During 1607 and 1608, James I encouraged the planting of some ten thousand mulberry trees in the newly united kingdoms in a vain attempt to develop silk manufacturing on the sceptred isle.
Despite many Morus nigra (the black mulberry) being planted, the scheme failed. Silk worms feed only on Morus alba (the white mulberry).
The mulberry I see from my office window is, supposedly, one of the oldest trees in London, dating from that time. It’s a story I like to believe.
The tree’s limbs split in three, mulberries have a spreading disposition, liking to explore outwards, not just up to the light. Each branch is gnarled, bulbous and deformed, but every spring tiny shoots break through the bark — new life desperate to emerge from the ancient tree.
To preserve the boughs and to keep the shape of the tree, it has to be ruthlessly pruned, the green useless growth snapped off.
The berries are long, dark purple and juicy. It’s impossible to pick the ripe fruit without the juice bursting out and running down your outstretched hands. Mulberry pickers emerge stained, as if they have been in a war. The fruit is sweet and flavourful, but rots overnight. Trying to make mulberry jam is futile. The stench of alcoholic mulberries lying on the ground wafts in the air. Pigeons sit in the high canopy, gorging themselves for weeks on end.
For twenty years I have had a choice: to stare either at my screen as I write or at the mulberry tree framed in my window. From time to time, my writing group has sat under its warped and knotted boughs reading to each other. The tree has overshadowed my literary endeavours.
There could have been no other name for this publishing company.
Good stories need to be cultivated and pruned; the branches and twigs that threaten the whole need to be removed. The tree is full of character, history, and life.