224 pages, colour photos
Thomas Pakenham, indefatigable champion of trees, narrates a story of exploration and discovery, and of life-cycles that are longer than our own. Lavishly illustrated, The Company of Trees recounts his personal quest to establish a large arboretum at Tullynally, his forays to other tree-filled parks and plantations, his often hazardous seed-hunting expeditions, and his efforts to preserve magnificent old trees and historic woodlands. The Company of Trees is structured in the form of a travel diary. Almost every chapter shelters stories about the life of his large trees. He takes us on a tour of Tullynally's demesne and its trees, evaluating the condition of the oaks, alders, ash and limes that were among the first plantings.
He travels to the Tibetan border in search of a magnolia (magnolias are Pakenham's particular passion), to Eastern Patagonia to see the last remaining giants of the Monkey Puzzle tree, while the first of the Chinese-inspired gardens at Tullynally was planted entirely with seeds from south-west China. An expedition to Tibet's Tsangpo Gorge goes awry only to lead to a fruitful exploration of the Rongchu Valley, which yields more than 100 bags of seeds, including the Tibetan golden oak, the Tsangpo cypress and blue-stemmed maples. All of the collected trees and plants are thriving at Tullynally.
Whether writing about the terrible storms breaking the backs of majestic trees which have stood sentinel for hundreds of years, or a fire in the 50-acre peat bog on Tullynally which threatens to spread to 'the main commercial spruce-woods to the west of the peat bog'; his fear of climate change and disease, or the sturdy young sapling giving him hope for the future, The Company of Trees is never less than enthralling. Pakenham is a passionate writer, educator and entertainer, and brings both wit and wisdom to a subject of universal appeal.
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Thomas Pakenham is the author of the critically acclaimed books The Year of Liberty, The Boer War and The Scramble for Africa. He is also the author and photographer of the bestselling Meetings with Remarkable Trees, Remarkable Trees of the World and In Search of Remarkable Trees: On Safari in Southern Africa. He lives in Ireland and is chairman of the Irish Tree Society.