Each year in Spring, I start thinking about whether we have left it too late to prune our apple trees and then I do a bit of research and remember that we should actually prune them in Summer. Phew. We aren't late at all.
We have five dwarf apple trees in our back garden that we are training into an espalier planting. We ordered them in 2005 from Woodbridge Fruit Trees in Tasmania ,which sells a large number of rare and heritage fruit trees. Many of these trees are old fashioned varieties that are now only grown in backyards. We chose trees that would hopefully ripen sequentially. First ripening in February, then one in March, then April, May and June. We put the earliest ripening one in the shadiest spot, as we thought the harsh summer sun might be a bit hard on ripening fruit. As it turned out, we've not had fruit set on that tree, so it may be too shady.
Please excuse the washing on the line. I took this photo in February 2011, as a set of backyard photos just before our renovation started and my only purpose was to quickly take some photos before the builders started the next day. I wasn't trying to photograph the laundry or the apple trees!
We heard about Bob Magnus, who is the devoted gardener behind the concept of maintaining our fruiting heritage, through the Digger's club. Gardening Australia did an article on him in 2010. If you are interested you can read more about him here> Bob Magnus on Gardening Australia. In 2005, we ordered 5 trees from him. And until fairly recently I wasn't even certain which trees we had ordered as I had misplaced the order from 2005. On the weekend I managed to find it in my study when I was tidying up some papers and from my annotations in the old catalogue it looks like we ordered:
Early apples (January to Mid February) Tydeman's early Worcester, This is the progeny of one of England's most famous apples, the Worcester Pearmain. An early apple ripening about the same time as Gravenstein. Quite conical in shape, it is bright purplish red on the sunny side. The flesh is aromatic, very fragrant and both sweet and subacid. It's one of the richest flavoured early apples. (Text from Woodbridge)
Midseason apples (March-April) McIntosh One of the world's most famous apples originating around 1800 in Ontario, Canada. It's a bright red apple covered in a bloom like Angelina plums and has beautifully scented white flesh, occasionally with pink streaks. It's reputed to be self fertile and a good pollinator. It's America's most famous apple, but never seems to have taken off commercially in Australia. A McIntosh at its peak straight from the tree is a memorable culinary experience.(Text from Woodbridge)
A bit later (May) Esopus Spitzenburg This apple has a lively, brilliant red skin with yellow specks and rich juicy sprightly yellow flesh, always rating highly in taste tests. A famous American apple from upstate New York dating from the 18th century and thought to be a favourite of Thomas Jefferson. It is the parent of Jonathan and the grand parent of Bonza, Akané and Jonagold.(Text from Woodbridge)
Late Apples (May-June) Grime's Golden One of America's most historic apples, believed to be the parent of Golden Delicious. It was found in West Virginia in 1804 by Thomas Grime. A golden green in colour (similar to Golden Delicious), with flecks of russet. A fresh creamy flesh that renowned for it's sweet and has a subtle spice. Keeps well.(Text from Woodbridge)
Latest apples (June-July) Granny Smith This famous apple originated as a chance seedling in the back garden of a Mrs. Mary Anne Smith of Ryde near Sydney around 1860. It's thought to be the offspring of a variety called "French Crab" which it closely resembles. Granny's are large and very green with prominent dots on the skin. The white flesh is very crisp, juicy and acid. Unfortunately the public seldom have a chance to eat fully mature Granny's straight off the tree as they are picked in March and cool stored. If left on the tree long enough they go dull yellow and really are good to eat. Great eaten cooked and also in cider when mixed with sweeter varieties. Suitable for low-chill conditions.(Text from Woodbridge)
Here is the effect we are going for with the espaliering -
This photo is actually from Woodbridge fruit trees website and there is quite a bit of helpful information on how to start dwarf apples in an espalier planting. Link to website.
I went through my old family photos to see if we had any of the trees as they were growing. I never deliberately photographed the trees, instead I seem to have captured them in these family shots. Here is a photo of my daughter in her preschool year. It is 2006, the year we planted the trees. You can just see the trees behind my daughter and in one photo you can still see their yellow plastic labels and that the trees aren't even up to the first wire of the espalier framework.
This next photo below is from March 2009, so the trees are in their third season and over Tim's shoulder you can just make out that the trees are up to the second wire, and if you look really closely you can see they have reasonable branches on the bottom wire. Oh, and you might notice the Canberra festival time of year - hot air balloons. We were eating breakfast and we heard this great whoosh of noise and so we rushed outside. There were about 30 balloons in the sky but by the time I'd grabbed my camera there were only these left to be captured and recorded.
Then this photo below is just after we installed the new fence and gate in October 2009. So this is the apple trees 4th season and you can just make out some flowers on some of the branches. We had the garden fence made for us by a blacksmith at Fyshwick, as we wanted a garden gate that looked organic and like a vine. We think they did a wonderful job and they said they really enjoyed making it for us as most customers don't ask for creative interpretations. We had just described what we wanted and left the blacksmith to do the rest.
Then this photo below is from February 2011, so the apple trees are in their 5th season and you can see the Granny Smiths all green and plump on the tree. You can also see the codling moth traps on the trunks of the trees.
Later on in the season this year, I'll try to remember to post an update on how the apple trees are going and whether we've had an trouble with codling moth. Last year we didn't have much, just a tiny bit on one tree, but still, we'd like to stay on top of it as I gather it can be a very invasive pest. Green Harvest have a little bit of information on codling moth, and how to deal with it.