Grow an or­chard on the pa­tio No gourmet gar­den is com­plete with­out an ap­ple tree. Here’s how to buy the right bare­root cul­ti­var

No gourmet gar­den is com­plete with­out an ap­ple tree. He­len Bil­liald ex­plains how to buy a good bare­root cul­ti­var for flavour, size and boun­ti­ful crops

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

Ap­ples are some­thing Bri­tain ex­cels at: our cli­mate is glo­ri­ously suited to this fra­grant fruit. The wealth of cul­ti­vars that we’ve bred over the cen­turies is tes­ta­ment to this suc­cess, and thank­fully in­ter­est in these trea­sured old cul­ti­vars con­tin­ues to grow, along with a host of new ones join­ing their ranks. The sheer di­ver­sity of ap­ple types can be daunt­ing to the new­comer look­ing to choose an ap­ple tree. Where on earth do you start? The im­por­tant thing is to fo­cus on three main things: cul­ti­var, size and shape and pol­li­na­tor group. Cul­ti­var: Pick up a spe­cial­ist nurs­ery cat­a­logue (there are many on­line) and revel in de­scrip­tions of ap­ples such as ‘Pit­mas­ton Pine Ap­ple’ (a small 18th-cen­tury ap­ple with a pineap­ple-like flavour) and

‘Monarch’ (a cen­tury-old cooker with large, pink-flushed fruit that makes the most won­der­ful puree). But if you want to taste be­fore com­mit­ting, track down one of the many ‘ap­ple days’ that take place each au­tumn at or­chards around the coun­try. Some of the favourites for flavour in­clude sweet, crisp ‘Spar­tan’, or ‘Egre­mont Rus­set’ with its firm strangely nutty flesh. ‘Chivers De­light’ is cited by many chefs for its fra­grant honey flesh while ‘Queen Cox’ has that much-lauded com­plex Cox flavour and beau­ti­ful red skin. ● Size and shape: Both these fac­tors are dic­tated by the ap­ple’s root­stock (see di­a­gram be­low right). For in­stance, M26 is a semid­warf­ing root­stock and would let you grow your plant as a small bush tree, while the very dwarf M27 would al­low you to grow the same tree as a diminu­tive 45cm (18in) step-over. ● Pol­li­na­tor group: To set fruit, your tree’s flow­ers must be suc­cess­fully pol­li­nated. Although some ap­ple trees are des­ig­nated ‘self-fer­tile’, most re­quire a sec­ond, dif­fer­ent ap­ple cul­ti­var close by that’s in flower at the same time, in or­der for the pollen of one to fer­tilise the other. To guide you, nurs­eries group trees into pol­li­na­tion or flow­er­ing groups. For­tu­nately, suit­able trees in neigh­bour­ing gar­dens of­ten mean you can get away with plant­ing just the one! Some trees are in­com­pat­i­ble be­cause they’re too closely re­lated, so if you’re choos­ing to plant two part­ner cul­ti­vars, speak to a nurs­ery or use one of the nifty on­line pol­li­na­tion part­ner check­ers to be sure they’re a good match.

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