The Dalston Mulberry
Here we go round the Mulberry bushes! After I featured the Bethnal Green Mulberry last week which – at five hundred years old – lays claim to be the oldest tree in the East End, I was contacted by a reader who introduced me to the ancient Haggerston Mulberry and then, over the weekend, I was invited up to Hackney to meet the Dalston Mulberry.
Secluded in gardens behind a nineteenth century terrace near London Fields, the Dalston Mulberry grows upon the boundary of two properties and consequently has two custodians, neighbours Molly and Megan. When the fence was replaced in recent years, it was painstakingly constructed around the cherished Mulberry so that residents upon either side might enjoy its fruit and benign influence equally. In the same street, there are several early-eighteenth century cottages and it seems likely that Dalston Mulberry is their contemporary, planted three centuries ago.
For years, I wondered what happened to all the Mulberry trees. Since the East End was home to a thriving silk industry for generations, they must have been ubiquitous once and I could not believe they had all gone. In each case, the Mulberries I have met predate everything that surrounds them and it fills me with humility to encounter these gracious specimens, which have mastered the art of longevity – by producing a generous crop of fruit each year, they ensure their survival and earn their right to exist in spite of all the changes.
Now the venerable Mulberries of the East End are emerging from the shady groves where they have been sequestered for centuries and declaring themselves, who knows what horticultural discoveries may lie ahead?
The other side of the fence