A couple of years ago I telephoned a well respected fruit tree supplier to ask his advice on varieties most appropriate for growing at Cliffe, with a view to buy some apple trees for planting above the greenhouse. I informed him of our aspect, soil and weather conditions and waited with bated breath: would it be Cornish Gillyflower, Fair Maid of Devon or the Plympton Pippin? “Move house” was his considered opinion. Well 50 years ago or more, when they planted what we call The Orchard (in fact more accurately Sparce Remains of An Orchard), they weren’t so negative. The two remaining trees are full of fruit, practically disease free, without any tending for many years. Lichen clothed and embracing each other, I have often looked at them and wondered if I should attempt a radical formative pruning. I am glad that I resisted. Today I picked what I could without tugging or climbing ladders and will return to pick more over the next few weeks. It would have been rude not to undertake a little product testing and my assessment is “sharp but not so sharp as to be just a cooker, maybe dual purpose”, but I may have to try again just to be sure. So what do you think of that Mr Expert?
In case you wondered, I completely ignored his advice, bought several very cheap trees and planted them anyway. Although not thriving they are doing just fine, a little nibbled perhaps but soldiering on, just like us all.