You’ve got to hand it to the almond tree. We have three up here at Dubbo’s Elizabeth Park, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. They are on the hill of the Sensory Gardens confronting Coronation Drive. These trees live up to their reputation for early flowering. The budding-up from winter rest beats all the other deciduous trees hands down.
Called Prunus amygdalus (Syn. Amygdalus communis), the Almond comes from Palestine, Lebanon, and some areas of Mesopotamia. In moments of sentimental gratitude I am inclined to call them the ‘Amy’ tree, in duel acknowledgement of both their botanical name and as a reference to Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Little Dorrit.’
You see Amy was the young lady’s name and she was the singular character of Mr. Dickens’ creation to embody all the qualities of kindness, loyalty, empathy, and love, despite a harsh and unforgiving environment. I like to think our almond trees are a symbol of making it work out.
Of course the almond goes right back in history. The bible mentions it most favourably on a few occasions. In Hebrew it is called Sha-qedh which means ‘awakening one’ referring to it being the earliest tree to bloom following winter.
The white flowers (with crimson centres) are biblically used to describe old age with white-headedness. It was also regarded as among the finest products of the land along with honey and pistachio nuts.
At one point Moses’ brother Aaron had a branch which miraculously budded overnight, producing ripe almonds as well, being proof he had divine approval as anointed High Priest.
The Greeks and Romans grew it also and today it is said by health officials to be a possible preventative to stop cancer cells getting out of control. At least that is what some say.
Our three are a dwarf variety growing one and a half to two metres high. They are self-pollinating, self-fruiting with large, broad, oval, paper shelled kernels to ripen mid-season. It is said ours have a sweet flavour and I’m looking forward to a test taste. Promoted as ‘Small tree, big fruit.’
Almonds are happy with a wide climate range but the tropics are pushing your chances. Soils can be average with good drainage a must. Enrich them with organic material mixed with existing to improve.
If I develop a dementia condition I might start whispering sweet nothings to our ‘Amy’ trees as I walk past. For the time being, if Aaron’s rod signified approval from a higher authority, maybe our gardens get the thumbs up also.
Well, our almonds flowered seemingly out-of-the blue, after very cold winter nights - yes, overnight.