apple picking

While researching my previous novel, The Last Runaway, I read a section in The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan about apples in 19th-century Ohio. It made me picture a scene of a husband and wife locked in a battle over apple trees. He wants to grow sweet apples for eating; she, sour apples for making cider and applejack to blunt the pain of pioneer life. Once I had that idea, I tried to imagine how this battle would affect the children of the family, and how that would be reflected in their relationship to the trees around them.

Not only that: trees move around just as people do. Apple trees in the US came from elsewhere; for instance, British immigrants brought over branches of their favorite apple trees to graft and make new trees where they settled. And British apple trees came from Khazakstan centuries ago. Then I discovered that loads of trees from California were planted in the 19th century in Britain, particularly redwoods and giant sequoias. So I had one of the Goodenough children cross America and see these trees that are being sent across the ocean to where his ancestors and their apple trees came from. At the Edge of the Orchard is about migration, of people and trees mirroring the other’s movements.