A shrubby yew pine which in theory can withstand ice, drought and above all beetles has replaced the original George Harrison tree, which succumbed last year to a beetle infestation.
Relatives and admirers gathered in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, on Wednesday for a planting ceremony on what would have been the late Beatle’s 72nd birthday.
“We never expected to be doing this again,” said Paula Greenfield, who helped organize the original planting in 2002 and galvanised support for this one.
Several hundred people attended, including Harrison’s sister, Louise, sister-in-law, Linda Arias, and councilman Tom LaBonge. A local band played several of his songs, including Here Comes the Sun and Give Me Love, on what turned out to be a balmy, cloudless day.
The 10ft replacement is of a species that withstood the ice age and can better resist insect infestations. California’s drought is blamed for beetles devouring the original Canary Island pine.
“They hollowed it out,” said Greenfield. “When I saw the pictures I thought, ‘No, this has to be photoshopped.”
Park workers swiftly felled the pine to avoid others becoming contaminated, leaving the city to mourn what some called rock music’s most ironic dead tree.
The musician would probably have mourned the loss but appreciated the irony, said Greenfield. “George Harrison had a wonderful, wonderful and according to some people wicked sense of humour,” she said. “And he was a gardener. He would have understood.”
Harrison died from cancer in Los Angeles on 29 November 2001, aged 58. The pine was planted in his honour the following year in Griffith Park, which covers about 4,300 acres north of Hollywood.
In 2004 the city council proclaimed George Harrison Day in Los Angeles and embedded a bronze plaque in a granite slab beside the tree. It said: “In memory of a great humanitarian who touched the world as an artist, a musician and a gardener.” It also included a Harrison quote: “For the forest to be green, each tree must be green.”
Harrison was a keen gardener at Kinfauns, his home in Surrey in the 1960s, then at Friar Park, a dilapidated estate he bought in 1970s as the Beatles were breaking up. He worked with a team of gardeners to restore and landscape the grounds.
“In the garden you see all the seasons come and go,” he said in a 1981 Good Morning America interview. “Whatever you do can affect it all but at the same time the flowers don’t answer you back, don’t give you no trouble. It’s very nice.”