Each of the 16 trees planted around the United States grows peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds.
Van Aken, who is an art professor at Syracuse University, describes his work as “sculpture through grafting.” He told Epicurious that each tree takes about five years to develop, and he visits them twice each year until they are established.
He said he has worked with more than 250 varieties of stone fruit to figure out when each would blossom so that the pink, crimson and white blossoms are coordinated.
“By grafting these different varieties onto the tree in a certain order I can essentially sculpt how the tree is to blossom.”
The varieties are mostly native and heirloom varieties which are not commercially produced. Van Aken told Epicurious that he was concerned about the loss of diversity through industrialisation and monocultural planting.
“When I place a Tree of 40 Fruit, I go to local farmers and growers to collect stone fruit varieties and graft them to the trees. In this way they become an archive of the agricultural history of where they are located as well as a means to preserve antique and native varieties.”