Top Secret Fruit
It’s not just Apple’s engineering projects that are kept under strict wraps inside its new circular “spaceship” headquarters in Cupertino. There’s also a little-known project that landed on the 175-acre property upon which the campus sits: a working fruit orchard with a rich historical legacy.
Hidden from public view within Apple’s interior courtyard are over 800 fruit trees, visible in neat rows that can only be seen on satellite photos through a Maps app. Selected to produce magnificent blooms at different times over the year, there are 37 varieties of apricots, persimmons and French plums (prunes) and 17 varieties of apples and cherries including Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein and Pink Lady—but no McIntosh. They apparently don’t grow that well here.
The new Apple campus was originally part of a farm built by Scottish immigrants Robert and Margaret Glendenning in 1851. By 1921, their descendants turned the farm into an orchard. Later, it was paved over for offices for Varian and Hewlett-Packard, and then Apple acquired the property.
Even though you can’t see the Apple orchard, you can peer through the fence at the 1916-vintage Glendenning Barn, which was used to dehydrate and pack prunes for worldwide shipment. Apple painstakingly renovated and relocated the barn just outside the spaceship along the street that still bears the name Pruneridge Avenue.
When the late Steve Jobs was envisioning his architectural legacy in 2011, he was adamant the landscape honor the agricultural heritage of the 175-acre campus. According to Wired magazine, Jobs wanted to “create a microcosm of old Silicon Valley, a landscape reenactment of the days when the cradle of digital disruption had more fruit trees than engineers.”
That vision–and Jobs’ insistence that the new Apple campus be 80% landscape and only 20% buildings–resulted in one of the nation’s most ambitious construction and landscaping projects. Apple’s senior arborist David Muffly and his team selected existing trees to keep, and then crated and removed them for later planting. They scoured the West Coast for mature trees and contracted with nurseries to grow others. The company even purchased a Christmas tree farm in the Mojave Desert. Along with the plowed, fruitproducing and managed orchard, the campus is covered with over 9,000 indigenous and drought-tolerant varieties of trees and 15 acres of native California grasses.
Like the generations of Glendennings who came before, we can imagine Apple employees munching on a ripe apricot or apple as they walk across the land—and maybe tossing an apple core or two to enrich the fertile soil below.