Gardens of Eden: I have a tendency to grow small projects into quite massive ones. Thus it has been over February, with the simple thought of buying one new apple tree. The 10-tree-orchard my father planted several decades ago is struggling after so many years of neglect. I have pruned hard back for a few years now, but the trees need serious nutrients, consistent organic pest control, culling the beginning fruits at every June drop time, and more time to get well. The one quince produced fruit once, in all it’s snowy cold long life. I wanted to do something this year, and that something has grown.
Purple Passion – Apple
Prior to the Guelph Organic Conference, I’d discovered hardyfruittrees.ca, out of Quebec. They have marvelous things, but they won’t do semi-dwarfs or dwarfs, and if I live long enough to see ripe fruit on new trees, I have no intention of climbing 20 feet up a ladder to acquire juicy edibles. Alexander the Great is credited with finding dwarfed apples in Kazakhstan in 328 BCE. In any case, I also have dreams of diminutive step-over apples, fruit arbours and fan shapes, elaborate yard art created with hard producing fruit trees. Like the really old days. I want a challenge.
I found Silver Creek Nurseries, again, just “up” road, in Wellesley, Ontario (NW of Kitchener). And GreenBarnNursery.ca in Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile-Perrot, QC (west of Montreal). Both organic. Between them, I am spoiled for choice.
I can’t refrain from intellectualizing about most things in life, and trees are no exception. The origins of many apples we can grow today, “stem” from centuries ago. Cap of Liberty cider apples date from the 13th century: you bet I am going to grow one, no matter how bitter the fruit or brew, but apparently it produces heavenly sweetness.
More recent types began in Russia, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Brittany, Normandy, Sussex, Japan, or New Zealand. I can grow the favourite apple of Henry the VIII. Or quinces originating from Portugal, Croatia, figs from Turkey, plums from Germany. I can grow cultivars developed and tested for disease resistance for the last forty years by pioneering organic growers and breeders. I can grow persimmons and kiwi.
This requires more than one planting hole. They will all be littered with boulders. Thus, a plan is vaguely hatched, and a place to inch forward while I am also tackling 20 other priorities. I will dream of four or more little Edens, each containing fruit trees reflecting the sensibilities each garden evokes. This year, I will make a stab at a loosely defined old European style cloister, with a monastic or contemplative feel to it. It will lead off the orchard/kitchen garden that’s there now, past a newly made compost production area, hidden from view.
I have yet to come to terms with the fact that groundhogs (whistle pigs, Marmota monax, woodchucks, as derived from the Algonquian wuchak) eat apples. They also eat crabgrass, but I can live with crabgrass. Perhaps I’ll need to build a low solid barrier.
I’d like lots of sharp hedges, espaliered and cordoned fruit shapes, some rigid sparse topiary, strong lines of sight, some stone and much green. If I’m lucky, it will feel French. But it likely won’t look like much for years. Quince, plum, pears, some early Russians and French cider apples, if I can thwart the groundhogs. When finished, at another phase of my gardening life, that should lead into another garden as if by surprise. Perhaps that will be Asian, English, Canadian or American. If this very long journey is of some interest, stay tuned.