June 22 2020
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the song without the words
And never stops-at all.
So wrote Emily Dickinson and hope is alive and well in my garden. Well, maybe every garden. To plant a garden is to accept nature’s rhythms, time and things come and go, there will be successes and failures, but there is always next year. There is always hope, for that is what we are planting. Every seed we stick in the soil, every rose or tree we plant is an act of hope. Or faith if you like, but we believe.
Planting an orchard in Montana (especially east of the divide) takes hope. I once asked the owner of a small apple orchard not far from me how well it produced-his comment was “feast or famine”. In other words, if late frosts killed the blossoms he got nothing that year, but the next year he might get bushels of apples. But still, he lovingly tended his orchard and hoped for the best.
There are other fruits that I have found dependable in our harsh climate, particularly ‘Evan’s Bali’ cherry. This cherry was re-discovered 65 years ago in an old orchard near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada by Ieuan Evans, a horticulturist for Alberta Agriculture. The tree he found was 50 years old and Dr. Evans traced it back to Siberia. Evidently some of these trees are now grafted onto other rootstock, though originally they were not. I am told the grafted ones are just as hardy, but of course, the suckers coming below the graft are of the rootstock, not an Evan’s Bali.
The only problem I can see with the Evan’s Bali is how to keep the birds from eating my cherries. I tried a reflective tape tied in streamers all over the tree (mine just three years old and not too large yet) and the birds scoffed. I had to put bird netting around the entire tree to keep them out. Be sure to bring the netting in to the trunk under the bottom branches or birds will fly in the bottom and get trapped-and eat your cherries before you get them out!
I picked over a gallon of somewhat tart cherries from my young tree and I’m sure I can count on production going up every year. Also, they are self-pollinating so you only need one. A bonus is the dark red, smooth bark, it’s a win/win tree.
Every spring I watch the trees bloom and hope a late frost won’t get the blossoms. I dream of crispy apples, summer cherries and juicy pears. Sometimes I’ll get them and that will be a gift, and sometimes I won’t and the sky won’t come tumbling down. Because there’s always next year.
There’s an old Spanish proverb that says “more grows in the garden than what the gardener sows”. Amen to that.
Prunus cerasus ‘Bali’, zone 3, 10-15 ‘ tall and wide