Sunday, 1 May 2011

The training begins

Yesterday's trip to Siloam Orchards was very successful, and I was able to leave with three distinct variety, all with quite different characteristics.

Duchess of Oldenburg -
My first selection, the Duchess of Oldenburg, is an old Russian variety, originating in the 18th Century, and the Google tells me it was imported to Virginia in the 1830s.  The Duchess is apparently a bit of an old tart, intended for cooking to mellow her acid temperament, and I chose her because as a child, we always had specific cooking apples for use in sauce or pies, and "cookers" are available in the UK as a standard supermarket variety, a distinction I've never observed in Canada, where apples for sale seem always intended to eat raw by first intent.
Pomme Gris - from The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso

My second selection is Pomme Gris, which has been around in some form since the 16th century, and sounds like a very classic russet, and I'm looking forward to that nutty undertone and slightly different texture that russets display, in a few years.

Tolman Sweet - photo Russell Stafford
My third and final selection is Tolman Sweet, which seems to have a rather unknown history, but has been documented since at least 1822, and seems to make an excellent baked apple, as well as being good for pickling and canning, which might be a boon for those who know my appetite for chutney!

The trees were at exactly the stage needed, one year old whips, grafted on to appropriate rootstock, provided as bare root specimens ready for immediate planting.  Since I have yet to build the framework on which I'll be training the espaliers, I've potted them up for now, and have made a first pruning cut to a height of 18 inches.  In a few days, this should induce buds to start to break and I'll select the 6 topmost buds to keep and rub off all others.  Of these, I'll select the most vertical to form "the leader" which will be the main upright of the tree, and the two most suitable for training as the horizontal branches of my first tier, after which I'll remove any remaining sprouts.  The process of creating the framework of a 4 or 5 tier will take 4 or 5 years to complete, so plenty of patience will be required along the way.

This is what my starting point looks like:

And here is the kind of form I hope to achieve over the course of a few years:

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