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Gardens: ‘Remember how short our growing season can be’

THE winter holidays are over but in my garden we’ll remember Christmas 2012 as we have just welcomed some new arrivals to the fruit plot.

We decided it would be a great idea to give each other some Scottish apple trees this year to replace a couple of inherited ones that had poor fruiting performance. Not only has this given us fruit trees to enjoy over many years to come, but we also had good fun doing the detective work necessary to work out the best varieties for our garden.

When choosing apples for Scotland, it is important to remember how short our growing season can be; at one end late frosts mean choosing a variety that blooms late or has frost-proof flowers, the other end of the year needs varieties that ripen early to allow picking before too much cold weather in the autumn.

Added to this, no domestic apples are reliably or consistently self-fertile; instead they are categorised into groups according to their time of flowering, allowing us to choose and plant those from the same group or a closely overlapping one to ensure good pollination.

The other factor to consider is rootstock size as this will affect the final size of your tree. Best sizes for the small garden are: M27, which is very dwarfing, producing a tree around 1m in height; M9 dwarf at 1.6m; or M26, still fairly dwarfing at 1.8m. All of these heights are after about seven years. Root stocks that produce larger trees are available, but remember to work out how much space you have before you buy. We are going to grow ours as cordons and espaliers against a fence so the smaller ones are ideal.

The varieties we finally plumped for are; Fiesta, James Grieve, Discovery and Spartan, supplied by a Scottish nursery. If you are in any doubt about compatibility, hardiness and growth habits, seek advice from the grower themselves. k

Ann Burns, Team Leader 
Horticulture and Landscape Construction, Scotland’s Rural College (01506 864 800, www.sruc.ac.uk)

 

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