Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Orchards... Beautiful and Practical

I have just finished reading an article about the decline in British orchards. I was quite surprised at how many different species of apple can be grown in Britain, and used to be grown in abundance. The number of species now grown for the ‘commercial’ market has dropped significantly with lots of once common varieties disappearing completely from the shelves. Apparently, out of 2000 species of apple being grown in Britain only 30 of these are for commercial reasons, the rest are just for 'pleasure' growers. Orchards in themselves are diminishing at a great rate and it is said to be due to the commercialisation of apples and the requirements of supermarkets for the 'perfect' fruit. Although tasting good the British apple can be less than attractive leaving the market open for ‘prettier’, more uniform fruit growers. Although it is still possible to obtain any of the British species some are more popular than others as we are only exposed to what is in the supermarkets. So I suggest we all head down the local farmer's market and get trying some varieties we have never heard of! Bring back the British apple!!

All this talk of apples and orchards has got me thinking about this new place we are buying (yes, we still are and keep an eye on the 'Upcoming Events' for more info!!). We should be inheriting a huge field and it occurs to me that part of this could be given over to a nice little orchard. By little I mean about 6 trees! But I always have a vision of country life that includes an orchard, covered in wild flowers and some little white ducks running around in it, so with that image firmly in mind I decided to investigate.

I have read that one only requires a minimum of 5 trees to be considered an orchard, so that shouldn’t be too hard to get! The number of different fruits that can be grown in Britain surprises me (today is a day to be surprised by fruit!). From apples to plums to pears there is a wide variety of fruits available to the British climate. But being in Scotland, albeit a warmer part we will need to be careful we pick something hardy enough.

Apple Trees
I would defiantly be looking for apple trees and due to my love of cooking I think that a cooking variety and a eating/dessert variety are on the cards. Now some of these require two or more trees each to ensure pollination but there are some varieties that are self-pollinating, these could come in handy. Self-pollinating plants do better with a pollinator partner but should be pretty self fertile. Obviously there are many varieties that are possible but who require the help of another of the same species. These include:

Self PollinatorsRequire Pollinator
· Sunset
· Royal Gala
· Scrumptious
· Braeburn
· Laxton’s Superb
· Golden Hornet
· Bountiful
· Discovery
· Bramley
· Katy
· Howgate Wonder
· Sweet Society

This is obviously not a definitive list, if anyone has any favourites, let me know and I can add them to the table!!
I have found that there are many varieties that can stand the Scottish climate so I don’t think that I will have a problem finding the perfect tree for me. Currently liking the sound of the Sunset, as I have had first hand reports from friends that this not only grows and survives but it also bears fruit!

Found For You
On my travels around the web and the magazine rack I have found a nice little company that will supply you with ‘Orchard in a Box’ (my name not theirs!) it consists of basically 5 trees that will fruit the following year to planting: you’d get 2 apple trees, 1 pear, 1 plum and a greengage. They also stock a wide range of fruit trees and a whole heap ‘o’ help. If you want to check them out go to

Other Fruits for an Orchard
I think that I would want something other than apples in my little orchard. And the list seems quite bountiful. There are the obvious pears, but also cherries, damsons and plums all grow well in Britain and are excellent partners in the orchard for apples, and excellent partners in the kitchen too! Maybe some of each are in order for our slowly expanding orchard plan!

I am hoping to grow some fun fruits like peaches but I’ll save that for another post. I hope this has inspired you to take a look at growing your own tree. Keep in mind that dwarf varieties of most of these plants are available and can easily be grown in pots or containers; you don’t need an orchard to be growing your own!

Useful Links

Apples and Orchards Project
Trees in Pots
Fruit trees for Scotland


  1. Sounds wonderful. I've always wanted an apple tree to make my own apple butter with.

    You'll have to post a pic when you finally get set up and get them planted :D

  2. I certainly hope to get some photos, I would love to have a whole section about my orchard!

    Apple butter? That sounds great!

  3. I love your blog...would really like to follow it but can't see how???


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