But as time goes on, we not only remember specific things in relation to the people we have loved; their lives get built into our lives and finally the transference is complete. We are what we are because of them. ~ May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep
If you’ve strolled the grounds of 577 and come around the corner of the Log House recently, you probably caught a glimpse of what we lovingly call our one-of-a-kind, extremely extraordinary applebash tree.
In years past, you may have only seen the apples that this tree fruited. But this year, it has something new to offer: bottlenecked gourds called calabashes. Although it might appear to be some exotic hybrid Frankenplant, it is nothing more than a happy serendipity.
When 577’s Organic Garden Horticulturist Samantha Day arrived at 577 about a year ago, we challenged her to envision something new for the garden beds surrounding the Log House. Rather than daylilies, what could we grow there that could have other uses? What types of things might have been planted in 1803 when the Log House was first in use?
Samantha and her horticulture colleague, Bennett Dowling, rose to the challenge. With the help of several dedicated volunteers, they cleared out the daylilies from the bed. Then Samantha utilized leftover Ohio sandstone to build a new, larger raised garden bed around the Log House. After researching indigenous techniques like intercropping and polyculture for biodiversity, the team settled on planting quinoa, amaranth, bird chilis, sunflowers, flax, Hopi and Potawatomi beans, ground cherries, and red millet.
In no time, two tiny calabash seeds made their mark. They couldn’t wait to thrive in this new spot, sheltered by the Log House, soaking up all the summer sun from the south. They found the apple tree and became fast friends. With this strong scaffold, the gourd took off; there are now over 50 healthy green gourds growing among the green apples. The “applebash tree” collaboration was a surprising success!
Through a poetic lens, the applebash tree is a powerful metaphor. Can you think of a time when you were the apple tree, providing the backbone or center for someone else without doing harm to yourself in the process? How about the gourd plant, flourishing because the conditions were just right for you, producing fruit together, with just the right someone to lean on? Reflecting on the words of May Sarton from above ~ who was someone who made you who you are because of them? How might we all do more of this with others right now, right where we are?
As for the horticulture staff and volunteers, they haven’t had to weed that bed even once since the gourd proliferated. They are starting to dream about what the gourds could be used for at harvest time. The best idea so far is that calabashes are a preferred type of birdhouse for wrens, chickadees, swallows, bluebirds, titmice, and nuthatches. Watch for some new tenants moving into their calabash homes in 2024: another loving collaboration thanks to the applebash tree.
Everything is interconnected. We need each other to grow. At 577, we’ll keep looking for ways to experiment with time-tested wisdom to bring folks – and plants – together.
Come see our applebash tree. And, for more ideas on intercropping and companion planting, visit:
Heather Gallant, 577 Executive Director