A towering, living Tree Of Trees sculpture in front of Buckingham Palace acts like a beacon sending an “eternal message” that trees are the “superheroes” of our towns and cities, the designer has said.
The last branches of the 69ft (21m) tall Platinum Jubilee centrepiece, featuring 350 British-grown trees, were filled on Tuesday morning, with the final piece of trunk being lifted into position on top in the afternoon.
Junior foresters visited the Queen’s London home to help complete the creation by planting a batch of 6ft (1.8m) saplings in aluminium pots embossed with the monarch’s cypher.
The pots were added to the repurposed steel branches and the youngsters also helped weave LED lights through the young trees, with the structure serving as the principal beacon during the Jubilee commemorations.
Created by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, it reflects the planting of more than a million Jubilee trees as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC) initiative to mark 70 years of the monarch’s reign.
Heatherwick revealed that the Queen is a fan of the giant creation, which rises above her official residence, to the left front side, outside the Palace railings.
“The Queen approved the plans. She gave a big thumbs-up,” he said.
Heatherwick added: “This sculpture acts like a beacon sending one simple, eternal message that trees are the superheroes of our towns and cities and matter much more to our lives than we realise.”
A team of hundreds of welders, arborists, engineers and fabricators worked on the project, which Heatherwick revealed he designed in just a week.
He added: “We need re-reminding how much trees humanise the world around us and they can’t be taken for granted.
“The tree twists and spirals symbolically spraying an array of 350 baby trees towards their final homes across the country – a symbol of the much bigger initiative of planting.”
After the Jubilee weekend, the trees in their pots will be donated to selected community groups and individuals to celebrate their work and inspire the next generation of tree planters.
The Tree Of Trees will be illuminated by a senior royal using the 3,500 lights in a night-time ceremony at the Palace on the first evening of the bank holiday weekend as the focal point of a chain of 2,800 beacons being lit across the world in tribute to the Queen.
Saplings used in the display include alders, field maples, hazels, hornbeams, larches, rowans, silver birches, small leaved limes and whitebeams.
Riggers moved up and down the tree on safety ropes feeding cables through the metal pipes.
The last of the seven sections, which features 56 pots, was lowered into place on the top of the tree by a crane later on Tuesday.
The completion had been delayed for around half an hour owing to a thunderstorm as construction workers waited for a break in the deluge of rain and hail.
Sir Nicholas Bacon, chairman of the Queen’s Green Canopy, said: “The Tree Of Trees offers a message of hope, regeneration and celebration to people and communities around the world.
“I am delighted in the way that everyone has come together across our nation to ‘Plant a tree for the Jubilee’.”
The sculpture is the height of three giraffes, and children from Coppice Primary School in Chigwell and William Torbitt Primary School in Ilford, Essex, were told about the tree’s bespoke watering system which operates through pipes going directly into each pot.
The youngsters tipped compost into a pot and removed the excess with their hands before placing a sapling inside.
David Solomon, 10, from Coppice Primary, who helped with the planting said of the sculpture: “I didn’t expect it to be that high. It’s unique.
“I’m excited to be here right in front of Buckingham Palace planting trees for the Queen.”
The reused steel for the structure’s metal tubes came from Cleveland Steel in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, with a large proportion from an oil rig and some from spare material at industrial facilities.
The trees were grown from seed by Barcham’s Nursery in Ely, Cambridgeshire, the sculpture was fabricated and installed in Hove, and the pots were spun and made in Halifax.
Heatherwick said of the hundreds of saplings grown from seed: “We had to have spares because there were deer nibbling away at various different ones – funny British problems.
“There was a wastage of about 10% thanks to the deer.”
The trees will be distributed evenly across the UK after being carefully stored during the summer ahead of the start of the planting season in October.