Cedars of Lebanon
The remaining Cedar of Lebanon in the Spinney at North Cray in 2022. Image credit: Willie Robertson
Three of at least five huge and impressive Cedars of Lebanon trees remain standing today to the east of Foots Cray Meadows, by The Spinney and The Grove, some 250 years after they were planted.
They would have been saplings around the time in the late 18th century when renowned English landscape garden Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was redesigning the gardens surrounding North Cray Place.
Today, one is in The Spinney while the others are behind houses in The Grove.
Not to be outdone, there is also such a cedar close to the site of the former Foots Cray Place.
These evergreen conifers, cedrus libani, are part of the pine family, native to the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean basin. They became popular in the 18th century around country houses and sprawling manors in England. What makes this genus of cedar so special is its longevity and resistance to decay.
They can reach some 130 feet in height with a trunk at the base measuring more than eight feet in diameter. They produce cones at the age of about 40. The male cones appear in early September and the female ones in late September. Both occur at the ends of the short shoots and mature from a pale green to a pale brown colour, reaching up to five inches in length.
Gardener and broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh MBE has told how his big regret relates to the cedars, one of his favourite trees. He revealed to Country Life magazine in April 2017:
“It’s hugely satisfying to plant other trees that will not come to full maturity until long after we are gone. I can’t help but feel a rising sense of pride in the three Cedar of Lebanon trees that I planted in the meadow behind our house some 15 years ago.
"They were just six feet tall when I dug the holes and tucked them into the well-drained but chalky earth. Now, they’re 30ft high, with fairly wide-spreading branches – a couple of centuries away from maturity but lusty enough to gladden my heart and provide shade from the sun.
“How I wish I’d been in a position to plant them in my twenties, rather than my fifties, as I could then have really seen them flexing their muscles. I see in my mind’s eye my great-grandchildren playing games in the shadow of the stately trees.
“If I’m allowed to choose only one tree on my desert island, it’ll be a tough decision between an English oak and the Cedar of Lebanon, for both have a grace and majesty that keeps a man in his place and reminds him of his responsibility to the Earth and the relative brevity of his time upon it."
This Cedar of Lebanon, at the corner of The Spinney and The Grove, was felled in the 2000s due to safety concerns. Image Credit: Willie Robertson
Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Wilson County, Tennessee, USA, is made up of 900 acres situated in a 9,420-acre forest. The local city of Lebanon was established in 1802 and so called because of the number of the trees growing there.
Cedars of Lebanon have strong religious and historical significance in various cultures – and the Middle East country Lebanon is so called after the conifers. They get at least three mentions in the Bible, such as:
“Behold, I will liken you to a Cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches and forest shade” (Ezekiel 31:3)
“I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars” (Amos 2:9)
“The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the Cedars of Lebanon that he planted.” (Psalm 104:16 NRSV)