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Poet Laureate tells story of renewal and hope for World Poetry Day to help launch the National Trust’s annual ‘hanami’-inspired blossom campaign

Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate, standing in some early blooming blossom trees
Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Today, for World Poetry Day, the National Trust has unveiled the first in a series of blossom inspired works penned by Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate, to help launch its annual campaign celebrating blossom, telling a story of perseverance, renewal, and hope.

Now in its fourth year, the conservation charity’s blossom campaign aims to connect more people with the fleeting beauty of blossom and to celebrate the start of spring.

Titled ‘Plum Tree Among The Skyscrapers’, it is the first in a collection of blossom-inspired poems commissioned by the conservation charity to be written over the next two years, touching on themes including folklore, seasonal rhythms, nature’s beauty, and the loss and restoration of blossom.

Through this collaboration, Simon will aim to express the beauty and wonder of nature, helping people to connect with blossom, while also addressing the ever-growing challenges nature is facing. Simon Armitage said:

"The National Trust is one of the great British institutions, a guardian of our past, present and future. When I became Poet Laureate in 2019, I made the environment a cornerstone of my work and my activities, so to be working with the National Trust on a project that celebrates the annual renewal of the natural world was a perfect fit.”

His poem, ‘Plum Tree Among The Skyscrapers’, takes readers on a journey of struggle, but also of survival as a plum seed eventually finds a space to grow.

“For this first poem, I was particularly keen to examine how nature might flourish in our urban landscapes, and about the tenacity of trees to be able to adapt to the most unlikely places,” explains Simon.

“There is both ecstasy and melancholy associated with blossom, in its coming and its going; blossom trees are powerful metaphors for our own existence, as well as important indicators of the health of the planet.”

Andy Jasper, Head of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust said: “Simon’s poem is a wonderful reminder of the need to cherish the powerful connections we all have with the natural world. Whilst these rhythms of life appear to last for millennia, we know they are vulnerable, particularly in a changing climate.

“The National Trust’s blossom campaign is a celebration of the fleeting beauty of blossom and a celebration of spring not just in our wonderful gardens and parklands, but also throughout urban areas in every region and country of the UK. It is the investment in, and belief of, a future that will be there – for everyone, for ever, as we say – that makes this campaign and Simon's poem so relevant and wonderful.”

The collection, which will consist of poems and other creative works including music, will be brought together by Simon Armitage and his band LYR in collaboration with communities and creatives across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It aims to help bring the National Trust’s blossom campaign to more people with the aim of helping everyone connect with blossom wherever they are and offer ways for people to celebrate blossom in ways that is meaningful to them.

Simon continues: “During the collaboration I'm hoping to create a series of poems and work with LYR on a suite of music that matches the astonishing, mesmerising beauty of blossom, but also reminds us of the poignant, ephemeral aspects of life.

“We’re looking forward to delving deeper into the subject and the science of blossom, while also discovering deeper impressionistic meanings within the subject, and trying to represent them as language, as poems, and as lyrics.”

Annie Reilly, leader of the National Trust’s Blossom Programme added: “Our blossom programme has always been about connecting people with the beauty of the season and its rich and varied meanings. We encourage people to take part in the simple pleasure of noticing the arrival and ongoing display of spring blossom as it sweeps up our islands, bringing hope and a sense of renewal.

“Simon’s poetry celebrates the intrinsic connection between culture, nature and people. We hope everyone will be inspired to celebrate spring’s greatest show and we look forward to seeing Simon’s work blossom over the next year.”

This spring, Simon and his band will be visiting blossom sites across the UK to be inspired by nature's show and meet community groups and partners to understand what blossom means to people, as well as see some of the tree planting that is taking place.

The release of the poem kickstarts the National Trust’s annual blossom campaign which will see the charity continue its work to bring blossom back to landscapes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, by planting four million blossoming trees as part of its commitment to plant and establish 20 million trees by 2030 to help tackle both the climate and nature crises.

The Trust is also planting several new traditional orchards at sites to include Brockhampton in Herefordshire, Bateman’s in Surrey, Arlington Court in Devon, Carrick-a-Rede in County Antrim, and more, as well as new urban blossom gardens in Birmingham, Swindon, Manchester and Leeds.

As in previous years, the charity is further encouraging the public to share their own images of blossom on social media, using the campaign hashtag #BlossomWatch. #BlossomWatch is part of a long-term campaign to return blossoming trees to our landscapes and create a UK equivalent of Japan’s ‘hanami’, the popular traditional custom where people of all generations get involved in enjoying the transient beauty of cherry blossom from March until May.

Throughout spring, the Trust’s Festival of Blossom will additionally take place at over 100 locations across England, Wales and Northern Ireland with unique blossom-themed events and activities, including sessions with artists, picnics, games and special blossom walks to encourage visitors to explore and enjoy blossom.

Read the poem in full or hear a rendition by Simon Armitage himself

Simon Armitage, Poet Laureate, standing in some early blooming blossom trees. Picture has been framed with some pink flower graphics

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage creates blossom-inspired poem 

We’re working with Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and his band LYR to celebrate blossom and tell a story of perseverance, renewal and hope. Learn more about the collaboration and read or listen to Simon's first poem.