Introduction | Exhibit Homepage | Credits

Ernest E. T. Seton [Ernest Thompson Seton], “A Model Apple Tree,” in L. H. Bailey, Jr., Field-Notes on Apple Culture (1886), frontispiece, and here.

“The winter apple-tree in the free is a reassuring object. It has none of the sleekness of many horticultural forms, nor the fragility of peaches, sour cherries and plums. It stands boldly against the sky, with its elbows at all angles and its scaly bark holding the snow. Against evergreens it shows its ruggedness especially well. It presents forms to attract the artist. Even when gnarly and broken, it does not convey an impression of decrepitude and decay but rather of a hardy old character bearing his burdens. In every winter landscape I look instinctively for the apple-tree.” –LHBGC, p. 178

From his childhood experiences grafting apple trees on his father’s farm to his adult experiments at Bailiwick, Bailey maintained a lifelong affection for apple trees and orchards. In the essay quoted above, he describes the apple as “characteristically a home-tree,” a plant requiring the intimate personal contact associated with climbing, grafting, and pruning, and one that, “even when full grown,” is still “within the reach of children” (LHBGC 176). He advocated for the lone apple tree by the house as a source not only of food, but also of shade, comfort, and beauty. But he also admired the work of the expert orchardist. He grew up at the height of experimentation in pomology (fruit culture), when markets were more local, produce didn’t have to last as long after harvest, and towns took pride in the products of their regional farmers. He remembered the great Pomological Hall of his childhood—the largest structure in the village of South Haven at the time—and the fruit shows that took place there, where apples and other fruits were judged on both taste and appearance and were admired by both farmers and local townsfolk, young and old.

Liberty Hyde Bailey, Apple-Jonathan, ca. 1901, cyanotype photograph. Liberty Hyde Bailey Papers, #21-2-3342. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. Also available online here. Below: W. S. Holdsworth, “An Apple Twig” and “Same Twig before Leaves Fell,” from L. H. Bailey, Lessons with Plants (1898), figs 1-2, and here.

“In physical perfectness of form and texture, there is nothing in all the world that exceeds a well-grown fruit. Lit it lie in the palm of your hand. Close your fingers slowly about it. Feel its firm or soft and modelled surface. Put it against your cheek, and inhale its fragrance. Trace its neutral under-colors, and follow its stripes and mark its dots. If an apple, trace the eye that lies in a moulded basin. Note its stem, how it stands firmly in its cavity, and let your imagination run back to the tree from which, when finally mature, it parted freely. This apple is not only the product of your labor, but it holds the essence of the year and it is in itself a thing of exquisite beauty. There is no other rondure and no other fragrance like this.” –LHBGC, p. 126

See Bailey’s horticultural entries on apples in:

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