Every spring I am newly amazed at the wonder of the horse chestnut tree.
And not just the incredibly fresh green canopy of leaves, backlit by the sun.
Having inherited this tree in our garden, we are lucky enough to witness each spring how every individual fat brown sticky bud unravels to form not just one leaf, no, but a fan of palmate leaves and the most glorious candelabra of flowers.
All this from one modest bud. It amazes me every time.
As the bud unfurls, the knobbly pale green stalk of flowers pushes upwards while sets of the fresh green leaves begin to lower all around it, putting me in mind of a mechanical rocket launcher or some robotic device, unfolding its legs.
A little sadly, we will have to keep pruning ours to restrict its growth, so it will never reach its full potential in our modest garden. These majestic trees, with their slightly conical shape, are currently lighting up the countryside – and cities – at the moment, with their spires of creamy candelabra. On a recent visit to London we were taken aback by the spread of some of the specimens in the streets and parks as we walked.
And still, these ivory panicles hold one last surprise.
On closer inspection each individual flower is not the simple off-white that it would lead you to believe, but has a bright yellow centre, and is decorated with bright pink dots, which are so bright that they appear to fluoresce.
The horse chestnut is truly an amazing tree.