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Apple tips

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Apples for containers

7 October 2010

Heritage varieties of apple - a real taste treat

It's not just time to harvest your apples - now's a great time to buy new trees, so RHS Online caught up with award-winning growers Pennard Plants to find out their tips for success.

Interest in heritage varieties is huge - and they're tasty too! Chris Smith, co-owner of Somerset-based Pennard Plants, is keen to encourage gardeners to make more of the connection between growing and kitchen.

Chris stocks heritage apple trees that are perfect for growing in containers on your balcony or patio. "If you pick the right variety they are easy to grow," says Chris.

Easy apples for containers

'Worcester Pearmain': Originating from Worcester in the 1870s, this mid-season dessert apple is sweet with a pleasant rounded flavour and hint of strawberries. The skin is scarlet red over greenish background with russet dots. The flesh is white, crisp, fairly coarse and juicy. It's resistant to frost but a tip bearer, so prune carefully. And it's self-fertile but better with a pollinator.

'Court Pendu Plat': An old English apple variety with a history dating back to the early 1600s and many earlier references. Popular in Victorian times, it's a free-bearing tree with lovely crisp fruit, very hardy and frost tolerant.

'Pitmaston Pineapple': Perfect for containers and small gardens, this old English russet apple is distinctive and delicious. A small golden, warm yellow apple, with a powerful nutty flavour, honey sweet yet also sharp, with a distinct aroma and taste of pineapple. Suitable for shaping into espaliers, cordons, and juicing. 

Chris'  personal favourite

"My own favourite apple is 'Ergemont Russet'," says Chris. A classic English russet apple from the Victorian era, 'Ergemont Russet' is an attractive, upright tree covered in pure white, cup-shaped flowers in mid and late spring, followed by firm dessert apples, with a crisp, nutty flavour.

  • 'Ergemont Russet' is a moderately vigorous variety
  • Produces fruits for harvesting in late September
  • Suitable for training as espalier and cordon
  • Excellent for exposed gardens
  • Has high disease resistance, so a good choice for organic gardeners.

How to succeed with new apple trees

Chris won a silver-gilt flora medal at the RHS London Autumn Harvest Show for his seasonal display. Here he gives his top tips for succeeding with your newly-bought tree.

  1. Once you've bought your tree, plant it up as soon as possible. If you're planting in the ground, the soil is still warm and the tree will grow a good, strong  root system.

  2. Give your new tree a good dose of general fertiliser, like blood, fish and bone.

  3. Stake the tree - this is very important says Chris, to prevent the wind rocking the tree and damaging roots.

  4. Never use manure when planting fruit trees.

  5. Think about how you are going to train your tree. Do you want a column, a bush, trained against a wall as espalliers or cordons? Once you've decided - find out how to prune it correctly.

Pennard Plants offers heritage and heirloom flower, herb and vegetable seeds as well as fruit trees and produce.

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