Jun 182012
 

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In an old plant catalogue there are listed many apple and other fruit trees that have become lost to cultivation. The tragedy of this is that some of these cultivars have become discarded for reasons of commercial profit and the fact that their shelf life is short is also another excuse for not growing them. One wonders therefore at the reasoning for keeping apples harvested in March in cool storage so that they can be bought in the following February!

As an avid plant collector I have small orchard of heritage fruit trees. There are apples with histories traced back to Roman times and medieval times. My personal preference is for the russetted apple and through conscientious propagators I have been able to source them. I have 60 apples, 10 plums, 6 pears and 5 quinces. All are fruits from days gone by. Exotic names like Andre Sauvage, Fenouillet Gris, Geeveston Fanny, Saint Edmund’s Pippin will never be found on supermarket shelves. I like being different, and growing your own unique fruit provides so many rewards. Some of these apples are smaller but the flavour is unsurpassable.

Apparently the “jazz” apple was bred in NZ with parents Splendour, Braeburn and Gala. The “jazz” apple trees being grown in Australia have so many patents and restrictions that Bob Magnus in Tasmania refers to it as the lawyers’ apple.

We were burnt out in the 2009 Victorian bushfires and I had to set about with re-establishing the garden. This time I chose to plant dwarf heritage apples as space meant that I could squeeze in more. I am able to plant the trees about 2 metres apart and as they grow to about 2-3 metres high. Pruning will be to tidy up and maintain their shape. This means fruit is reachable and is much less fiddly than espaliering which is what I had done before the fires. I have also been able to use ‘step over’ trees. These will grow to about 30cms to 50 cms and in France they are used as barriers between vegetable beds. Also using crab apples as pollinators ensures the use of heritage plants thereby preserving them for the next generation.

My variety of fruit trees means that I should have fruit from early January through to August. I know that as caretaker of these unique plants I can maintain and conserve the heritage. It also means that I am empowered in growing my own.

These are the growers I source my stocks from:

1. Woodbridge Fruit Trees in Tasmania. They have their catalogue on line in mid April and package and ship to the mainland. My parcels have been well packaged and the quality is excellent. They also have heritage dwarf Pears, Quinces, Cherries and Crabs. As well they have the ‘stepover’ crab and apple trees. The cultivation notes are also a great resource.

2. Strzelecki Heritage Apples provide a very long list of heritage apples as well as a large range of pears, plums, crabapples and quince. They can be contacted on 5659 5242. They will also do grafting for specific types at a small cost.

3. Yalca Fruit Trees is online and they have a wide variety of fruit trees besides apple – figs, persimmons, plums and apricots which are dwarf stock.

Going on line and looking up ‘Heritage Fruit Trees’ provides other growers. One other nursery that I have received dwarf Mulberry trees from is Daley’s Fruit Trees in NSW.

So if space is an issue and you want to grow more with more choice, having dwarf fruit trees is a good way to go. I think it is a much better suggestion than to plant more than one apple in the one hole as I have seen suggested on some gardening programs.

Thankyou to Strzelecki Heritage Apples for providing the beautiful pictures.

Regards Alex Pottage

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  4 Responses to “The Importance of Heritage Fruit Trees”

  1. Pete the Permie at Telopea nursery in Monbulk Vic also provides heritage trees

  2. I did the UTAS Science of Gardening Course and my Lecturer recommended Cox Orange Pippins as his favourite Apple which I’m assuming is a old heritage variety .
    I am hoping to source more cider varieties to plant as I’d love to make some cider one day

  3. Go for M26 medium size rootstock.it is less susceptible to woolly aphids. It is easy to keep the tree to a suitable size. Winter tip prune, summer major prune.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your article on Heritage Fruit Trees.
    I battled for two seasons fighting the woolly aphids on a Golden Delicious and Fuji dwarf apple trees, they finally won and the trees gave up in the end. After reading this article I followed up on the dwarfing rootstock that appears to be used and it appears that the M-9 root stock is very common. This was the rootstock used on my trees, and appears to be highly susceptible to woolly aphids.
    My question is now that I have had woolly aphids in my garden/orchard area, can I get new trees that area not so susceptible, or is there a treatment I can do to the ground to avoid a further issues with woolly aphids?
    Frank

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