If there is an edible gardening art more arcane or mysterious than successfully growing fruit trees, I don’t want to know what it is. The landscaping consultant whose professional advice I regularly seek is the representative of Friends of the Urban Forest in Bernal Heights and maintains an “experimental garden” where he coaxes fruit trees of all descriptions to flourish in our odd local microclimate. But even he is often reduced to a shrug. Who knows if they’ll even survive, let alone bear fruit? They’re living things, and they don’t read rulebooks — they just grow. Or not.
So I feel incredibly blessed that the trees we’ve planted in our backyard all appear to be thriving. Our Meyer lemon is loaded with eight or nine fruits, our bergamot has two or three orbs of its own and has absolutely exploded with fresh growth, and if our itty bitty Makrut lime tree keeps growing the way that it has, I’m going to be able to build a house in it.
Right now, I’m the most excited about the Santa Rosa plum tree that last week sprouted what seems like hundreds of little green/white buds. A thin, whippy thing when we planted it a year ago, it seemed to limp through the year, leaves shotgunned by some unnamed brown fungus. But it kept growing all the while and now, after some judicious pruning, it looks strong and beautiful.
The conventional wisdom is that flowers fortell fruit. Maybe. There are so many things that can happen or not happen between now and a midsummer harvest. Not enough water, too much water, pollination failure, heat, cosmic rays, or even an injudicious application of soft jazz at the wrong moment could send things horribly astray. I hope that this summer we’ll be soaking plums in brandy, but for now it’s enough to live in the moment and love the beautiful buds and flowers as a harbinger of spring.