Published on April 4th, 2014 | by Doug
Within the ‘pleasure grounds’ of the Global Retreat Centre (Nuneham House) there are, astonishingly, almost one hundred different species of trees. Mighty oaks and towering London planes are perhaps the most obvious of these. At the right time, you can appreciate the smaller trees as well: the golden rain of the Laburnums, the pink or white candelabras of the Magnolias or the remarkable icing-clad layering of the Wedding Cake Tree. However, if you visit in late April or early May, (mid to late May, this year) one of the most stunning small trees in the garden is Cercis siliquastrum or Judas tree. Like some of the Magnolias nearby, the Judas tree flowers before its leaves tentatively emerge from their winter slumbers, so enhancing the beauty of the bright pink, almost purple clusters of flowers. These are curious in that they burst from the joints of the, as yet, leafless branches and occasionally stems. Seen up close, the blooms identify this as leguminous; that is related to peas and beans.
While of eastern Mediterranean origin, it has been cultivated in the UK for about 400 years. It is, however, not a common sight. This may have something to do with its biblical associations for legend tells us that this was the tree from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself following the betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemanay. Wherever there is sorrow there has to be a balancing experience of happiness. I wonder if this accounts for the distinctive shape of the leaves: a perfect heart!