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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #246

For the love of trees : an arboreal odyssey by Roy Forster, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2014-10-01

For the Love of Trees cover

Roy Forster was the first curator and director of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia, designing much of the plantings that help make this one of the outstanding botanical gardens in our region. “For the Love of Trees” is in some ways his autobiography, but in a most unusual format, as he uses his own paintings to tell most of that story.

His life has taken him to many locations, providing a wide range of subjects for the “Arboreal Odyssey” of his sub-title. After making comparisons to Homer, he clarifies that “the giants of my story are not fearsome cyclopean monsters but giant redwood trees, ancient venerable pines, and cedars that ascend to the sky.”

Many of his subjects are found in another gem of the Vancouver landscape, Stanley Park. While the large conifers are well-represented, my favorite piece is of a particularly large red alder (Alnus rubra), shown in winter time “when the red dormant buds, twigs and catkins show on the naked branches, contrasting with the somber green of the coniferous forest.”

Travels have given him many more stories, and the human elements that surround his trees are significant. A hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is seen in front of the Glastonbury Tor, the legendary burial place for the Holy Grail. A venerable olive tree (Olea europaea) dwarfs the gates of Les Collettes, the garden of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir in southern France.

Throughout, Forster shares his philosophy on trees, which is also his philosophy on life. He describes the profits of his life as a tree planter in public landscapes: “The rewards are of a different kind, consisting mainly in the joy of observing the vigorous growth of the trees over the decades of life, knowing they will be there long after the planter is gone. There is a kind of love in that.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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