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If I could have just one thing in our garden it would be an apple tree, our beloved Bramley Seedling to be precise. I planted this in our current garden twenty years ago, just as I had at our previous house, and I would do so again without hesitation. Once established, both trees have rewarded us with a reliable crop of superb cooking apples every autumn - sufficient to provide desserts well into the winter months and sometimes beyond. We also have a number of smaller dessert apples grown as cordons, which help pollinate the Bramley and produce a useful crop of 'eating apples'.
There are plenty of authoritative sources of information and advice on cultivating apples, both online and in print, as well as recipes for cooking apples. I'm no expert and don't plan to duplicate these here. Instead, this review focuses on our personal experience, enjoying the fruits of two particularly wonderful trees over the last thirty years or so.
Having done most of my homework first time around in our last house, I knew we needed a young tree with a dwarfing rootstock again, plus sufficient space to accommodate it as it grew. I also knew we'd need other apple trees nearby to pollinate it. There were a few but I couldn't be sure of the varieties, so I also invested in a couple of small cordon dessert apple saplings. I researched the varieties to ensure flowering would overlap. Any crop of eating apples would be a bonus, of course, but that was not the priority in our household.
~~A growing pleasure~~
Despite the fact that we are situated on a north facing hillside in east central Scotland, I decided to risk exposing the young tree to the elements. I reckoned it should stand a better chance of succeeding than the pear tree we had inherited in the same position from some optimistic previous occupier! So a pesky clump of pampas grass was cleared with some considerable effort, the plot was prepared as well as possible and a newly obtained specimen from the local garden centre was planted with initial support to withstand the inevitable gale force winds ....
I'd advise paying close attention to the rootstock. Our Bramley is now approximately 12 to 15 feet high (c. 4 metres) with a matching spread, though the cordon apples are considerably more compact. I can't claim to follow pruning advice to the letter each year but do at least make a vague attempt to keep things in trim, (bearing in mind that Bramleys are tip bearers). Our tree seems positively to thrive on neglect, with little feeding, fruit thinning or spraying to speak of recently. I may need to review this soon as I have noticed some minor pest damage this season, but I certainly don't want to use too many chemicals if this can possibly be avoided. It's easier pruning the cordon trees as these are much smaller. More organic feeding/mulching all round might ensure a heavy crop too, as we have noticed slight fluctuations in yield from one year to the next. This may, or may not, be partly due to the weather. Who knows what's happening to our climate these days?!
Nevertheless, it's always a highpoint of the gardening year when the apple blossom appears in the spring.
~~The fruits of our labour~~
So, it's that time of year again and we've picked most of the apple crop already, using our trusty fruit picker pole. I'd say it's been an average yield: say, 40 or 50 medium-sized apples, around 8 ounces each (c. 230g), not the huge fruits we sometimes get of around twice that weight.
We've also had a useful crop of eating apples from the small companion trees. I'm quite enjoying these as they seem to have ripened well this year - definitely a bonus.
~~An apple a day...?~~
Well perhaps not quite every day of the year - but we should be able to look forward to beautiful fluffy apple with custard or crumble for some time again this season, now the Bramleys are harvested, wrapped in kitchen roll and stored in a cold garage to keep them cool but give some protection from frost. The dessert apples are a healthy addition to our diet too.
If you enjoy cooking apples, have the garden space and are prepared to put in the initial effort, cultivating a Bramley will reap rich rewards for many years to come. Strongly recommended.
* Gardener's World : www.gardenersworld.com
* BBC Gardening Guides : www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/
* Bramley Apples - the Cook's Choice : www.bramleyapples.co.uk
[© SteveS001 2011. A version of this original review may appear on other review sites]
We've all heard the saying 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away' and there is more than a grain of truth in the old saw. Apples have been found to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of developing some cancers and there is also evidence to support the theory that they may protect against developing Alzheimer's Disease. On top of that, they are also an attractive and tasty fruit.
Although more northerly parts of Britain are still shivering in the final days of Winter, here in the southern counties, the last couple of days have really held the promise of Spring with plenty of sunshine and a hint of warmth beginning to creep into the air. Whilst checking out my garden for further signs of Spring, I noticed that the blossom on my apple trees is in bud and I suspect that within the next couple of weeks the trees will be a mass of sweet scented pink blossom.
There's nothing better than picking your own apples from the garden to make into apple pie or crumble or just to eat in their raw state. Many people feel that they don't have room in their garden for fruit trees so I thought I'd write a review of all the types of apple tree available, most of which are now bred to grow in the limited space allocated to modern town and suburban gardens. I won't bother describing full sized trees, which are large and wide spreading and are now really a thing of the past, probably only seen in the gardens of older properties. Instead I'll concentrate on the large choice of tree types suitable for smaller gardens. These smaller trees have become much more common since the development of dwarfing rootstocks onto which the apple trees are grafted.
I'll be mentioning the term rootstock fairly frequently so this probably needs a few words of explanation. It's been known for centuries that for some reason apples grow badly on their own roots so for hundreds of years the sapling trunks have been grafted onto a better performing rootstock. At the end of World War One, apple production made a huge leap forward with the introduction of the M dwarfing rootstock, developed at the East Malling Research Station in Kent and this was followed in the 1950s by MM rootstock which is a hybrid of the Malling rootstock with one developed by the John Innes Institute in Merton. Most of the smaller apple trees are now grafted onto one or other of these rootstocks.
The most common rootstocks used are:
M27: Extremely dwarfing. Final height approx. 6 ft.
M9: Very dwarfing. Final height approx. 8-10 ft.
M26: Dwarfing Final height 10-12 ft.
MM106: Semi-dwarfing. Final height 14-18 ft.
This is probably the most common way of growing a small apple tree and is how the two trees in my garden are grown. The final height of the tree will depend upon the rootstock used and the annual yield can be anything from 15 lbs to 60 lbs of fruit once the tree has reached maturity, which takes about five years on average.
Compact Column or Pillar
For very limited space, the ideal tree type is the compact column or dwarf pillar, also sometimes known as ballerinas. These trees comprise a single main stem, generally grafted onto a semi-dwarfing rootstock, with hardly any side branches, meaning there isn't a need for pruning. The maximum height when fully grown is roughly 8 ft and because of the single column, the planting space required between trees is only a couple of feet. This unique growing habit makes these trees ideal for growing just about anywhere in the garden including tubs and because they don't have any widespread branches, they don't cast too much shadow and despite their only being a single stem, they produce a good yield of fruit. Although some of these trees are self-fertile, most require a growing partner to allow for pollination.
Fan, Espalier and Cordon
If you have a wall or fence against which to grow your apple tree, one of the best ways to utilise the space is by training into a cordon which, again, is a single stem but grown at a 45 degree angle against a wall or fence. Alternatively, the tree can be grown as an espalier which is where pairs of branches are trained along wires or, if you have a good amount of wall space, say against a gable end, then a fan shape is also an option, but this method requires a good knowledge of pruning and is really better suited to plums or other stoned fruit.
This is a very old way of growing apples, frequently used in the days of large kitchen gardens and re-introduced to modern gardeners by Geoff Hamilton (of blessed memory.) The step-over apple is grafted onto extremely dwarfing rootstock and grown in a similar manner to an espalier, only in a single tier about 12 inches above the ground. This can provide a very attractive and unusual edging to beds and borders, as well as being highly productive.
This is the perfect solution for extremely small gardens where there is only room for one tree. A family tree has two or more varieties of apple grafted onto the one rootstock. These varieties will be in the same flowering group so self-pollination can take place.
Apple trees bought from specialist nurseries are frequently supplied bare rooted and need to be planted as soon after delivery as possible. The ideal time for this type of planting is when the tree is dormant during the winter months, from about November until the end of March. Alternatively, container grown trees can be planted at any time of the year, although this is usually a more expensive option.
When planting a bare rooted tree, or a container grown one for that matter, it's important to ensure that the point where the tree is grafted onto the rootstock remains well above the ground. It's also essential to dig the hole wide enough so that the roots can be spread out to ensure the tree gets off to the best start it can. The tree will also probably need staking for the first year or so until it's become established.
With the exception of family trees and a couple of named varieties, apples need pollinating in order to produce fruit so it's generally advisable to plant two varieties to ensure this happens. As trees flower at different times, it's important to ensure you choose varieties from the same flowering group. The two apple trees I have are James Grieve (which is actually supposed to be self-fertile) and Bountiful, both of which are mid-season flowering varieties that produce fruit ready for picking in September and October.
There are hundreds of varieties available to grow, both eaters and cookers and these should be carefully chosen depending on the area of the country in which you live as some varieties do much better in warmer or cooler areas. The other thing to consider when choosing your varieties is whether they flower at the same time to enable cross-pollination to take place. It should be noted that there are a handful of varieties, such as Jonagold and Bramley's Seedling, where two partners are required for pollination to take place. (Whoever would have thought that apples had such interesting sex lives!)
The apple tree is a pretty hardy thing although if you really want the best yield it's necessary to protect against the dreaded codling moth which can wreak havoc. Also, don't be surprised if many of the baby fruit drop off the tree in early summer. This is known as June drop and is a natural occurrence. To ensure the fruit grow to the optimum size, if June drop hasn't reduced the number of fruit on a spur sufficiently, pick a few more babies off the tree. This gives the remaining fruit plenty of room to grow without having to compete for light and food.
For many people, me included, this is the most difficult task of all. I'm afraid, I can't offer much in the way of pruning advice because I'm rubbish at it and the trees in my garden bear witness to my futile attempts to give them some sort of shape. More by luck than judgement, they've grown into a sort of arch over the path which has produced quite a pleasing effect. The only thing I will say on the subject of pruning is that cuts should be made on the diagonal, just above a bud, but my general rule of thumb has always been, if it's pointing in the wrong direction, cut it off!
FINALLY (Do I hear a collective sigh of relief?)
Growing apple trees isn't just a case of sticking them in the ground or container and leaving them to it, although initially that's more or less what I did. Your trees will require feeding, watering, protection from predators and pruning, but if you stick with them you'll be rewarded with pretty blossom in the Spring which encourages bees into the garden, tasty fruit in late Summer or early Autumn and the tremendous pleasure of picking produce you've grown yourself and enjoying the fruits of your labours.
"White stars gathered
like wise blessings within my arms,
I show the Beauty
of Nature's sweet charms.
Fountain of Knowledge and Youth;
I teach you how to find hidden Beauty in Truth.
Creation and Destruction lie cradled in my fruit,
Raven in my branches
and Snake at my root. "
"We are the three young ravens whom you saved from starving; when we had grown big, and heard that you were seeking the Golden Apple, we flew over the sea to the end of the world, where the Tree of Life stands, and have brought you the apple." ~ Brothers Grimm, "The White Snake"
There are about 35 species of small deciduous tree and shrubs known as Apples growing wild in Northern America, all of which are of the more sour crab-type. There are an estimated 10,000 varieties of apple recognized commercially! Apple trees belong to the Family Rosaceae which includes roses, pears, quinces, loquats, almonds, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries which can all provide valuable information as near relatives to Apple. Those called by this Teacher should also examine potential balancing energies like: snake, raven/crow, bear, deer, turkey, rabbit, horse, earthworm, bee, ant, wasp, raccoon, cedar, morel mushroom, caterpillar, inch worm, wolf, fox, or hummingbird. Raven is the traditional bird representing the quest for enlightenment and shamanic journey, perched in the Tree of Knowledge; just as the ancient wisdom represented by Snake lies coiled at her roots.
Apples are associated with love, wisdom, creation and death, healing, choice, natural magic, beauty, temptation, gratitude, and abundance. The sheer amount of apples at harvest time invites us to open our own hearts with the trust that we are using a replenish-able energy. We will receive as much as we give! Apple is a reminder to be thankful for everything worthwhile in life. Apples are a natural remedy for the stomach, bowels and heart, the main organs of giving and receiving. The malic and tartaric acids of the apple particularly benefit people of sedentary habits as they neutralize the acid products of indigestion, and an excellent aide for constipation. This is why it is so commonly used as a child's first fruit or as part of the BRAT diet familiar to all mothers (bananas, rice, applesauce, tea and toast!). "Nature's toothbrush" is wonderful for cleansing our teeth as we eat too! High in antioxidants, a good source of dietary fiber, and a natural immune booster, apples provide us with many health benefits.
Edred Thorsson in The Book of Ogham suggests that Quert (the Apple) is a sign of beauty and eternity, a kind of eternal perfection and symmetry. The spiritual warrior, one who is unafraid to make the journey to the Otherworld and back, one who is unafraid to face death or madness is drawn to Apple. Apple has a long association with wise women and shamans for this very reason, and the Raven who embodies this sensitive and wise soul is often found perched among it's branches! In Norse traditions it was the Apples of Immortality that kept the Gods young and vital for all times, and it is also linked with Fae energy, especially Tir na nog, the fabled Celtic Land of the Ever Young.
The custom of celebrating Lughnasadh (from the Ancient Celtic) or Lammas (August 1-2 Harvest Festival) with the inclusion of an apple and berry pie symbolizing the magical union between Brighid and Lugh is one of many being revived by Neo-Pagans today. Evidence has shown that the apple has been eaten, and preserved by slicing and sun drying, during the Stone Age across Europe. This mighty Teacher has been growing on Earth for about 80 million years! Apple reminds us to give in abundance, and have faith that Creator and the Universe will provide for and replenish our needs. Greediness or hoarding, bitterness, mysophobia (fear of dirt or contamination), low-self esteem or self-loathing, excessive fear of death, age, or sickness might be signs of unbalanced Apple energy. Exploration of the Native American concept of the Give Away ceremony might be useful to those called by this Teacher.
The magical pentagram, ancient symbol of magic and protection, emblem of Brighid, is found within the white starshaped form of the apple blossom, and in the apple seeds arrayed within the fruit in a five pointed pattern. Five and three are important numbers to those called by this Teacher. In many traditions it is the apple that most commonly represents the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This reminds us that "with great power comes great responsibility." The true road to Knowledge is a long and rocky one, full of temptations, but when we walk the path with heart, carrying beauty and gratitude with us, we will reach the true lessons of the mighty Apple tree.
The Apple reminds us to combine all aspects, talents and senses to better connect with the World, Divinity and our own Intuition. When we move through life aware in body, mind and spirit we become the Magician of the Tarot, using all of Life's tools with skill, intent, and a well-centered outlook. Apple challenges us to come through Life Forge wiser, and tastier, than when we entered. Apple trees are great friends for those seeking knowledge (especially of natural magic), inspiration, healing, or protection for family and home. There are many myths, legends and traditions surrounding the beloved Apple around the world. Even in today's modern bustle the modest Apple endures as a symbol of Learning and Teachers everywhere! How does this Teacher appear in your life?
"A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love."~Basil
Key Concepts: Beauty, Health, Natural Magic, Feminine energy and creativity, Life, Prosperity, Creation, Temptation, Knowledge/Wisdom, Youthfulness, Immortality (Life/Death/Rebirth), Fae energy, Home/Hearth, Abundance, Transformation, Creativity/Inspiration, Love, Balance, Shamanic Journey, Divination, Other worlds
Associated Gods/Goddesses or Popular and Mythic figures: Brigid, Indunna, Hera, Eris (goddess of discord), Eve, Snow White, Venus, Isaac Newton, Johnny Appleseed, Teachers, The Beatles, Avalon, Finn MacCumhail, King Cormac, Lugh Lamfada, The Sons of Tuirenn, Thomas the Rhymer, Pomona, The Hesperides, Hera, Gaea, Danu, Dagda, Dionysus, Bragi, Paris of Troy, William Tell