One of the joys of running a bed and breakfast is meeting so many interesting people from around the world. A surprising number of writers pass through our doors and last week, we hosted William Bryant Logan, who has just published his new book Sprout Lands.
Sprout Lands (subtitled Tending the Endless Gift of Trees) explores the relationship between people and trees, which is something particularly relevant to the Orkney landscape.
Logan’s books are receiving considerable attention and the review below is taken from none other than the New York Times.
We wish William Logan all the best with his work and we are proud to add a signed copy to our collection of author autographed books at Highland Park House.
The book is available in the UK and the author was signing copies at The Orcadian bookshop in Kirkwall.
I would never have guessed that someone could write an entire book about the coppicing of trees, much less that I’d find myself pleasurably immersed in what I (wrongly) thought was arcana, but, then again, any subject the poetical William Bryant Logan tackles is guaranteed to be rich and surprising. All serious gardeners should own my personal favorite (until now), “Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth.” SPROUT LANDS: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees (Norton, $27.95) is a memoir of Logan’s rediscovery of an ancient way of pruning trees — long out of favor, though in the rarefied circles of landscape designers, that is thankfully changing.
It all started with a job. Logan is an arborist, and his firm was hired to pollard new trees in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He wasn’t really sure how to proceed with this highly visible task; both pollarding and coppicing involve heavy but selective regular cutting of major branches so they sprout thick new growth the next spring. May is “the time when the coppice springs,” hence our term “springtime.”
People once lived with nature in “creative engagement,” Logan writes, and this method preserved trees while giving people all they needed to make kindling, baskets, fences and other important tools. “In coppice and pollard, both people and trees were reciprocally active.” Entire forests were once coppiced, and coppicing was practiced around the globe. Logan sought out experts to learn these pruning techniques in Spain, Japan and California.
In Japan, he visits a small factory where every year four square kilometers of woodland are cut to make about 20,000 tons of charcoal. The University of California, Berkeley, is, he reports, “awash in pollarded London planes.” Archaeologists have studied Neolithic settlements in what are now France, Switzerland and Germany and have deduced that coppicing led to the invention of streets. Because it’s a way of harvesting that leaves root in the ground, coppicing protects wildlife and prevents soil erosion. In ancient days, Logan notes with characteristically wry profundity, people “knew what was good for them better than we do.”