Friday, August 22, 2014

Apple trees

Being retrospective;  The other day I bought some conference pears from Asda, they were Belgium and completely unlike the ones I love, hard and slightly sweet, the ones of my childhood.  So it left me reminiscing about the fruit trees that I planted out in the old garden.  The truth of the matter is that I fell in love with names, same with the old fashioned roses.
Pulling out my old green book, now housing 'passwords' by the dozen and before the real onset of the computer. At the beginning from 1999 I have listed the seeds I planted and also written about the emergence of the apple blossom, which I looked forward to each year.  I see reading my untidy writing that  the Blue Pearmain was rife with the scab disease but on the whole the apple trees produced fine beautiful apples, there was also plum and pear trees, not forgetting nut trees, which the squirrels robbed each year (unripe) and planted round various places in the garden, for me to find and get cross about.
So here are the old trees, the first is White Transparent, a Russian, very early cooking apple, it was prolific, turning golden and soft fairly quickly, July picking.  The Blue Pearmain, was a beautiful red and green apple but hard and slightly bitter, and as it got chopped down because of the scab did not last long, though it resprouted from the graft.
The Reverend Wilkes was bought for his name, I think was a large green cooking apple, not given to producing many apples. Then there was the Merton Russett, not much said about that, and another cooking apple. Orleans Reinette was an eating apple, pretty name! I bought two of these trees, and she was planted next to the Reverend Wilkes down in the valley part of the garden, and this could have led to less apples being produced.
Then came a new batch, on smaller graftings, Discovery, Katy, Fiesta and Gala,  I found with the smaller trees that they had to be supported because of the greater number of apples.  Also May Queen I note though not much said about that tree either
Next came the pears, Conference, William and Deacon which was an old pear, good taste if I remember.
Plum trees never produced well in the garden, but were planted; Cambridge Gage, Victoria, Oullins Gage, Damson Merryweather, Denniston Superb.  I remember the gages for the sheer sweetness as compared to the plums.
I must have kept this gardening diary for about 6 years, always curious about everything, I grew wild flowers and herbs throughout this period as well.  Much of my gardening practice is based on Permaculture, whereby fruit and perennial vegetables are grown.  And also recording this list of trees it is a reminder, that we have a whole history in the development, grafting and breeding of our fruit trees.

So what happened to all those apples we did not eat? I had a small apple mill, not sure of the right word, from which I would extract the juice, real apple juice is miles away from the stuff you buy in the market.  In Bath Organic market they used to sell the different apple juices exactly like wine, the colour is superb, the taste even better.
All hard work, but if we really want our world to survive from the overall blandness of fruits from other countries which we get in the supermarket wrapped in plastic, then these different apple trees need to be kept going, and that can only be by us learning to experiment.  The Good Life is occasionally mocked for its 'yoghurt weaving, sandal image' so often portrayed in that easy fashion of the media, but there are people and nurseries out there devoted to the cultivation of the obscure and old seeds, and fruit trees, they  need our support.


  1. They do indeed need our support Thelma if any of the old varieties are to survive. I remember apples, pears and damsons particularly from my childhood and they tasted wonderful. Some of this is no doubt due to a completely unjaded palate (what a pity we don't realise this until it begins to fade), but those old varieties have been neglected because they don't fruit so well and are more prone to disease, With modern day growers it seems to be all about profit - so hats off to anyone who is trying to bring back old varieties of anything. I have an Alexander Girault rose from David Austin and he gives me a fortnight's pure pleasure every year with hundreds of blooms,

  2. I used to get the trees from the Isle of Wight, they would arrive in a great paper sack, dry rooted. See they are still in business.... So if we ever move might just buy a tree ;) My son-in-law bought an apple tree for my daughter at their last house, it was called Beauty of Bath, because of course she came from Bath, which was very sweet and romantic...