’s a nice tall upright mulberry tree in my college grounds; I’ve no idea how old it might be (probably not that old) since the grounds have a very chequered history.

    • Chloris says:

      I think they do tend to fall over with extreme age but this is a way of rejuvenating themselves as they tend to root and regrow from each point which touches the ground. Some trees like this one are several hundred years old.

  17. Again, a very fascinating post, Chloris. Your tree is really doing well, for an O.A.P! Gastrell certainly knew how to make friends and influence people!

    • Chloris says:

      Thanks Ali, I am enjoying learning about Mulberry trees. I like a tree with a bit of history. Yes, Gastrell sounds awful, no wonder he was drummed out of Stratford, he was disastrous for the Shakespeare tourist industry. I was surprised that people flocked to see Shakespeare’ s home town as early as the eighteenth century

  18. Chloris, a fabulous post — the history is so interesting. Now I have to go back and read earlier posts about the mulberry, which in my mind henceforth will be Shakespeare’s tree.

  19. glad your tree is taking things easy Chloris, oh to grow new body parts, your tree is at the other end of the life cycle mine are just beginning, how awful was that man for cutting the tree down, why didn’t he just move, I enjoyed the story, Frances

    • Chloris says:

      It would be nice to recline on the soft grass and grow new parts which would rejuvenate you and enable you to live for centuries. Mind you the same view might get a bit tedious after the first 100 years or so.

  20. Diana Studer says:

    mulberries remind me of my nieces and their silkworms. Going to tuck a link to this post next to your comment on mine, as your Blogger profile sadly doesn’t show your blog …

  21. Chloris says:

    Thank you for your comment Diana. And thank you for telling me that my blogger profile doesn’ t have a link to my blog. I never realised this. I have fixed it now. At least I think I have. Technology is not my strong point. I know more about mulberry trees than I do about the mysterious workings of blogs.

  22. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    venerable tree if only a substitute -fascinating history, told with much better humour than the Bard could muster. Love mulberries in a fruit crumble and your line: “if I could lean on my elbows and grow new arms”.

  23. linniew says:

    This was a great education for me. Mulberry trees are not part of my world (Pacific northwest U.S.) and I mostly associate the name with Dr. Suess (his first book: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street) and silkworms? Seems like silkworms. Anyway I am completely won over by the amazing traditions you discuss about mulberry trees. But ANYTHING to do with Shakespeare keeps my attention –– I completely enjoyed your story about his house and the terrible and grumpy Reverend Gastrell. How I should love to visit Stratford… Also, is your barn owl white? We have white ones, so ghostly at night.

    • Chloris says:

      This tree is Morus nigra, I think your American ones are Morus rubra. Silkworms grow on Morus alba. I have been reading about silkworm care in the Middle Ages. Apparently women would keep the silkworm eggs warm by keeping them between their breasts. But this is for my next post. Not strictly relevant for my black mulberry but fascinating nevertheless.
      Yes the lovely barn owl is white. It is getting quite rare here because of the destruction of old barns and the use of rat poison. They eat poisoned rats and mice and die themselves.

  24. 500 years old–wow! We have a Mulberry tree here, too, and one up at our cottage–but probably a different cultivar than yours. I love the taste of the fruits, and they’re great for baking. Our berries are mostly all ripe now (and many have been consumed by birds, deer, and humans alike). Great tree to follow!

    • Chloris says:

      Thanks Beth, I think the American mulberry is Morus rubra whereas this one is Morus nigra. It fruits late in the summer and doesn’ t seed around like yours does.

  25. AnnetteM says:

    Really interesting post – amazing how much you are managing to find out about the mulberry tree. All I knew before was the old children’s nursery rhyme “Here we go round the Mulberry Bush” – I used to sing it to my children. Poor things as I am tone deaf!

    • Chloris says:

      Thanks Annette, the nursery rhyme comes from Wakefield prison where prisoners exercised by walking round and round the Mulberry tree in the prison yard.

      • AnnetteM says:

        Really – that is so interesting. I’m glad I didn’t know the meaning or origin of many or the nursery rhymes when I was singing them. The worst one is Ring a ring a roses of course and the children just loved it!

  26. You really have uncovered some fascinating history about mulberry trees, it makes for good reading, and I agree, at 500 anyone would be wanting to lie down and take a break.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you I have found it fascinating finding all about the Mulberry tree. That is exactly what these very old mulberries do- they lie down and grow new limbs. A handy trick really.

  27. Lucy Corrander says:

    Sometimes moving house might be the best idea. It’s exciting to see the little mulberries beginning to grow, even to colour a little. The hole – I’m uncertain of scale. Could it be a badger there?

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