Tree Planting & the End of an Apple Era

It has been another abominable winter so far – the water is not as high as last year in the fields around us, but the paddock to the rear of us and our land has been water-logged for a while. Despite this, possibly foolishly, I decided to plant the trees that arrived a few days ago. I had little option other than finding someone higher up on the hill who didn’t mind me heeling them in there for a while, but instead I chose to mound up the planting holes by around six inches, to buy some height.

We stripped out all but one (the Morello) of the smaller Gisela 9 rootstock cherry trees, after the disastrous winter last year that set canker going in all of them. I had decided to give them another go, but coming into this winter some had only one remaining branch, and rather than flogging a dead horse I figured if the apples are liking it so far, we may as well put more in.

I’d ordered a Lamb’s Seedling on MM106 rootstock, another Derbyshire variety, which means we have all of them I think, unless there are others unknown to me. Then, in the large orchard (the half-standards) we plumped for all Scottish varieties – hardy northern trees that can stand the wind and wet and cold we tend to get here. These, all on MM111 rootstock, included:

  • Oslin
  • Roxbury Russet
  • Coul Blush
  • White Melrose
  • Lady of Wemyss

These replaced the cherries we pulled out, and the Beeley Pippin the geese ring-barked. Concerning the last, we had tracked down a Beeley Pippin local to us, to take scion wood from. However, our tree, despite having had its bark removed totally for a good six inch height, had scions that still looked nice and green. In the end I grafted five of these on to MM106 rootstock, so hopefully we can save the tree and have a few more to boot.

Then, to replace the plums we lost in the large orchard, we planted Oullins Gage and Czar – both on St Julien A rootstock.

I suspect I’d thought of pulling up the very last cherry tree in the large orchard, but in the end decided to let it have one more year to see if it could pull through. As it was I had a spare Orkney apple tree on MM111, so that went in to the small chicken paddock to the back of No.2 – which is gradually filling up with fruit trees! Room for a couple more I think, but no rush, something will come along that needs planting!

Old Merrybower Apple TreeOn that note, it was a sad day on Sunday (9th). Farmer John called to say that they’d had to cut up the big old apple tree that has kept us all at Merrybower (and beyond) in cooking apples, for well over fifty years. I suspect it was nearer 100 years old as it’s in the area shown as a farm orchard in the old OS maps. The ground has been so wet over the last year, and this winter especially, that the gales over the week had managed to topple it, roots and all, into the barn to its north. Luckily it only clipped the corner and the barn was saved, but the poor tree had had it. It must have stood around forty or fifty feet – we had to pick apples whislt standing in the tractor bucket, and even then we only managed to get half-way up it!

Still – to try and salvage some good from the disaster, I’m going to grab some scion wood tomorrow and order some more MM106 rootstock, to graft as many as I can and save the apple type. No one here knows what it is – but it’s a beautiful cooker.

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