Geeveston Fanny apple. My favourite variety & planted in our garden after Danny had talked so much about its popularity for export back in the day.

You see some days are just down right memorable aren’t they?!

Two of those days spaced a year apart were when our neighbour Danny generously helped me prune our fruit trees. He had quietly watched us plant our little Back Orchard with heritage peach, apple, cherry, pear, crab apple, apricot & nectarine trees and watched on as we marked out our Quince Orchard and told him of our plans.

Born with an apple in his hand (his words) there is nothing Danny doesn’t know about growing fruit in the  Huon Valley.  Known for his strong work ethic this man who was about to help me prune our  fruit trees has marked out and helped plant some of the oldest orchards in the valley, worked in many and also watched as some of them were bulldozed. One of the saddest things in the Huon Valley landscape is seeing beautiful established fruit tree orchards bulldozed into bonfire piles to make way for short term crops that just don’t seem as viable and have such a huge environmental impact. But I digress.

To say I was one part nervous and one part excited that Danny was helping me was an understatement.  The pupil never wants to be seen as incompetent in the teachers eyes.

The Cherry tree just inside the Back Orchard gate that passed my 1st pruning test.

The first year as Danny walked up the drive way holding his trusty secateurs that he was sharpening on his sharpening stone I was wondering how many branches would be on the ground after we had finished. It didn’t matter that the secateurs were worn from years of pruning, they were looking sharper by the second. How steep a learning curve was I about to embark on?

Straight next to the Back Orchard gate I had already pruned the cherry tree  and as Danny looked it over he turned to me with a gentle smile (and maybe a little surprised?) it needed no further pruning. but as we went to the Ranelagh, White Pearmain & Cranberry Pippin apple trees my lessons began and it was marvellous.

The correct way to stake a fruit tree.

How apple trees throw their own fruit, diy thinning their own branches so to speak.

A  thought provoking account about the local weather patterns, knowledge that can only be accumulated by someone who truly knows the lay of the land, who has watched over these hills and mountains all his life.

Pruning fruit trees mindfully to plan for the following years fruit and growth and the year after that.

The Fullers Quince in full blossom.

So much knowledge shared that just cannot be found in a book. In those quiet moments  between explanation and  demonstration, as the secateurs sliced through the  branches  I realised that I was learning what had been taught to Danny in his early days by his elders and in turn I will pass that knowledge on, just as he has.

Now fast forward a handful of years since our last pruning lesson where Danny felt I had the knowledge and skill needed to manage our fruit trees. I have passed on Danny’s knowledge to Michael and to our Liliana. One day in the years to come, standing under a fruit tree with secateurs in hand our Lil will pass on Danny’s knowledge to the next generation. Just as it should be.

As I write this it dawns on me that our garden is grown from the knowledge of generations of gardeners, knowledge past down through the seasons…

Jude x

A letter to a Gardening Mentor.

April 20, 2019

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