Trouble in the Orchard

Two years ago last November, I made an unsupervised visit to Moffet Nursery in Saint Joseph. Unfortunately, I had a trailer as well as my little Ford Ranger. I came home with both of them fully loaded! Two red oaks (7 feet tall), two dwarf peach trees, two dwarf apple trees, two Crimson King maples (12 feet tall) and my real coup de gras, a Norway maple (18 feet tall). The owner had been so impressed with my enthusiasm and keen eye that he rewarded me with a free wisteria plant.

I finished planting all of the trees in early December. Knowing a bit about wisteria, I haven’t let that little monster loose even yet; it stays in a tub so I can keep it from grabbing hold of the house and pulling it off the foundation.

Thanks to a late onset that year, all of the plants made it fine through the winter. All of them put out buds in early spring and leaves a bit later. The two little peach trees flowered in late spring and bowed themselves over with branches loaded with large fruit in the summer. Nothing from the apples, not even a single bloom. One of the oaks withered in August, ostensibly due to a lack of consistent watering. At least that’s one theory. The Crimson King maples grew a couple of feet taller and the Norway maple gained about four feet.

The following spring, the peaches bloomed again while the apples did not. A late freeze killed the upper third of the Norway maple but left no visible damage on any of the other trees. I proceeded to kill the second little oak tree with a similar pattern of inconsistent watering. Maybe there’s some Freudian issue here from all those early winters of splitting oak for firewood back in western Kentucky; I don’t know.

What I do know is that for the third straight year now, the apple trees have failed to produce a single bloom. While I am unfamiliar with the onset of adolescence in dwarf apple trees, I am getting a bit suspicious and frankly a little impatient. They have grown quite well, having nearly doubled in overall spread since I set them. I did not intend to purchase non-flowering ornamentals and I see very limited potential for a shade tree that never gets over fifteen feet tall.

I do, however, see a potential parallel for those of us planted in a better vineyard. I think it’s mighty easy for us to be satisfied with the illusion of growth and blossom and forget that our actual purpose is to bear fruit.

H. Arnett
5/8/14

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About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Blair, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-five years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-one grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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