Anyone who’s been to my parents’ house in Irvine knows about my mom’s fruit garden. Over the course of the 34 years she lived in that house, she slowly transformed a tiny stamped concrete-laden OC tract home back yard into a trove of exotic fruit trees — everything from apples and oranges to starfruit, guava, persimmon, pomegranate, kumquat, wax fruit, and even bitter melon.
I got my first glimpse of her skills almost 20 years ago. When we first bought the house, it came with a Granny Smith apple tree in the corner of the back yard. I was the only one who liked those Granny Smiths, so after I moved away for college, my mom decided to “convert” the apple tree into an orange tree. She sawed off all the fruit-bearing branches of the apple tree, snagged a bunch of fruit-bearing branches of an orange she enjoyed, and literally grafted the orange branches onto the stumps of the apple tree. And this hybrid fruit monster actually grew.
After my dad suffered an aneurysm in Taiwan in 2014, my mom started spending less time in the US, so I started driving up to Irvine regularly to tend to her garden. And after she herself went into a coma in late-2018, it fell onto me exclusively (well … with some help from my mom’s friends up there) to keep up with those trees. And by “keep up,” I mean to make sure 1) the automated sprinklers are working, and 2) to pick their fruits when they’re ripe.
For over four years, I did this on a regular basis. Yet, it was only last month that I realized the full extent of my mom’s skills. Check out this one tree here:
Now, take a closer look and notice how many different fruits are growing off this tree:
Yep, there are three different fruits — a navel orange, what looks to be a bumpy-skinned lime, and a small-ish white-ish (and unripe) grapefruit.
And check out the splicing work my mom pulled off:
You can see where she cobbled together the branches from different species of citrus and attached them all to a single trunk.
I mean … what kind of mad fruit sorcery is this? And it’s been sitting in my parents’ back yard for years now.
And that is why my mom truly was the Dr. Frankenstein of fruit trees. She would have turned 72 today. Happy birthday, mom. Even today, I’m still amazed at the amazing things you were so quietly capable of.