Tree of the week: 'This poplar is like a chameleon. If it's cut down it will be a big loss'

Ann Lee
·2-min read

Brenda Baxter has found a muse in the solitary white poplar that stands opposite her home in Lady Bay, just outside Nottingham on the River Trent. For the past two years, ever since the trees surrounding it were cut down to make way for riverside housing, the artist has been taking photographs of it from her attic window. “As the seasons changed, it stood out against this huge development that was going on behind it,” she says. “This is quite a remarkable tree.”

The 65-year-old has been charting the changes in her photo series Attic Views. “I was so concerned,” she says. “It’s quite close to the river and they were putting building materials around it. There was huge machinery going up and down next to it.”

Baxter loves its “wholesome” shape, as well as the vivid colours that transform it during the year. “In the spring, as the leaves are coming out, they are intense green. In the summer, because the backs of the leaves are silver, you see green shimmering. In the autumn, they almost go red. Then, because it’s got this beautiful branch system, they’re silver in the winter. Sort of like spindles.”

She photographs the tree several times a week and enjoys seeing how the light catches on its leaves and branches during the day. “It’s like a chameleon, changing all the time,” she says.

The tree was damaged during Storm Ellen in August; a huge branch fell into the river. Baxter is worried that there may be plans to fell the tree. “With the amount of damage, I’m not sure it’s particularly safe any more,” she says. “It’s leaning to one side. It’s just immensely sad, because so many trees have been lost along that stretch. It’s going to be a big loss.”

The white poplar represents “the significance that trees and nature have in people’s lives, the need to protect our environment and to have fewer carbon emissions,” she says. But most crucial of all is how it continues to inspire her. “Trees are so important in keeping us healthy psychologically. They really help people through things.”