Maybe six or seven years ago, we really got into eating plums. There was a wide variety of them available that year in farmer’s markets and at our local Whole Foods. We bought many kinds (all organic) and enjoyed comparing their flavors and textures and levels of sweetness. (I do appreciate the plums with the tart skin that so contrasts with the juicy and sweet fruit itself.) Often we would sit on the front porch during these plum taste tests and then toss the seeds into the garden.
But we have always enjoyed plums. One summer, we became aware that the neighbor’s four year old son had never eaten a plum before. He was curious about them and of course we shared. It was like he had discovered a kind of ambrosia and returned each day for more. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone eat anything with so much focus and pleasure. He also tossed his well-cleaned plum seeds into the garden.
And then, a small volunteer tree appeared. At first we weren’t quite sure what it was. The second year it came back we brought a small piece of its branch to our botanical garden and it was identified as a plum. Now some five or six years since we first noticed it, it has flowered! (Note the honey bee hard at work tucked in the top flower pictured above.)
In Japan we were impressed with sakura — cherry blossoms, but were equally awed by the blossoms of ume — the plum. The Japanese exalt them both and have spring festivals in their honor. And now we have our own ume in our own front yard as well. Our garden is definitely not a Japanese one with its carefully executed aesthetic including raked stones, specifically placed rocks, and the deliberate manipulations of branches of trees. No, our garden has an edge of wild and unplanned about it. In fact, this plum tree came to us uninvited, quietly, and without fanfare. It emerged as a surprise and we gave it the space to define itself without threat of being yanked as a weed.
And now, because of our patience and respect, we have its mysterious and abundant beauty (including the dark rose pink buds which open into white flowers) and, if we’re lucky, we might even get a few pieces of fruit.
Photo by JB