A cherry tree on Clarence Street in James Bay is decorated with tea cups in memory of Eleanor Palmer. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

PHOTOS: The story behind Victoria’s teacup tree

A cherry blossom tree in James Bay holds a special story behind its unique ornaments

The cherry blossoms are finally in bloom as spring takes over the city, but one tree in James Bay is sprouting – or rather, spouting – something else altogether.

A public tree on Clarence Street has dozens of teacups fastened to its branches, as well as the odd teapot or two.

They vary from fine porcelain cups painted with dainty floral decoratives, down to an owl mug that seems especially suited to being in a tree.

ALSO READ: ‘We are not cutting down cherry trees,’ Victoria city councillor says

While the cups might be mistaken for a quirky anomaly, their origin is something much more meaningful.

In 2009, Rory Palmer strung up a teacup as a tribute to his late grandmother, Eleanor Palmer.

“She was a feisty young women when she moved to Victoria from New Denver in about 1920. She was a well-loved teacher at Central School,” said Nairn Wilson, Rory Palmer’s wife. “She taught boys who weren’t [a] success in the ‘regular’ class room. She worked well past her retirement.”

Eleanor Palmer’s other passion was travel, and in the 1930s she started a tour company that she ran on her summer breaks.

(Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

The tours travelled throughout Asia, including Japan, China and the Philippines, where Palmer found an emboldened passion for tea. Her tours were wildly popular, with celebrities joining her in the summer.

A pamphlet produced for Eleanor Palmer’s upcoming 1933 tour in Asia. (File submitted/ Nairn Wilson)

“Her most famous guest was Orson Welles,” Wilson said.

Since 2009, neighbours and passersby caught on to the trend, and now many dozens of cups are all duly fastened with white zap-straps to the branches.

The tree stands right outside Wilson and Palmer’s front door, so that every day they can see a reminder as special as the woman it represents.

“When my husband thinks [of] his granny, it is having a cup of tea, her other passion,” Wilson said.

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