Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Giant sequoia

Perhaps it’s just the time of year, or a widespread planetary urge expressing itself through the collective consciousness, or both, but for the last several weeks I’ve been feeling this deep imperative to plant trees. Not just in waking moments either, but night after night the same has been going on in dreams. Plant trees … plant trees … plant trees …

In response I’ve been planting fruit and nut trees around the quinta, beginning the transition of much of the land to forest garden, but there was always room for serendipity.

Sapling of Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

The synchronicity of the tree’s relocation here was consequently no surprise, even if it was unplanned and unexpected. I was initially dubious about the wisdom of planting a tree which will become every bit as thirsty as your average eucalypt once it gets to any size, but I trust the circumstances which brought it here more. It’s plain this is the place for it.

It arrived somewhat the worse for a week spent in a cardboard box being thrown about by the various European postal services between here and the Netherlands but recovered remarkably quickly. Ooni, while denying any interest in its welfare, promptly named it Frederick.

Frederick is a Giant Sequoia. The largest species of tree on the planet. In another couple of thousand years, he might reach the height of the village 100m above us. It seems fitting that the largest tree in the world should have a place here since I’m already anticipating a space for the oldest, the Wollemi pine which, as ‘coincidence’ would have it, someone has just brought to my attention again. The universe works in mysterious ways …

Sapling of Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Meanwhile, the sequoia has a bit of growing to do. It’s been planted with plenty of room for growth well away from the terrace edges in moist, deep rich soil as far as possible imitating the conditions of the groves of giant redwoods in California. It will eventually border a pond and wetland. This part of the quinta is already consistently damp and I want to slow down the passage of the water through it and create an even better habitat for amphibians as well as all the wetland medicinal and edible plants I’d like to grow.

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  1. Daughter March 26, 2011


  2. Charlie Anderson May 18, 2011

    To Frederick’s gardeners:

    I would like to plant a Giant Sequoia tree seedling on a farm outside Lisbon. From where were you able to order your Giant Sequoia seedling? I was walking around the Jardim da Estrela this morning looking for one such tree but found only the slender, taller California redwood, imagining I could salvage a cone to try and grow my own seedling. Do you know where there are any mature Giant Sequoia trees in Portugal? I hope “Fred” is finding his way up in the world, and when he does, it doesn’t go to his head.” Fun Fact:: “Sequoia” and my son’s middle names “Gouveia” are the only two names I know of with all 5 vowels in them. I tried to attach a picture of my sons, Martim and Tomas in front of Freddie’s granddaddy, General Sherman, the biggest one of them all, but was unable to do so.


    Cell phone: 91 896 9833

    Martim and Tomas Anderson standing in front of the Giant sequoia General Sherman

  3. Quinta do Vale May 18, 2011

    Hi Charlie. Frederick was grown from seed by a friend of mine in the Netherlands and sent as a gift, so I don’t know if it’s possible to source one in Portugal. Interesting that there is only the California Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, in the Jardim da Estrela. It’s the same at the Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra.

    But I may be able to help you get cones from Sequoiadendron giganteum. I’ll be going back to Scotland briefly later on this summer. There are some Sequoiadendron giganteum specimens in the woods close to my old house and if I get time, I’ll go and collect some.

    I’d love to see the photo of your sons in front of General Sherman! If you email me the image, I can post it at the end of your comment. (And can also email you back if I succeed in getting some cones.)

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