Are fruit trees dedicated to late people in public spaces a good idea and who can pick and eat the fruit?
Two weeks ago, a visit to a public garden in Lewes, a county town of 16,000 inhabitants in the South East of Great Britain, led me to a wall of carefully trained fruit trees. These trees had a particularity: they have been planted in memory of someone, whose name was mentioned on a small plaque nailed to the wall in the middle of each tree’s branches.
Those plaques made me wonder whether this loving memory idea really works with fruit trees and if it could be an incentive to plant more of them.
At first, I was slightly disturbed that these fruit trees had been named after late people. My references are more about trees planted for children who grow up alongside them.
Indeed, my parents planted a cherry tree for my sister and a plum tree for me when we were three and six years old. We still have pictures of us in the family album, holding the less-than-one-inch thick and twice-our-size high vertical trunk with our little hands. The camera caught us standing under the trees’ small leafless branches in our warm winter clothes, home-made woolly scarves, hats and comfy wellies.
We have fantastic memories of picking and eating the fruit on the spot, during the twenty years that followed, in particular the big crunchy, juicy and tasty sweet dark red cherries warmed all day by a late June sunshine.
Unfortunately, the people of Lewes whose names appear on the plaques won’t have the chance to live such a thing anymore. We can only hope that they did experience such pleasure during their lives.
I wonder what we would feel when picking a fruit from such a tree. Would we even notice the plaque, captivated by the sun-ripened pear in front of us and the bite-into-life moment to come?
Anyway, who is allowed to pick this fruit? Is a tree bearing fruit an invitation to pick, as a public bench with the same sort of plaque is one to sit?
The size of the flower bed in front of the trees suggests that the fruit is not for the public to pick. What would the people named on the plaques think of it?
The more I thought about it, the more I felt that such trees are witnesses and partners of our lives and that we should have more of them in our public spaces.
As for access to the fruit, well, the more the community can enjoy it, the better?