Gardening in France: Apple tree problems

It was that urge of chasing the no-responsible- air mile-apple that drew me down the rabbit hole of a single of the most bewildering horticultural specialities I have encountered: apple and pear developing. What to choose, how to prepare, when to prune?

I grafted my nine apple trees myself, courtesy of the once-a-year bourse (trade) of ‘scions’ run by my regional Croqueurs de Pommes on the initially Sunday of February 2014. (The scion is the brief vegetative section of the cultivar you want to improve that is then deftly – or not, in my situation – hooked up by a lovable little bit of carpentry to the rootstock.). My ignorance was profound as I wandered all around the complicated array of preference at that very first bourse. I should really have carried out my January homework!

What would you choose? If your desire, like mine, is a dwelling-grown apple in January, you should really go for apples that can be picked latish (say, mid-Oct) and hold properly by way of right until March.

Right here are some of the best, all of which are fortunately pollinated by ‘Reine des Reinettes’:

  • ‘Reinette Grise du Canada’. An old heritage cultivar and the default russet in France. Keeps through till May possibly (they say!) when harvested mid-October.
  • Calville Blanc d’Hiver’ and ‘Calville Rouge d’Hiver’. Heritage varieties, known as considerably back as 1598 in the scenario of the ‘Blanc’. They are a peculiar, rather lumpy condition and the gourmand apple of French chefs, most popular for Tarte Tatin. The preliminary, instead sharp, taste grows sweeter in storage. Believe that it or not, they comprise a lot more vitamin C than an orange.
  • ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ stays accurate with storage, but it doesn’t like a good deal of warmth in cultivation, so not useful south of the Loire.
  • ‘Braeburn’ is my remaining selection – it nearly matches ‘Cox’s Pippin’ for ‘eatability’ and trying to keep!

As perfectly as picking out your versions, January is also a fantastic thirty day period to be pruning and training 

An open-developed bush or tree is reasonably straightforward to prune and train. But what about espaliers? I chose that variety in my have yard simply because I preferred to divide up the open up house at the base of the garden with decorative screens that would give me a perception of different ‘rooms’.

My espaliers are planted to be qualified in opposition to four wires, strained horizontally concerning posts, every wire about 40-45cms apart. In theory I’ll be capable to do without the need of the wires and posts afterwards on, but I’m not absolutely sure if I’ll be around that extensive!

In the initially wintertime after planting, slice the young trees back to just earlier mentioned the first wire. Leave 3 buds at the tip. The top bud is for vertical development and beneath it there must be two buds, one particular struggling with correct, one remaining. The central bud advancement that arises in the spring will be experienced vertically to carry on up to the following wire, the growth from the other two is experienced to bamboo canes tied to your wires at an angle of about 45 degrees.

The subsequent wintertime you can tie down these branches to the horizontal wires, taking away the canes totally. But really don’t be in also a great deal of a hurry, as premature horizontal training will depress development. Prune back to 10 to 13cms any other shoots that come up from the central stem. Rinse and repeat in the a long time that abide by till the best wire is attained – et voilà! You have your fruiting framework and can just focus on summer pruning in August.

Preference of cultivars for espaliers?

I now know that spur-bearing trees – this kind of as all of the superior ‘keepers’ I’ve instructed above – make the best espaliers. Their fruit is solely manufactured on extremely brief spurs arising from the key horizontal ‘arms’ of the tree, which allows you to prune pretty difficult in August summertime pruning is a lot much more intense on an espalier than it would be on a fewer formally developed tree.

All of the vegetative progress of that period, arising from the horizontal ‘arms’ of the espalier, is minimize away totally to just 3 buds earlier mentioned the basal cluster of leaves that sprout from the wooden of the ‘arm’.

Here’s exactly where I seriously boobed, for the reason that when I grafted my vegetation in 2014 I chose two cultivars which, whilst incredibly great, are partial suggestion-bearers. ‘Transparente Blanche’ and ‘Blenheim Orange’ do a sizeable proportion of their fruiting at the guidelines of their vegetative progress – advancement which, of training course, I am busily pruning absent in August! The good thing is, my two are not real tip-bearers and do produce limited fruiting spurs following to the structural branches as perfectly. Only time will tell if they generate plenty of small fruiting spurs to justify getting experienced them as espaliers!

The rabbit gap goes on and on… and I proceed to worm my way to the base. If only I’d carried out my research a lot more totally. But don’t be deterred by my expertise – grafting and rising fruit trees formally is immensely worthwhile and there is typically a way to treatment your ‘mistakes’.

Have you got a favourite apple cultivar? I’d appreciate to listen to why you like it. Really feel no cost to get in contact – electronic mail me at

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