The word LARCH has more meanings than just the name of a tree. If you revert to the French word L’Arc, as it sounds, means “The Arch.” An arch can be small, as in arms of children extending over their mates on the playground, or it can be grand like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis or Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. One of the most famous arches is L’Arc de Triomphe.
Adding the extra “he” to the end of the word, L’Arche, is the name of an organization that is the legacy of Henri Nouwen, the noted philosopher and religious mystic. Nouwen started a home for handicapped friends and it grew into an international symbol of love, acceptance and kindness to our fellow man, no matter what they come to the Lord with physically.
Even though it is often fuzzy and in “rack focus” the majestic tree in the opening scene of the BBC series of Downton Abbey looks like a Larch. Upon further research it appears to be a Lebanon Cedar instead of a Larch, even though its needles seem similar. Apparently the fictitious home in Downton Abby is a real home called Highclere Castle. The famous 18th century seed collector, Bishop Stephen Pococke, was a friend of the family and he brought the seeds to England after a trip to Lebanon and they planted the germinated seeds on the property.
It is a remarkable tree is part evergreen and part deciduous, shedding its needles in winter and regrowing them as soft green shoots in the spring.
Larch is the tree that my grandfather picked to grow on the property that my wife and I bought when we returned to Baltimore after graduate school. It was a tree that was mostly stunted, because it had two lead branches.
Japanese Larch in backyard growing up was a beautiful blue tinted tree that looked like a blue spruce in color.
Cut to Grow
The moral of the story is that one friend of my brother, Ned’s, was looking at the tree and said that if we pruned one of the lead branches the tree, which had never grown above head height would thrive. He cut the tree in half, basically, saving the slightly larger of the two branches. Over the next twenty years the tree grew to many times its original size and thrived in that location. One of the metaphors for gardening truth and for life: you have to cut it back to bring it forth to its fullest potential.
Monty Python: Lesson No. 1
The other reference to Larch which people mention from time to time is the skit by Monty Python. John Cleese is the curious reporter seeking comments from some school boys as to whether they can identify different species of trees, having studied them in school. It is a skit that takes a large grain of British salt to like. See the YouTube video and judge for yourself: