Van Aken, an art professor from Syracuse University in the US, had grown up on a family farm before deciding to choose the career path as an artist. He then set forth, with the collaboration of knowledge from these two different fields of work and creates his amazing piece of work known as the Tree of 40 Fruit.
When Aken learned that there was an orchard in the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station was about to be canceled due to a lack in funds in 2008, he knew something must be done.
This isn’t just any ordinary orchard however, this orchard is capable of growing a menagerie of heirloom, native, and antique variations of stone fruit. Some of these fruit are dated 150 to 200 years old.
To see this kind of plant go extinct would be a tragedy and even that doesn’t begin to describe the sorrow all of us would feel to see it disappear.
Aken bought the tree to prevent it from dying off and then spent the remainder of his time trying to figure out how he can graft parts of the trees onto a single fruit tree. Aken was then working with 250 varieties of stone fruit, which he then crafted a timeline of when each of the branches would blossom in correlation to each other and started his process by grafting a few of them onto a working tree’s root structure.
About when the tree had become two years old, Aken had began a process called chip grafting which was him adding more varieties onto the tree as separate branches.
This involves taking a sliver off a fruit tree that still contains the bud, and then placing it into an incision that was made in the working tree, which is then taped into place.
When left to sit and heal over winter, if all turns out okay, then the branch will be pruned so to encourage it to keep growing as a normal working branch apart of the tree.
Within the span of 5 years and several grafted branches of fruit, Van Aken had created the worlds first Tree of 40 fruit.
The tree looks as if it is normal compared to others during most of the year, however, come spring the tree is a beautiful patchwork of art that shows a beautiful array of white, red, pink and purple blossoms that eve
ntually form into peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries, plums, and even almonds during the summer.
This tree alone helps to preserve the diversity of our world’s stone fruits.
Since his success, Van Aken has created more than 16 Trees of 40 Fruit. They have been planted in community centers, private art collections around the US, and even in museums.