Q What’s wrong with my elderly apple tree?
Karen Greenbank, Lancashire
PIPPA SAYS This looks like a ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, which can be tricky to grow well. The gingerybrown markings on the foliage are Cox’s spot, but it’s not infectious and can be rectified by feeding and mulching throughout the growing period. It is often made worse by extreme weather conditions, which this year has had. The overall shape and collapse of the tree is more worrying. Try removing some of the out-of-place branches this winter, but only if it improves the overall structure and shape of the crown. Along with plenty of TLC, this may improve the tree’s health, but it may take a few years. One alternative is to start afresh in a new spot with a young tree that can be pruned and shaped from the outset. Easier-to-grow varieties with a similar flavour include ‘Sunset’ or ‘Suntan’, both of which have ‘Cox’ in their parentage.
Apple trees need pruning to form a good structure. Cox’s spot (inset)