The Story of the Museum’s Apricot Tree

By May 13, 2020Blog

In January, the Los Altos History Museum’s Executive Director, Dr. Elisabeth Ward, envisioned a real live apricot tree growing next to the newly installed sign in the Museum’s agricultural exhibit area. The sign tells the story of the Blenheim apricots in the nearby Los Altos Community Orchard, originally planted around 1905 by our Los Altos orchardist, J. Gilbert Smith.

Fortunately for the Museum, the Garden Club of Los Altos chose to celebrate their 90th anniversary by making a generous gift towards our new windmill and the planting of our apricot tree.

In February, we called Blenheim growers and distributors. To our delight, the Palo Alto SummerWinds Nursery offered us a big, beautiful, well-rooted, two-year-old Blenheim apricot tree. This tree has a myrobalan rootstock that makes it drought resistant and well anchored. We immediately called ever-willing Erik Rauch to deliver it in his pickup truck to its future spot in the Museum garden.

When the tree arrived, we thought it would grow better in the circular bed in front of the water tower not too far from the sign. The Museums gardener, Faustino Carrillo, needed to remove all of the existing vegetation, rocks, roots and old irrigation pipes before he could even dig the hole.

By mid-March, members of the Museum’s garden committee, (Susan Moss, Daphne Smith, Grace Tsang, Don Durr, Nancy Kosinski, Jake Iantosca, Dena Madsen and Caroline Landsbergen), all helped plant the tree. Funny and fun! Attending this scaled-down unofficial planting ceremony, were Jean Gillette and Ellen Chu of the garden club, Elisabeth Ward, staff members and our volunteer photographer, Gary Hedden.

With the tree on its side, we sliced the can open and pulled off the rootball, then gently slid the tree into its hole.

By April, our tree had produced large green leaves and three pieces of fruit. When the moisture meter approaches DRY,” we will begin watering the tree. Once established in about two years, the tree will require water only 3-4 times each year!

Before the rainy season starts, the tree will be pruned to determine its future size and shape and to keep it to a manageable size so fruit can be harvested from ground level. In the summers, it will receive a thinning and pruning to maintain its shape.

Around the tree we planted non-thirsty native and low-growing summer bloomers. We chose California native hummingbird sage, blue-eyed grass and pink yarrow, plus low-water penstemons and salvias.

And that is the story of how a Blenheim apricot tree became part of the agricultural exhibit in the Museum’s garden.

Thanks to all who helped!

Contributed by Caroline Landsbergen, Chair of the Garden Committee