Tag Archives: apples

Apples – a bumper harvest expected for 2013

apples lord lambourne

apples lord lambourne

The poor weather of 2012, particularly the wet summer, was disastrous for the apple harvest. This year looks like being a bumper apple crop.

apple orchard Brogdale

apple orchard Brogdale

So why is there such a difference? Apples evolved in central Asia, probably around Kazakhstan. In order to flower and fruit really well they need to be grown in a continental climate of hot summers and cold winters.

The wild apple cultivar still growing in central Asia, Malus sieversii has recently been shown to be the ancestor of all modern apples. Unlike most domesticated cultivars, the leaves turn red in the autumn before they fall.

apple blossom

apple blossom

The hard winter followed by a late spring and a long warm summer has given the apples and other deciduous fruit the conditions they like to produce good fruits and plenty of them, although most are cropping later due to the late spring.

Michigan is usually the USA’s third biggest producer of apples and is likely to harvest 30 million bushels of apples this year, exceeding its 20 million average. This compares to 2012’s apple harvest of 2.7 million bushels.

step over apples

step over apples

The UK Bramley apple harvest is expected to reach approximately 67,000 tons in 2013, a 14% increase on 2012. Admittedly this is still not as high as earlier years although this is due to reduced orchard acreage rather than weather or climatic conditions.

bramley apples

bramley apples

The following facts are extracts from our new eBook “In Your Autumn Garden with Plews Garden Design”:-

“Apple seeds contain a cyanide compound. However, the tiny amount of poison is locked inside the hard seed coat and as the seed generally passes through your digestive system intact you‘ll be fine. But it’s probably not a good idea to make a habit of eating apple seeds.

In Norse mythology, Idun, the goddess of spring and rebirth grew magic apples that gave the gods immortality. The only problem with this is that apples as we know them probably didn’t arrive in Scandinavia until the late Middle Ages.

ripe apples

ripe apples

Etymologically speaking, the word ‘apple’ is rooted in the Indo-European languages,; appropriately so given where the fruit originated. The Romance languages, including Latin, originally used the Greek based word ‘malum’; the botanical Latin is ‘malus’. With the rise of Christian as the official religion of the Roman Empire from the 4th century AD and its symbolic importance of the apple, the word ‘pomum’ began to be used, meaning ‘the fruit of fruits’.

25% of an apple’s weight is air – which is why they float in water making apple bobbing a fun game at Hallowe’en.”

English apples

English apples

Enjoy your daily apple!

Marie Shallcross, Senior Partner, Plews Garden Design

Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

step over cider apple

step over cider apple


Winter Garden visits: Chartwell


Chartwell-garden-seatIt is difficult to fit in essential tasks when a garden is open to the public all year; even mowing the croquet lawn can be tricky; mowing a visitor by mistake wouldn’t do. Many chores are left to the winter for good reason – because they’re time consuming or messy. But whilst cleaning pots is easy to achieve regardless of visitors, relaying paths and swathes of turf requires areas to be fenced off so that garden visitors don’t tread on newly laid paving by mistake.

I kept forgetting that Chartwell, home of Winston Churchill had changed its opening hours so the gardens are now open all year. Typically, I chose a freezing cold afternoon with snow on the ground to visit. The positive side was that I had the gardens virtually to myself; even the staff had the sense to find indoor tasks.DSC05416

The name “Chartwell” comes from the well on the estate and ‘chart’ meaning ‘rough ground’ in Old English. The gardens are grade II listed, meaning they are of historical importance. This doesn’t mean they are locked into a time warp; the gardening team create and maintain interesting displays throughout the gardens. They have risen to the challenge of accommodating visitors all year round; visitors who, if a garden is open to the public during the winter, expect that there something worth seeing.

Visiting a garden in winter shows a whole new perspective on a familiar landscape. I was accompanied for some of the time by Franklin,  one of the resident cats; he posed beautifully in the rose garden, a fluffy blackness against the white snow and the formally pruned rose bushes. Churchill insisted that there was always a marmalade cat with white socks called Jock at Chartwell, but he was obviously inside in the warm when I visited (probably on his Facebook page – do you think he ‘likes’ ours?).Franklin-in-winter-rose-garden

Naturally my main focus was the winter border as I had been promised some delights of scent and colour by one of the gardeners.On the way I took in the orchard with its winter pruned apple trees, including Malus domestica ‘Newton’s wonder’. This is not, as you might think, an offspring of the famous tree that dropped an apple on Isaac Newton’s head so he discovered the laws of gravity. That was Malus ‘Flower of Kent’. ‘Newton’s wonder’ is a culinary apple, a nineteenth century cultivar like the popular ‘Bramley’, but sweeter in taste.Malus-'Newtons-wonder'

The Sarcoccca confusa or sweet box, sits lushly by the gate to the vegetable garden at the lower end of the winter border. Normally packing a wow of scent even in winter, it was struggling a little due to the extreme cold and lack of sun, but a closer sniff proved it was still in business. The sloping border offered colourful Cornus (dogwood) with lime green stems contrasting with the red brick wall. This shrub proves its worth time and again as winter interest and can easily be accommodated in smaller gardens and borders. Pruning the stems in March frees up space for summer herbaceous flowers to grow in front; with the advantage of colourful fresh young Cornus stems to delight the eye the following winter.

Closer to the ground I admired the snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) braving the snow. I liked the pairing of these with Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens (black grass). Not all was monotone; the Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) has a yellow flower that perversely I find more attractive closed rather than open. The Corsican Hellebore (Hellleborus argutifolius) added some texture to the border, and complimented the green foliage of those bulbs that were poking through the snow. I do love Hellebores; I feel a trip to the national collections at Broadview Gardens and Hazles Cross Farm may be in order soon…snowdrops-in-the-snow

At the top of the sloping winter border I was rewarded with the gorgeously scented Daphne bholua. The scent admired, and having reached a high point of the garden I thought I might briefly sit and enjoy the views that tempted Churchill into buying this estate. On seeing the seat though, I changed my mind; stood a while admiring the landscape, then headed off for the warm, well pleased with my snowy garden visit. I’ve now started to follow the Chartwell garden blog – a good way of keeping up between visits.

Seasonal offer: 

Our eBook “In Your Winter Garden with Plews Garden Design” has been drastically reduced in price as “In Your Spring Garden with Plews Garden Design” is due for release in about a week.
Available in formats for PC, Kindle and iPad from Amazon and Smashwords


Pumpkins, Hallowe’en and the Three Sisters Garden #2


Are you ready for the ‘trick or treat’ mob? Maybe this year you should quiz them in the uses of pumpkins and apples before handing out the sweets…or should I say turnips?
In the last post we looked at cultivating pumpkins, in this we look some of the links between pumpkins, apples and Hallowe’en.

Jack o’lantern is a term commonly used for the carved pumpkin faces seen at Hallowe’en. It originally described the eerie lights seen over marshes and peat bogs. These are also known as will o’ the wisp or ignis fatuus, literally ‘foolish fire’ or ‘false fire’. The lights are actually gases (including methane) caused by decaying organic matter – but I don’t think you’ll see them over the compost heap!

The origin of Hallowe’en dates back at least 3,000 years to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. This celebration, the Feast of the Dead, was held on October 31st and was a not a morbid festival, but one that honoured those loved ones who had died. It was one of the turning points of the Celtic year, the change from light to dark, from summer to winter. This was an agricultural society and the changing seasons were important markers in the year.

On the night of Samhain, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones and to act as protection against malevolent spirits. If you’re wondering why turnips, this is because pumpkins were introduced from the ‘New World’ by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century, whereas turnips were grown throughout most Europe from Roman times or earlier. Oh and ‘jack o’ lantern’ when applied as a description to the carved out pumpkins dates from the 19th century.

Games were played, including one similar to the apple bobbing we indulge in now. The apple was important in Celtic mythology, an apple tree was found on the Isle of the Blessed. And the ‘bobbing’ may have reflected the heroes journey to obtain the magic apples. More prosaically, the apple harvest would be finished by Samhain so there would be plenty of apples to eat.

Pumpkins – winter squash – are an excellent crop for storing and will keep until February in the right conditions, cool, dark and frost free. As for what you do with the flesh scooped out from your Hallowe’en lantern, you could try pumpkin soup; a recipe we use can be found here.

For planting ideas to grow your Jack o’ lanterns for next year, why not drop us an email? info@plewsgardendesign.co.uk

Apples:Designing the Garden of Eden?


Designing a garden to include lots of fruit is always satisfying: at this time of year my imagination leaps off the page and sees next year’s mini orchard in full harvest. Apple trees are especially popular – did you know that Britain is “apple monarch of the world” with over 2000 varieties available?Image

This year’s weather has affected the apple harvest, by reducing the quantity and quality, and generally giving a later harvest. A single apple tree can produce up to 200 apples and live for 100 years, so there is time for another harvest, a better harvest.

Not sure when to pick your apples? If they’re dropping to the ground as ripe rather than unripe ‘windfalls’ then it’s time to start picking. Cup the apple in your hand and twist gently; they should drop easily into your hand. Not all the apples may be ripe at the same time, so it may take 3 ‘goes’ at picking before the whole tree has been cropped.

What if you don’t have an apple tree of your own? If you’re thinking of buying one or two, now is an excellent time to taste different varieties and see which you prefer. You may find a good selection of apples at your local farmers market or farm shop. If you fancy them fresh off the tree why not find out if there’s an apple tasting day near you?

There are apple festivals aplenty – including one at Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection, where they’re also celebrating their diamond jubilee this year, just like Queen Elizabeth II. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale houses the world’s largest collection of temperate fruit on a single site. To see row upon row of apple trees is an impressive sight. And then you move on to the pear trees, the quince, the medlar, the plums, the cherries…

Choosing an apple tree isn’t just about taste of course, the size of the tree, whether you’d like a free standing tree or a trained form are also important considerations. Trained forms are particularly suitable for smaller areas as they make use of often overlooked space, for example, training an espalier along a fence. Single cordon apples can be grown in a large pot, ideal for a patio; I remember seeing some of these at Trinity Buoy Wharf many years ago, as part of ‘growing food in the city’ project.

But perhaps you fancy a tree with history? If you’re a scientist perhaps the Isaac Newton tree might appeal? The story an apple landing on his head in 1667 thus leading to Newton’s laws on gravity may tempt you to have an offspring of the same tree. The original tree stood in the garden of Newton’s home at Woolsthorpe manor, in Lincolnshire, and over the years grafts have been taken to grow new Newton trees. It is claimed that the original is still there, having regrown after falling over in a storm.

ImageThe Egyptians were among the first people to grow apples – apart from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I suppose. But the first person to grow the world famous Bramley cooking apples was Mary Ann Brailsford in the family home in Nottinghamshire in the early 19th century. If you’re wondering why they’re not called ‘MaryAnn’s’ that’s because the family moved away and it was a man called Bramley who owned the tree when some fifty years later a local nurseryman took cuttings and grew the fruit and trees commercially.

So what else do you need to know? Apple trees are sold as scions or grafts onto a rootstock. Basically, the rootstock determines the ultimate size of the tree whilst the scion will give you the variety of fruit. You’ll also need more than one, or need your neighbours to have a tree as well, as apples are not self-fertile.

In the meantime, taste away!Image