In praise of trees

apple tree_optI don’t know whether everyone has a favourite plant, but mine I have decided are trees. I like almost any trees, but my favourite ones are fruit trees.  The other week when we were doing some voluntary I was talking with some of our homegroup about my having a go at tree grafting.  At least one member had never heard of this.  So I thought I would blog on trees!

 

It doesn’t take long for the bible to mention trees.  Genesis 1v11 says;

 

“And God said,“Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so”

 

Whether you take Genesis literally or metaphorically, humankind was in Genesis 2 commanded to look after the garden which included trees and the bible moves forward from there mentioning trees too many times for this blog to list. Often trees are used as a metaphor as in Proverbs 11v30.

 

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.”

 

Or Psalm 1

 

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.”

 

All this leads me to think that GOD loves trees and so should we and they can also be used by God to teach us about him.

One of the slight environmental success stories of recent years is a slow down in deforestation, although there is no room for complacency.  I live in one the countries with the lowest tree cover in the whole of Europe.  Trees were chopped down to build ships, smelt iron and in the enclosures and clearances put sheep on the land.   There are national forest planting schemes in Scotland and England but progress is slow.  I would like to tell readers to support tree planting charities, but I’m slightly cynical.  Last year I went walking on the Isle of Skye with friends.  We walked through an area where rock stars had planted trees partly as a carbon offset (a scheme so famous I had heard of it).  At least that’s what a sign said but there were precious few trees to see.  They had been damaged and destroyed.

However, if you have sufficient land I would urge you to plant a tree or trees and given the remit of the blog, a fruit tree.  Peak oil being a real food challenge we will need to grow as much as we can ourselves.  There is no doubt that most fruit trees are highly space efficient.  2013 was a great year for my fruit trees, we had vast numbers of plums and apples.  We gave the fruit away, ate vast amounts of stewed and fresh fruit everyday for months, but also made large amounts of jam and cider.  To preserve my liver I also had a go at bottling apple juice, which has been extremely successful.  This year and last year I have planted three new apple trees and a Damson, all on small rootstocks.

This brings me neatly to the original reason for this blog -grafting, an ancient idea described by Pliny in his “Natural History“.  Almost fruit trees you would buy are made up of two components the rootstock and the scion.  The rootstock gives the tree its size characteristics.  The scion determines which variety of fruit a tree will bear i.e. a cox.  These two are brought together by grafting, using the natural healing properties of the tree to join two slightly wounded trees together.  When you buy a tree you will usually see a sign of this by a bulge low down the trunk of the tree.  This should be planted above the level of the soil otherwise the tree will from a sprout from the rootstock and put its energies into producing what will likely be useless fruit. Trees come on different rootstocks most developed by the East Malling research station in Kent.  The nomenclature is a bit confusing but you should buy one appropriate to your size needs.  There are lots of different ways of grafting trees.  I had a go at whip grafting at the garden project I do some volunteering for.  This is the time of year to carry it out.  How successful it will be only time will tell.  Anyway why not plant a tree!

Neil

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