The Fall of Man, Hugo Van Der Goes, 1470
After looking at my Prunus (plum) trees last week and wondering about their relative worth as cultivars, I got to thinking about another member of the Rosaceae family--the ubiquitous and oft-maligned apple. Marnie of Lilacs and Roses fame gave me the idea for this post with her funny comment in my last post. She asked "Don't we all have yards full of the 'recommended' disappointments?" I, for one, am guilty as charged with that crime. You know, the one that involves listening to bad advice because I see something pretty or maybe familiar from another garden in another place and time and just have to have it, no matter the consequence. Okay, I confess: I sin regularly; I'm an impulsive gardener. SAM caught me in the act, and my lusty passion was exposed--this notion came from a recent post by the Idiot Gardener; you will get a kick out of his humor--at one of the big box stores on Saturday. I had a good excuse, really! We had to get the house and the yard--especially the yard, in my opinion--ready for a real estate open house yesterday. After we had plopped several bags of mulch on the large, flat cart, SAM went off in search of something in the hardware section of the store and left me to my own devices in the garden section. He should know better by now than to do something like that. I wasn't too indulgent this time, though, just adding a few six-packs of annuals--not beer!--to the cart so I could freshen up the herb/flowering bulb pots near the front porch. First impressions are important in the real estate market, especially these days. With all of the foreclosures and short-sale deals on the market, every little bit of home-selling trickery will be attempted--nothing unethical, mind you. No back-of-the-limo, down-to-the-wire, last-minute appeals here to sway any undecided, onlooking fence-sitters. I was out front and center in the yard, adding my mulch and flowers, and on Sunday we had several visitors to the open house. Okay, so three of them were neighbors, one just curious, but two of them, an older couple down the street have a daughter, you see, with husband and kids, who wants a bigger house and, of course, a pool! Does she like gardening? If her parents are any indication, she must. Okay, she will probably pass muster, but that first couple who arrived won't. I couldn't gauge much about her honest opinion, other than the fact that her nose kept getting higher by the minute. My mom refers to this type of person as a (with an umlaut on the "a") hoch-nase. His smirking response to SAM's question about gardening was: "Well, our dogs do, and our kids have four-wheelers!" Nope, sorry. It's not your kind of house or yard or neighborhood. There are no covenants here, but some things have to at least pass Walk2Write's litmus test. Lord knows, I've probably just squeaked by in the neighbors' opinion. I hope they all realize that my intention has always been good.
(Church, downtown Tallahassee, March 2010)
So, what about Malus and its bad reputation? According to some apple growers who are serious about informing people and keeping the ball of public opinion in their court, that painting by Hugo Van Der Goes sparked a forest fire of discontent among apple lovers, beginning in the fifteenth century. Most of the malcontents were apparently illiterates, believing that the apple was the fruit Eve had craved in the Garden of Eden and that it equates with temptation, lust, debauchery, you-name-it, just as the Church had hammered home to them. They couldn't read (or maybe didn't care to check) that the apple is never mentioned in the book of Genesis. As you can imagine, the apple growing market must have suffered tremendously as a result of manipulating public opinion. Interestingly, the same thing happened during the late 1980s and early 90s with the Alar scare, only this time the Church--as we know it, anyway--had no hand in the problem. Sensationalism, somehow, got out of hand once more to sway public opinion. It kind of makes you wonder about intention and its consequences. William Blake probably didn't help the apple's case with his verse about venomous spite. He may have been riding the long-running wave of public opinion to make his point, whatever it was.
A Poison Tree
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
(a poem by Wiliam Blake from Songs of Experience, 1794)