Seeing this, who could blame Eve?
The idea of posting a tree picture every Tuesday was to share with you some of the great mature woodland which we enjoy here. Today’s post, therefore, is a bit of an aberration. It stars a small, young, garden specimen of that most myth-laden tree, the apple. I hope you will forgive me: I couldn’t resist. (This defense did not cut it for Eve, of course, but there is less at stake in the present case.) To continue the inescapable allusions to Genesis, if it’s not too wicked: walking in the garden in the cool of the day, yesterday evening, I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of this little crab apple tree with its perfect pink-and-white blossoms. It is a young tree, only a few years old, underplanted with a type of double narcissus. The combination of pink blossoms, white narcissus, bright green grass and a blue sky above sent me into raptures, and I’m afraid that I am concentrating today on showing you pretty flowers rather than mature timber.
The Crab apple (Malus sylvestris) is supposed to be the wild ancestor of all cultivated apple trees, so holds a venerable place in human history even without the added burden of being the original forbidden fruit. (There is another argument, of course, that the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate; but the claim of the apple looks to remain pretty unshakeable in the West.) The briefest research into apple trees unearths reams of poetry and mythology: this post could turn into an essay and still have barely begun. However, beguiling though apples are (and passionately though I feel about the gender politics in the story of Eve), I am feeling too tired and too frivolous to write anything serious. Others have done it before, and better. Shall we just look at the pretty pictures?
Growing along the west-facing wall of the walled garden are several espaliered fruit trees. These, obviously, are older than the little free-standing crab-apple. They pre-date my arrival here by a generation or two and I am afraid that I don’t know what variety they are. There are two pears and a couple of delicious apple varieties. The pear is blossoming as well at the moment but its flowers, though pretty, are rather more plain than the bridal apple, lacking both the pink buds and that heavenly sweet, crisp smell of the apple blossom.
Last autumn, the pears mostly fell victim either to squirrels or to scab. The apples had a bumper harvest though, as did my favourite plum, the greengage, which is another of the old espaliered fruit trees against the wall. These green plums, which look so sour and taste so honey-sweet, are hard to find in the shops and so we were lucky to have a big enough yield from the garden to have plenty to enjoy fresh, with enough left over for me to make several pots of jam, which have seen us through the winter.
Returning to the apples, I notice how thickly they are covered with blossoms compared to the pear:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, however: there is no guarantee that this abundance of spring beauty will lead to another bumper crop in the autumn. We just enjoy it as a blessing in itself, and perhaps keep our fingers crossed for a good year. And say a little prayer for the honey bee, without whom there would be no more apples. Even poor maligned Eve, I imagine, would not have wanted that.