The printed catalogue is now 'out of print' and a new one is being prepared, though it will take time. We think it should be worth the wait. Meanwhile, please rely upon the website, which will have new additions gradually added. In order to save the effort of seeing what has been added by wading through the lists, we are adding a gradually increasing list of 'additions' below. Even adding the additions will take time, so please keep returning!

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Apple
Acme
Alabaster
Aldbrough Dog's Snout
Allgrove's Purple Crab
Beauty of Wiltshire
Brittle Sweet
Cats and Dogs
Coe's Golden Drop

East Ayton Early
Englische Spitalrenette
Improved Keswick Codlin
Jim Bacon Apple
Studley Gold
Sutton Sunset

 

 

Pear
Endicott Pear

Plum
Old Duchy Gage

Medlar
Stoneless

 

APPLES

ACME
Raised by Seabrook and Sons of Boreham, Essex in 1944, as a cross of Worcester Pearmain x Rival, and then possibly crossed with Cox’s Orange Pippin. A middle to late season, medium size, sometimes large dessert apple, also widely grown in the USA and France. Flat to round with yellow skin, blushed pink and striped with scarlet, sometimes with a little russet. The flesh is firm, juicy, cream, sweet and with a rich fragrance. It has been said to store to January or February but in December it loses much of its flavour, though it stays in a firm and juicy condition. An attractive and regularly formed apple which crops well. Good.

 

ALABASTER
A lovely and attractive white apple that appears to have first been known in Germany and is probably very old. The only known historical reference in England was in the report of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Apple and Pear Conference, held at Crystal Palace in 1934, when it was sent from Oxfordshire. It was described as a large, red streaked, middle season, dual purpose apple, with a flat shape, lasting to November. We discovered an apple of this name in the Nick Botner collection in Oregon and he sent us scions to graft new trees here, early in the new millennium. Though the fruit here is more medium sized than large, and the red streaks are few, the rest of the characteristics are in accord. The skin is mostly very pale, punctuated with prominent lenticels, and the flesh is also very pale. It is ripe in late September, and juicy, sweet and very richly flavoured. It retains these qualities into mid-November, though the apples are, by then, shrinking slightly. There is an earlier history in Europe and America. Charles Gibb, of Abbotsford, Quebec, undertook the task of cataloguing and renaming hundreds of fruits which had been sent to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture from Russia in 1870. Most of the apples were Russian, though some were originally from elsewhere in Europe, judging by the names given by the Russians. The task was to give the fruits names more palatable to the American public. Gibb’s publication – “The Nomenclature of our Russian Fruits” – from the American Pomological Society’s report of 1887 – revealed that Russia had this apple under the name of Weisser Alabaster, presumably having received it from Germany some years before 1870. Gibb renamed it Alabaster.

Pollination Group 4

  ALDBROUGH DOG’S SNOUT
When Jess Young was newly arrived in the village of Aldbrough St. John, a very old settlement near Richmond, North Yorkshire, he took a walk to acquaint himself with the place. He was intrigued by a scruffy old apple tree he discovered just outside of the village, on a lane verge, now public land, though technically still owned by the adjacent farm. The tree was in fruit and Jess sought our views on such a strange apple. A hedge separates the verge from the farm now, the hedge having been moved back 50-60 years ago, according to the farmer John Gill, because the old hedge was on a 90 degree bend, obscuring visibility and deemed dangerous. Mr Gill also reported to Jess Young’s enquiries that he thought the tree might have been donated by a now deceased individual who found it as a young tree about 50-60 years ago. Mr Gill’s father referred to the apple as ‘dog’s snouts’. The tree does appear to be older than that account, but apple trees can be very deceptive and this particular tree has had a cruel life. It has multiple trunks as if the original trunk rotted away and the lower living bark sent up new trunks, but it has received regular trimming from tractor mowers in the past and has re-grown very bushy. It is such an ‘individual’ apple that it is either a very old variety or a chance seedling that has revealed some ancient characteristic. It is certainly worthy of preservation, the apples being of good quality and the tree being an abundant bearer. Jess Young sent us apples and scions and new trees were grafted in 2018. The apples are large, bright green with an amber blush, very long and ribbed, with a waist towards the eye, giving a snouty appearance. The core is large, hollow and with few if any pips. The apple is really rather light and the texture yielding, sweet enough to eat, though sometimes a little sharp, but better cooked, preferably stewed or poached, when it softens fairly quickly and keeps its shape. The acidity is less and it develops a rich lemony flavour. Ripe from late September, it will last to early December but with some shrinkage. We are grateful to Jess Young and John Gill for all their help in the story and for preserving this interesting apple.
  ALLGROVE’S PURPLE CRAB
The old Veitch’s Nursery at Middle Green, Langley, Buckinghamshire, was taken over by the Allgrove family in the mid-20th century and closed at the end of the century, with the passing of Jim Allgrove. When we visited him in 1995, he showed us a purple skinned, red fleshed apple, which he grew, but without a name. When he died, the nursery went wild and names of closely planted trees were lost, but a friend of the family who knew the nursery well, Nick Houston, was able to find a few varieties and he brought us scions to graft. This apple was one. Though we call it a Crab, since it resembles in some ways the Siberian crabs, like Malus Niedzwetzkyana, it obviously has some Malus Domestica in it parentage as it is not a harsh, hard Russian Crab. Ripe in October, the flesh is red throughout, spongy and glistening when cut, from the juiciness. The flavour is sweet, with a little sourness, rather than sharpness. It is a fair eating apple, but not strong in flavour and would serve better in a colourful salad or juiced. The slightly conical, lightly ribbed apples are medium sized to large, with deep carmine glossy skin, overlaid with thin, reddish and mottled russet. The wood has dark coloured bark, with a little red underneath, but the wood is not so red stained as other ‘crabs’ like Niedzwetzkyana. An interesting, if not classic, eating apple but one which has not been fully tested by us yet and which might have merits when cooked. Our new trees have been slow to fruit, so we cannot yet say.
  BEAUTY OF WILTSHIRE
There is much history to this apple – or apples. Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts dates from the middle of the 18th century. Some have considered it a renaming of Harvey’s Pippin (wrongly), which was even older. Then there is Beauty of Wilts, which first appears under this name in 1826. The London Horticultural Society catalogues of 1826 to 1842 consider them to be different. The latter is described (mostly) as green with a red flush, similar to Blenheim Orange and principally for cooking. The former is an eating apple, also useful cooked, and is pale yellow with red spots and flecks. Space does not permit the detailed and fascinating story of the view that was taken of – for and against – Mr Dredge and the confusion with Harvey’s Pippin. Suffice it to say that the record of Beauty of Wilts is patchy, inconsistent and not particularly trustworthy, while the descriptions of Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts are full. Through both confusion and neglect, Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts, Harvey’s Pippin and Beauty of Wilts were all lost in these Isles, in the 19th century. However, an apple called Schöner Von (or Aus) Wiltshire has existed, in plain sight, in Germany ever since its migration there. It is surprising that no-one has thought to bring it back. It is known there with the synonym of Beauty of Wiltshire and though its origin has incorrectly been attributed to John Standish, apple breeder of Ascot, Berkshire, around 1880, it appears to be Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts. It is a medium sized, eating apple, ripe in November, with skin of pale yellow, dotted and streaked with red, and with slightly spicy, sweet and juicy flesh. One of the several authors on Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts, Loudon, in ‘An Encyclopaedia of Gardening’ in 1822, said that it was raised ‘say’ 1750, was about medium size or above, oval, bright yellow, spotted with red, ripe from October to March, firm and juicy, a great bearer and “one of the best apples yet known in point of general utility”. It is well regarded in Germany too. Matthias Buchta of Bavaria kindly sent us scions in 2019, his stock originally from the Julius-Keuhn Institute, and we now have it back where it rightly belongs. Though we call it Beauty of Wiltshire, a direct translation from the Gerrman, it seems to be Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts and not the green, red flushed cooking apple called Beauty of Wilts by others in the past. Dredge’s Nursery at Wishford, Wilts, was highly regarded in the mid 18th century but when the London Horticultural Society classified Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts as being the same as the old Harvey’s Pippin (seemingly wrongly), it encouraged the belief that Dredge was presenting older apples as if they were his own. Hogg (1851) and Scott (1872) both made attacks on the authenticity of Dredge’s work. However, Rogers (1837) said “This apple, as before noticed, has been confounded with Dredge’s Beauty: but the author is certain they are decidedly distinct. The Harvey’s pippin was in existence in this country before Dredge’s time; and as Dredge himself informed the author, above forty years ago, he raised his Beauty and two others from the same sowing, both perfectly different from the Harvey’s pippin.” Even Scott described both Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts and Harvey’s Pippin in his ‘The Orchardist’ of 1872, somewhat differently. The scandal might have led some to drop the ‘Dredge’s’ from the name, or perhaps another Beauty of Wilts came into being – a cooking apple. The apple we now have back seems to be Dredge’s Beauty of Wilts.
  BRITTLE SWEET
While discussing various apples by email with Krystina Hill, who organized and co-ordinated an apple, pear and plum collection in South Island, New Zealand, we found a few gems in her collection lists. She later visited us and our discussions continued. Hans, one of her archivers, had received scions of Brittle Sweet from a friend and it entered her collection. It seemed the only place where this important old American apple could still be found. Its origin in America was unknown according to Andrew Downing in his ‘The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America’ in the 1867 edition. He rated it very highly, among the best and deserving more attention. By 1872 it was in England, with John Scott in Somerset, who wrote of it in almost identical terms to Downing, in his ‘The Orchardist’. Though it was listed as late as 1895, as a name, it does not seem to have been observed since the 1870s. The size is above medium, roundish, approaching conical, pale yellow splashed and marbled with light and dark crimson, and with many small grey and white dots.
The stalk is rather short and slender, the cavity regular, broad and moderately deep. The eye is closed, with small segments, often recurved, in a small corrugated basin. The core is rather large and the flesh is yellowish, crisp, tender, juicy and rich, with honeyed sweetness and an aromatic flavour. Ripe in October and November. We have now returned it to America. Our gratitude to Krystina for this, Reinette de Thorn (Torun), Engelsche Bellefleur and others.
 
  CATS AND DOGS
This interesting and very tasty apple was introduced to us by Andrew Nicolson of Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. He found the sorry-for-itself scrubby tree 5 metres from the railway line at Bradford and Avoncliff and next to the fence of a country lane. He warned us of its impending demise at the hands trackside clearance workers and sent us apples in November 2017 and scionwood the following year, just before and just after the tree had been destroyed. The name of Cats and Dogs, given by Andrew, comes from the thorough drenching he got on a fiercely wet day, while collecting scions. The tree might have been planted by a railway worker, it being common for track workers to be given small allotments along the line, but it might also have arisen from a discarded core. If it once had a single trunk, it had been damaged and lost and when found it had three substantial trunks, one over a metre in girth. There was no sign of a graft line. The line opened in 1857 but there are no reasons to believe the tree predated the opening. The apple itself can be very long, tubular, slightly conical and with a distinct snout. The eye is in a deep knobbed/ribbed basin and is usually open. The stalk short or very short, not that thick, and in a darkly russeted cavity. The matt, waxy, pale yellow skin is liberally sprinkled with prominent russet dots. The new trees have not yet fruited here, so our experience comes from apples sent in November, when they might have been a shade over-ripe, but they were juicy enough, light in texture, pale fleshed, sweet, not sharp, and with a good enough flavour to eat raw, with pleasure. When cooked, the flesh breaks down very quickly indeed to a purée with the flavour much enhanced – sweet, rich and lemony. A very good apple, saved from extinction by Andrew.
  COE’S GOLDEN DROP
A small, richly flavoured dessert apple, which was seemingly raised by Jervaise (or Gervase) Coe, of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, around 1790, though Hogg (1884) suggests it might have been an older variety from the Essex orchards, merely propagated by Coe as being his own. The first formal record was in 1842, when it was in the collection of the London Horticultural Society. The fruit is small and conical, with yellow skin, blushed with crimson in the sun and with a few patches of thin russet. The flesh is crisp and very juicy. ‘A delicious little dessert apple of the first quality', according to Hogg, in season from November to May. Scott, in ‘The Orchardist’ of 1872, described it as being of top quality, golden yellow when ripe, with crimson dots and tracings of delicate russet. He added that the stalk is 1 inch long, inserted in a small russeted basin, the russet spreading over the base. The eye is small and open, set nearly level and surrounded with a few plaits. The flesh is greenish yellow, firm and crisp, with juice abundant, rich, sugary and vinous. The tree is a dwarf upright grower and bears well. The apple was illustrated in the Herefordshire Pomona of 1876-85. Taylor (1946) said that it was faintly blushed brown. Once universally popular this apple was even taken to Australia. It was included in the Royal Society of Van Dieman’s Land 1855 list of fruits, growing in the Society’s gardens. Van Dieman’s Land was the early name for Tasmania, the name changing in 1856. Many old English apples and other fruits were taken to Australia by early settlers and the spelling of the apples and pears in this list suggests they were in Australia, under early spellings, at the start of the 19th century. For example, Beachamwell was spelt Beauchampwell, the earlier name that had been replaced by the 1830s. In modern times there is some uncertainty about the authenticity of this apple in some collections. It was withdrawn from the National Collection at the start of the 21st century, perhaps under the assumption that it was falsely named. It does not appear to have been in the National Fruit Trials at the time of the National Apple Register but was in the collection in 1960, when material was donated to the US Department of Agriculture collection at Geneva, New York. They still have it, but their example shows a more rounded and flattened form than the conical apple illustrated in the Herefordshire Pomona and described in the 19th century. It is still held at RHS Wisley, whose example is more conical and closer in appearance to old descriptions. Our apple came from America and matches old descriptions, though our soil produces more red streaks and less russet. A very good apple.
  EAST AYTON EARLY
In the days before container ships, cold stores and supermarkets, storing apples from local orchards was vital. Very few apple varieties will last into May and those that do would be shunken and tasteless. It was serious matter when the earliest new season apples were some way away. Even more serious was the time when the last year’s cider ran dry. Both cottager and estate needed trees that would produce apples as early in the year as possible. By common consent, in all the old literature, these would have been the Joanetings, though the spelling has changed markedly over the centuries and though they are now called Joanetings, this is surely a corrupted spelling. Bacon, in the early 17th century first noted them, but we have no record of the spelling. Gervaise Markham, in 1613, called them ‘Ieniting’. Parkinson in 1629 had Geneting. Hanmer in 1659 had Janetting. Rea (1665) and Evelyn (1669) had Juniting. The apple(s) have also been called Jenneting, Juneting and Juneating. The name Juneating is noteworthy because some authors have said that they are ripe in June! Rea (1665) says that on a wall they are ripe in the end of June. Batty Langley, in his Pomona 1727 shows a plate of an apple labelled ‘Genetting’ and a date alongside of June 1st 1727. Forsyth and other at the start of the 19th century also confirm the early ripeness, though later writers suggested this was impossible and that the Joanetings then known only ripened at the end of July. Explanation? In 1752 Britain (well behind other European countries) changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Errors had built up over time, under the Julian calendar, and corrections had to be made. 11 days were removed from the calendar to put things back on course. Thus, people went to bed on the 2nd September and woke to find it was then the 14th September. Nobody told the apple trees, which kept their own timing to ripeness. An apple that might have been ripe in late June would now be ripe in July. Cue Judy Trafford who, in 2018, told us about her mature apple tree with the fruit ripe in July. That would be very early for any apple in the Midlands or South of England, but Judy lives at East Ayton, near Scarborough, in North Yorkshire, right against the cold North York Moors. We wondered whether it could be one of the Joanetings and also wondered when it would ripen in warmer parts of the country (as yet untested). Judy sent us the last surving apples at the start of September (early apples do not keep for long) and they were not in their full prime but were still in reasonable condition. Judy reported that they were a little too soft to be enjoyable for eating raw, and perhaps a little bitter, but that they made a delicious sauce, breaking down instantly. We did not find the flavour bitter, but the texture was very melting and soft. The flavour was fair, sweet and pleasantly acid. We expect the flavour would have been better a month earlier. Most apples were pale yellow with red streaks and one which was mostly red had red spots inside the core. They could not be either Red or White Joaneting. Though the Joanetings have been thoroughly confused in the old literature, with almost all writers having something different to say about the naming and which synonyms applied where, there was one called Early Striped Juneating. This might be it. Judy’s house was built in 1952 and she has lived there for 44 years. There were apple trees in neighbours’ gardens and others in her own, planted in lines not consistent with the newer houses and gardens. An earlier orchard seems to have had houses built within. Nearby are farmworkers’ cottages of a much earlier date and the orchard would likely have been the farm’s orchard, where early fruiting varieties would have been highly valued. All these other trees have now gone and East Ayton Early (named by Judy) is the sole survivor. In the 20th century early apples were rarely planted. They did not store well and were usually of lesser quality. The colonies and Europe were beginning to fill the gap with better apples available sooner. Farm orchards could and did make different choices. We wait with keen interest to see the first day of ripening in the South. Our thanks go to Judy Trafford for telling us all about her tree.
  ENGLISCHE SPITALRENETTE
When the 18th century Sykehouse Russet, from the village of Sykehouse in Yorkshire, made the journey to Germany, about 1809, it suffered an error in translation. Sykehouse was taken to mean Sick-House and the apple was introduced in Germany as Englische (English) Spital (Hospital) Renette. With many similar synonyms, it has happily resided there while it became very rare in Britain. In Germany, long aware of the original error, it still goes by the name of Englische Spitalrenette. There has been much debate as to whether the apple Sykehouse Russet still known in Britain (and grown by us) is the correct one. It might also be speculated that the Englische Spitalrenette might equally have become confused with others after 200 years, but it seems to have an equal claim, fully matching the old descriptions in England. In Germany it is described as being a small eating apple, yellow skinned with sometimes a little orange red, and with variable russet. The flesh is cream-coloured, firm, later crumbly, vinous, sweet and with good acidity. Trees are healthy and vigorous. We are grateful to Matthias Buchta of Bavaria for sending us scions in 2019.
 

IMPROVED KESWICK CODLIN
An old apple that was thought to have been lost, but we found an old tree in 2006, along with several other important fruits, in the orchard of the late Martin Stevens at Holmer Green in Buckinghamshire. Born in 1920, he was involved with orchards from childhood (as were his father and grandfather) and remembered all the names of his trees and relayed them to us. The origin and age of this apple is uncertain and it is still unknown whether it was a seedling of Keswick Codlin or a mutation. The first known record was when it was exhibited by Harrison Nurseries of Leicester, at the 1883 National Apple Congress, held at the RHS grounds at Chiswick. It was said to be later season, more rounded than Keswick Codlin and pale straw coloured. It was also described as being acid, but that might be due to the early collection of apples for exhibit, as ours is actually quite sweet. Evans and Martin (2014) have suggested the origin to be at Harrowbarrow, Callington, Cornwall, while Thornhayes Nursery have said it was from the Tamar Valley, a little further south, but we do not know what records they draw from or the source of their fruit, which seems a little different from ours. Martin Stevens informed us that his Improved Keswick Codlin was paler, more rounded, lasted longer and was a little larger. That has been our experience here. Ripe at the end of September, when cooked it keeps its shape partially, softens fairly quickly and is very fruity but not so tangy. It is sweet enough without the addition of sugar. By the end of November the apples have become sweet enough to eat raw and stay in good condition.

Pollination Group 4

  JIM BACON APPLE
This rather different little apple was heralded to us by Sarah Dray, daughter of Brendan Sellick, a fifth generation ‘Mud-Horse Fisherman’ and the one who remembered the curious name of ‘Jim Bacon Apple’. No-one knows who Jim Bacon was! Sarah lives at Mudhorse Cottage while her father, Brendan, now in his mid- eighties, lives next door –at Stolford, Somerset, where the River Severn estuary opens into the Bristol Channel. Since 1820, Brendan’s family have pushed their mudhorses (an ancient design of sledge that glides over mud) for a mile over the estuary at low tide to collect fish and crustaceans from their nets. Sadly, this family is the last to keep this ancient tradition alive, even worldwide, and Brendan’s son Adrian is the sole practitioner left. When Brendan visited the doctor at nearby Shurton village, he thought he saw a tree of Jim Bacon Apples. He remembered the name from his great grandfather, who had a tree, now gone. That would put the age of this variety around the middle of the 19th century or earlier. It reminded him that he thought there was also a tree of it next door in his son’s garden. Sarah sent us apples in 2017 and scions in 2018, and though we have yet to discover its full nature it is certainly a very ‘individual’ tree. The apples are green to yellow, with a shape variable between conical, round and oblong, with just a hint of ribbing. The apples seen were small to medium sized, but might be larger in other years. In a warm year, apples were ripe in mid-September but would normally ripen a little later. The flesh is very fine, to the point of seeming soft, but they are juicy enough and sweet, with a good flavour. The acidity is enough but not marked. The habit of growth (at least, when young) is rather compact, with a strong tendency to form spurs in profusion on quite a short length of growth, though it is not a weak grower. It looks as if it is very willing to fruit at just two years old. We are very grateful to all the Sellick family and hope the Mud-Horse Fishermen persist and thrive.
  STUDLEY GOLD
Early in 2018, Linda Sankey, the living in the village of Bremhill, Wiltshire, which was part of Lord Lansdown’s Bowood estate, told us the fascinating story of Studley Gold. Studley is the next village to Bremhill and was once also part of the Bowood estate. Linda’s friend and neighbour, Dawn, had a ‘Studley Gold’ in her garden, now a mature and elegant freestanding tree. Dawn and Bob Straker-Cook kindly sent wood for grafting and apples later in the year. Dawn, having searched hard for a name for this apple had the good fortune to spot a box of these same apples in a charity shop and, as Dawn relates in an article for the local magazine, upon enquiring the person in charge said “Well, my dear, this variety is called Studley D’Or or Studley Gold and was specially cultivated for the Bowood Estate. All the cottages on the Estate were given an apple tree, a plum tree and a pig.” This was in the 19th century, and said to be the gift of an earlier Lord Lansdown. Many of the cottages built in the 19th century have old apple and plum trees in their gardens still, though the pigs have gone. There are said to be other ‘Studley Golds’ in the neighbourhood. The apples are ripe in early to mid October and are normally bigger than those in the photo, some weighing over a pound. Though sweet enough to eat raw, fairly juicy, with fine flesh and a good flavour, they are a little sour for a top quality dessert apple and their real value is in the kitchen. When cooked the flesh softens quickly, keeps its shape and is very rich, fruity and fragrant. Just a little added sugar makes it perfect. Dawn reports that the crops are usually very prolific and she enjoys drying slices and baking and stewing the fruit. She also says that they do not keep particularly well, though we kept the apples she sent to the start of December and they were still good, even after a hot year in 2018. We are very grateful to Linda, Dawn and Bob (and the person in the charity shop) for all their help in revealing another important old variety. Perhaps, in time, the archives of the Bowood Estate might reveal more.
  SUTTON SUNSET
Near Pulborough, in Sussex, is the village of Sutton, where Fiona Wallace rented a house, before moving to Tasmania. She was so struck by a rather unusual apple tree in the garden that she alerted us to it from her new home, having enjoyed the fruit greatly during her tenancy. She told us that the tree flowered deep pink and that the leaves were copper coloured, while the apples were stained deep magenta throughout. We initially thought it was just another seedling of the Russian Crab, Malus Niedzwetskyana, which has red stained wood, deep pink blossom and apples with red flesh. However, her further description marked this tree out as being a bit special. The fruit when young and the size of large marbles already had deep red skin, flesh of deep magenta throughout, but even at this size were quite sweet, which is not typical of Malus Niedzwetskyana progeny, which are sharp, even a little bitter. Later, when the apples of this tree become medium sized they are still sweet and crunchy, good both for eating or cooking. We wrote to the address Fiona gave in the hope that the current owners would respond – and they did. Robert and Avril Southwell were also intrigued by their tree and were very enthusiastic, sending apples and photos. The tree, in the nature of its growth, clearly has a bit of another species of apple in its origin, as well as Niedzwetskyana and the domestic apple, Malus Domestica. The apples which Robert sent in the latter part of September, though not large and the best that were available that year, were very interesting. One was quite red skinned, while others had very broad but vague red stripes, uniformly spaced around, over a translucent pale green. The apples were red fleshed at the core and close to the skin. We found that the flesh could be just a little dry when fully ripe, but were mostly juicy, sweet and with gentle acid. The flavour was rather good for such a strange apple. Avril Southwell named it Sutton Sunset because their tree faces west and they get good sunsets there, illuminating the already warm tones of the tree, as the dying sun passes through. Given the stunning dark pink blossom in Spring, this mysterious tree has a lot to commend it. We are very grateful to Fiona, Robert and Avril for all their help in giving it a wider audience.
 

PEARS

ENDICOTT PEAR
Now nearly 400 years old, this is the oldest known fruit tree, with a full provenance, in the world. It is believed to be the oldest living tree in America by some. When John Endecott, an English puritan, left for America in 1628 on the ship Abigail, he landed and stayed on a small peninsula at Salem, in what would become part of Massachusetts. He is believed to have planted fruit trees on his arrival. In 1632 he was granted 300 acres of land in Danversport, three miles away and probably moved his young fruit trees. He established ‘Orchard Farm’ and planted this pear tree among many others. He is on record as having been committed to the need to produce food crops for a swelling number of immigrants to New England and it seems likely, and even supposed by some in America, that he brought grafted sapling trees with him from England. It would be a foolish immigrant who planned to feed his family by taking seeds, sowing them and then to waiting up to 10 years for the first fruit, only to find the fruit was of unpalatable quality. Seedlings more often than not produce poor fruit and only a few, selected from many, are worth keeping. Another belief was that it arrived from England on the Arbella with Winthrop in 1630. John Endecott was later first Governor of Massachusetts. He and Winthrop were directors of the Massachusetts Bay Trading Company – set up by Royal Charter of Charles I - to colonize a large area of New England. Endecott’s family later went by the name of ‘Endicott’. His pear tree was said to have been planted in 1632, some say 1640, and was known as the ‘Sugar Pear’, in ‘The Governor’s Orchard’. There is no firm evidence to conclude whether or not the tree was grafted, such was its troubled life and ground level rises quite substantially over 400 years. A descendant, Samuel Endicott, in 1823, said in a full statement that it had been imported from England and that there was no doubt of it having been grafted. Others point to its re-growth from low down as evidence of it having been a seedling and true to its roots. During its life it has been subjected to all manner of destructive forces. It blew down in 1804 and again in 1815 but rose again from the seemingly dead. The original trunk had gone, when inspected in 1924. In 1938 two remaining stems from ground level were almost destroyed by the New England Hurricane and in 1964 a vandal teenager decapitated what remained. Careful husbandry allowed it to shoot and recover, to be enfenced for security. Its history has been fully documented since its first years. A map of 1832 by John Proctor clearly marks the tree as being 200 years old. The quality of the pears has been described as poor, hard and only worth cooking or excellent to eat and sweet. President John Adams – President at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries - was very impressed with the tree and had several trees grafted for his farm. It is small to medium sized, rounded, with a long stalk and mostly said to be of sweet eating quality. Our trees have not yet fruited, so we cannot be more specific. It is most likely an English or French variety of great antiquity.

 

PLUMS

OLD DUCHY GAGE
When Prince Charles moved to the Highgrove Estate, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, he pursued his passion for organic farming there, naming the collective farms as Duchy Home Farm. His Farm Manager, David Wilson, proved and promoted organic farming there with great success and it has become a beacon, a source of knowledge and inspiration to others, under David’s direction. During a visit by us to chat about many things, David showed us some very old fruit trees in the small orchard attached to his farmhouse, and this tree was one. It stood out because, for a member of the plum family, this tree had a huge trunk girth and was clearly ancient. Rather overgrown and yielding only sparse and old wood for grafting, David helpfully pruned the tree back in 2018, to generate new growth, and new trees were grafted in 2019. It is not really a gage, as would be recognised by most since the fruit, the wood and habit of growth are all different from what we see of the many varieties of greengage, though it has aspects of the nature of a greengage in it. It is certainly not a typical plum. In particular, the bark of new growth is a warm, light brown and the leaves have a curious drooping posture, while the fruiting spurs are more lateral and pointed than domestic plums and gages. It has something of the habit of a bullace, but is not the same and is obviously of superior quality. The whole natural history of bullaces, cherry plums, mirabelles, mirobolans and damsons has been very confused and clouded in mystery throughout the historical literature, and gives us no anchor point for this tree. Perhaps it is a missing link or bridge between antiquity and what we know now. Perhaps it is a cross between a bullace and a domestic plum/gage, but it seems most likely that it was no chance seedling, idly left to grow to such an age, and in a defined orchard area. Perhaps some ancient farmer deliberately crossed a gage or plum with a favoured bullace. If it was a chance seedling some keen eyed discoverer must have brought the sapling home. The mystery will remain. It is a small fruit, the size of a large cherry, round, with the look of a small greengage, green turning golden yellow when ripe. The flesh is very juicy, sweet but with a fair degree of acidity, not found in greengages, and with a pleasant tanginess. It is ripe in late August. We thank David Wilson for his help, insights and enthusiasm.

 

MEDLAR

STONELESS
This rare variety was brought to us by horticulturist, teacher and owner of Chiltern Heritage Orchards, Lindsay Engers, who was supplied it by the now closed Read’s Nursery in Norfolk. It now seems to be almost unknown in Britain, but has quite an early history. In 1697 John Worlidge noted “If we could obtain the Medlar without stones mentioned in the French Gardiner, they would be better worth the planting.” Worlidge was referring to John Evelyn’s translation of Nicholas de Bonnefons ‘Le Jardinier François’ of 1651. Switzer, in 1724, seemed to suggest that a stoneless medlar was then known to him in Britain. We should point out that the stones are the large, hard seeds that occupy a large part of the fruit. By 1826, when the London Horticultural Society produced its first collection catalogue, Néflier Sans Noyeau was included, along with synonyms of Mespilus Germanica Abortiva and Néflier Sans Pepins. This was clearly a seedless medlar. In the 1842 edition it was noted with a further synonym of French Medlar. Pliny, in the first century, noted a Gallic Medlar, but there is no evidence to prove they are the same. Hogg and Scott in the 19th century both called the variety (possibly species) ‘Stoneless’. They came out with identical descriptions, though it has never been discovered which copied which. Both gave synonyms of Sans Noyau and Sans Pepins. They said “In shape this resembles the Nottingham, but it rarely exceeds three quarters of an inch in diameter; the eye is smaller and less rent than in the other varieties; it is quite destitute of seeds, and woody core, but the flavour, though good, is inferior to that of the others, being less brisk.” Lindsay Engers has found that the fruit on his tree is not small and is of equal flavour with Nottingham and has sent photos to confirm the former. It seems that this stoneless medlar has been afforded the sub-species name of Mespilus Germanica Apyrena and it might be that this particular stoneless medlar is an improved variety, not familiar to the 19th century. We offer our gratitude to Lindsay for bringing scions, now grafted in 2020.