Sam Van Aken is a contemporary artist who grew up on a farm. So it shouldn’t be surprising that nature inspires some of his work. But one of his projects pushes the boundaries of both art and agriculture. Van Aken has created a Tree of 40 fruit – literally a tree that can grow 40 kinds of stone fruits like peaches, apritcots, nectarines, plums and cherries.
Van Aken, who considers his work part art, part research and part conservation, created the tree by a chip grafting method. He cuts buds of a fruits tree, attaches them to budstock on the lateral branches of a host tree where there heal and begin to grow as part of the latter. Aken has grown 16 such trees across seven states in the US.
Van Aken has used 250 types of stone fruits – fruits with pits – in the project, and some of them are heirloom varieties that have almost disappeared from commercial markets. Each tree starts off a young, bandaged up plant that grows into a tree that looks quite normal for most off the year. But when spring arrives the tree takes on the whites, pinks, crimsons and all other hues of the different flowers from various grafts to spectacular effect.
Van Aken’s goal is to have people stumble upon these extraordinary plants and ask why they have so many colours, and bloom in so many different ways and to find the different fruit. He calls his work “sculpting through grafting”.