The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - DAVE AL­LAN Visit asko­r­ Email your gar­den­ing queries to da@asko­r­

FROM their home in the vil­lage of Bank­foot, north of Perth, An­drew Lear and his wife Mar­garet have built up an in­com­pa­ra­ble top fruit cat­a­logue, es­pe­cially ap­ples, with more than 100 va­ri­eties on the 2017-18 Ap­ple­tree­man cat­a­logue. Like John But­ter­worth, that in­valu­able ad­vo­cate of Scot­tish ap­ple va­ri­eties, An­drew’s list in­cludes a large se­lec­tion of old ones such as Hawthorn­den and Cly­de­side and he’s al­ways look­ing for new va­ri­eties, so much so that groups and in­di­vid­u­als of­fer him more than he can han­dle.

He has saved va­ri­eties that would oth­er­wise have be­come ex­tinct, such as Lady of the Lake, a soft juicy eater that only he sup­plies.

Af­ter DNA test­ing some of his ac­qui­si­tions haven’t matched any named va­ri­eties so the cou­ple called one unique and par­tic­u­larly de­li­cious old lo­cal pear Wil­low­gate sausage. “The name de­scribes the shape of the fruit, not the taste,” Mar­garet hastily ex­plains.

Much as he val­ues tra­di­tional va­ri­eties, An­drew is al­ways keen to try new cul­ti­vars suit­able for mod­ern grow­ing con­di­tions. He reck­ons ap­ples, like the early eater Quinte, should grow well in some colder parts of Scot­land. This Cana­dian ap­ple is widely grown in Nor­way so has the right cre­den­tials.

An­drew’s drive to widen his knowl­edge about ap­ples un­der­pins his work. He ex­plains that the chal­lenge is match­ing ap­ples to the myr­iad grow­ing con­di­tions in Scot­land. Quinte thrives in harsher con­di­tions, but oth­ers will work well else­where. So, he’s keen to re­ceive feed­back from cus­tomers to help build an ac­cu­rate pic­ture.

This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant now, as we’re en­joy­ing an ex­cit­ing Scot­tish re­nais­sance in ap­ple grow­ing. Groups such as Clyde Val­ley Or­chards are work­ing to re­vive old or­chards and re-es­tab­lish the Clyde Val­ley as a ma­jor ap­ple grow­ing re­gion. New com­mer­cial en­ter­prises are be­ing es­tab­lished too, pro­duc­ing Scot­tish cider for the first time.

Com­mu­nity or­chards are sprout­ing up, a de­vel­op­ment that will only suc­ceed if these en­thu­si­asts have the right skills and choose the right va­ri­eties for their neck of the woods. So, over the last 10 years, An­drew has been run­ning cour­ses for them.

This gives Ap­ple­tree­man a unique part in the re­vival of or­chards, but it’s a twoway process. An­drew is also learn­ing what peo­ple need to know in or­der to work out the best ways of help­ing them.

He sug­gests that re­tired folk with a bit of land should plant ap­ples on vig­or­ous M25 root­stocks to pro­duce large trees that need lit­tle main­te­nance. Farm­ers are en­cour­aged to plant a few ap­ple trees, M25 or M106, to earn a lit­tle ex­tra in­come. And An­drew caters for folk need­ing small or even pot­ted fruit trees, grow­ing on M27 or M9 root­stocks.

Through his cour­ses An­drew en­cour­ages mod­ern tree man­age­ment. “Too many gar­den­ers are still us­ing 1950s in­for­ma­tion,” he says. “Prun­ing needs to start as soon as you plant the tree and, ide­ally, peo­ple should learn about prun­ing be­fore they plant so they do it right from the be­gin­ning. Then they can ex­pect to pick fruit within the first two years.”

Ex­ces­sive prun­ing could stim­u­late too much leaf growth at the ex­pense of fruit and the wet­ter west coast can also en­cour­age veg­e­ta­tive growth rather than fruit for­ma­tion.

Where you live, the va­ri­ety and its root­stock all af­fect how you prune.


Ap­ple grow­ing is un­der­go­ing a re­nais­sance in Scot­land

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