Johnson’s Willow planting at the NMA

The tree planting ceremony
Four young trees being planted and the plaques unveiled.

A tree planting ceremony took place at the National Memorial Arboretum on Monday 16 March 2020. Lichfield District Council donated four trees, that were grown from cuttings of ‘Johnson’s Willow’ that stood next to Stowe Pool in Lichfield.

A tree planting ceremony took place at the National Memorial Arboretum on Monday 16 March 2020.

Lichfield District Council has donated four important trees, which were grown from cuttings of ‘Johnson’s Willow’ that stands next to Stowe Pool in Lichfield, to the National Memorial Arboretum.

On Monday 16 March, the Chairman of Lichfield District Council joined members of the Johnson Society and the National Memorial Arboretum team to see the four young trees being planted and the plaques unveiled. 

The event followed a request by the Johnson Society for the special trees to be planted at the 150-acre site, which is the nation’s year-round centre for remembrance, and the National Memorial Arboretum kindly agreed to care for the trees.

Johnson’s Willow became famous in the 18th century for its great size and because of the interest Dr Johnson showed in it.

Samuel Johnson, who was born in Lichfield, is today remembered as the creator of the first authoritative dictionary of the English language and many other literary achievements. When he was young, Johnson often passed the willow and whenever he came back to Lichfield in later life he always made a point of visiting it.

After his death, many people came to see the tree because of its connection with Johnson. The original blew down in 1829, but cuttings were taken from it, and a second willow was planted. Ever since then, this process of renewal has been repeated when necessary, and the current tree is the fourth incarnation of Johnson’s Willow.

Following concerns that the current Johnson’s Willow was nearing the end of its life, Lichfield District Council took a number of cuttings from it two and a half years ago, and has since been nurturing the trees, which now stand at around six foot.

John Winterton, from the Johnson Society, said:

“We are all delighted to see the trees planted at the National Memorial Arboretum. Johnson’s Willow is a unique, living link with Samuel Johnson and his age. It keeps alive the memory of the people of the past and their achievements, so that we can honour and learn from them both now and in the future. Since this is very much in line with the principles on which the National Memorial Arboretum was founded, it is highly appropriate that cuttings from Johnson’s Willow should join the collection here.”

Councillor Joe Powell, Chairman of Lichfield District Council, commented:

“It’s wonderful to see these four important trees being planted in the beautiful surroundings of the National Memorial Arboretum. It allows us to share a piece of Lichfield’s history with the many people that will visit over the years, who will enjoy the trees and their heritage. I would like to thank the Johnson Society for organising this and for the National Memorial Arboretum for welcoming the trees.”

Andy Ansell, Head of Estates at the National Memorial Arboretum, added:

“Johnson’s Willow is a fantastic addition to the arboretum’s collection, which already includes a wide array of British native specimens. Every day our memorials pass on the baton of remembrance to younger generations through stories of incredible courage and service, in much the same way that Johnson’s Willow has been preserved through the planting of cuttings.”

The four trees can now be found at two locations at Water’s Meet at the National Memorial Arboretum. To find out more about visiting, go to www.thenma.org.uk.

Published: 18 March 2020