Photography & Words: © Anna Rubingh
In the old village of Jelsum in the far north of the Netherlands, in de province Friesland, you find Dekema State, an estate with roots going back as far as the 14th century, making it one of the oldest estates in Friesland.
In the old village of Jelsum in the far north of the Netherlands, in de province Friesland, stands Dekema State, a stately old Frisian state whose orchard with old varieties of fruit trees has been replanted in all its glory. Artfully trained espaliers stand against the old garden walls, the pride of Wim Hoogendam, gardener of the beautiful gardens around Dekema State. "It takes years to prune and trim the espaliers," Wim says. "It's a job that requires a lot of patience, but in the end you create a shape that you can be really proud of.
I visited Dekema State’s orchard in spring and now I’m back to take a look at the trees filled abundantly with fruit. (Dekema State Orchard & Veg Garden)
It is late summer and the branches of the fruit trees in the orchard are heavily laden with fruit. Some are so heavy that they are supported by sticks. Gardener Wim and some of Dekema’s volunteers are picking pears. Wim climbs up a wooden ladder to be able to pick the pears that are higher up in the trees. "All fruit trees are old varieties that we have selected carefully, and all carry a bit of fruit history.” Wim places the freshly picked pears in a wooden crate in an orderly fashion. "Aren’t they beautiful, those pears?" he asks.
The espaliers against the old garden wall surrounding the State’s garden are full of pears too. "The art of guiding espaliers is that you do it in such a way that green leaves cover the wall as much as possible, you have to prune and guide the branches in such a way that as little wall as possible is visible in summer" Wim explains. We walk to the entrance gate in the wall. "Look how beautifully those little pears hang around the edges of the gate." He is clearly proud of his work.
When I visit again a month later, the berseau, bathing in the late summer morning sun, is full of blue grapes. Chickens run under the berseau looking for insects and fallen grapes while volunteers are busy harvesting the grapes. "All the fruit will be processed into jams and juices that we sell in our small shop,” says one of the volunteers.