21 years ago, when I was ten years old, I planted a pip from an Cox apple bought from Safeway supermarket. My father, who has planted over 5000 trees in his life, prophesied doom - these apples, he said, are designed for eating, not growing and have been altered by scientists. They will not amount to much. Ever deaf to hyperbolic warning, I persisted, germinating the seed and leaving it with my dad to reluctantly nurture.
I visit the tree, labelled with a shiny black plaque “Malus - Joshua’s apple” and planted amongst twenty or so apple, pear and hawthorn trees, a few times a year. For seventeen years, the tree grew bolshily up inside the protective tube, never causing the tube the slightest bit of strain and producing but a handful of sickly, wrinkled leaves. Then, in it’s eighteenth year, long after it’s fate had been accepted and we had moved on, it crept over the edge of the tube, with a pathetic sort of flourish, blinking in the light that would eventually accelerate it’s growth.
After this minor, if long-awaited triumph, the tree blossomed, at least in the context of it’s stunted existence, and has been producing healthier looking leaves, spreading it’s canopy to escape the competition from the ‘normal’ trees around it and in year nineteen produced a crabapple, no bigger than a fifty pence piece. I hadn’t the heart to eat it - it had been nineteen years in the making and would have probably been unpalatably sour and astringent.
This year, there are two apples, slightly bigger than before, and the top of the tree stands at nearly 5’6”, still 7 inches shorter than me, standing as proud testament to the perseverance of a tiny seed from an apple produced intensively to supply a huge supermarket chain with high-yield, fast grown and gas-ripened fruit