We are on a high from some fantastic October Apple Days, harvest events and juicing/cider making. And yet time has other plans; winter is well on its way. The last leaves are jumping off their branches, leaving the fruit trees in our orchards bare.
In the warmer months, trees make food using sunlight, water and air. During autumn, our deciduous fruit trees shed their leaves as they don’t have enough energy to support them. This is the first step the trees take to prepare for the winter. Just as we sleep every night and wake for the day; trees sleep in late autumn and wake for the spring. The metabolism and growth of the tree slows, in a process called dormancy. This is similar to animal hibernation. A period of prolonged cold temperature is needed before growth resumes in early spring.
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
William Carlos Williams
The wise trees standing asleep in the cold are the trees we care for when we prune. They are in their true dormancy period in mid-winter, and a well-informed cut (for apples, quinces, medlars and pears) will not damage them but will encourage growth the following year.
December for us can be a time for some kind of hibernation. A time for stillness, for taking stock of the abundance of autumn and for dreaming and planning into the new year of the orchard. A time for rest before the bustle of deep winter tree care begins. So batten down the hatches and see you at a planting or pruning workshop in the new year!