Monthly Archives: July 2009

Spartan Apple Trees – Welcome to the Dark Side

Spartan apple trees are seriously photogenic.  They are generally beautifully formed, they carry masses of blossom in spring and they are generally laden with (when ripe) very dark red, small, crunchy, sweet fruit.  A real child’s apple and one deserving of special mention on the fruit trees site.  We needed to send a picture of a bush apple tree carrying fruit to someone who wanted some at their wedding reception, so what could be better than a Spartan?

My eyes lit on a good looking specimen which I duly started to photograph.  It had a perfectly formed cluster of red apples that, although young were picture postcard perfect.

Turning it round to see if it had a “better side” I noticed that it also had another cluster apples.  However, unlike the first, these were completely green. I had a really good check to make sure this was not one a family apple tree (an apple tree with a total of three varieties grafted onto the same rootstock) that had got muddled up with the single variety apple trees, but the leaves were the same all over, the fruit shapes were identical and there was only one graft, and that was two inches above soil level. My chosen tree might conceivably not have been a Spartan but it was assuredly a single species apple tree.

Now Spartan apple trees tend to ripen in a rush (i.e. pretty much all at once) and these, as you can see from the pictures are weeks apart.

While waiting to send plants out, we tend to keep them quite close together and the only possible explanation I can come up with is that the green apples were in deep shade, while the reds were in the sun. This leads one to thoughts of delaying the ripening of some apples on a tree by deliberately shading them. Paper bags, fleece, socks all spring to mind as potential parasols…. suggestions anyone?

What certainly works is the “tattooing” of fruit using sun and shade.  So here is a fun idea for an almost free birthday card for someone with a July – October birthday.  Choose an apple that ripens at the right time of year. Preferably a red apple such as Spartan, Red Windsor, Discovery, Rosette etc. Make a cut out stencil – I think masking tape would be ideal with your message. Keep it short as apples are not huge, something like “I love you” might work.  Stick the stencil on to an unripe apple and pick off the rest of the cluster so it is all by itself.  Sit back, let nature take its course and at birthday time you should have an apple proclaiming “I love you” in bold red type on a green background.  The more painstaking amongst you may wish to use Letraset and stick individual letters onto an apple to spell out your message in green against a red background. Just a thought

Scrumptious Apple Trees (and Scrumptious Apples)

Scrumptious apple trees are another apple breeding success. They are the “children” of Hugh Ermen – the best producer of new apple varieties in the UK.  The man is a genius (and proof that amateurs can win) and has a list of apples to his name of which perhaps the most well known are Limelight, Red Devil and Winter Gem. Scrumptious is a lovely apple, nearly full red, with crisp firm flesh when picked.  It is relatively early, ripening in September. Unusually for an early apple, Scrumptious holds well on the tree for at least four weeks and will keep for a further couple of weeks if you store it in a cool place.   For a relatively early apple, these are brilliant qualities (none of those Discoveries all ripening on the same day…). It is also sensational eating straight off the tree. Just another apple for the fruit trees website.

Scrumptious apple trees are self fertile (but remember in the apple world self fertile means they carry fruit without needing another variety of apple as a pollinator but crops are always better if cross pollination occurs). Unlike Discovery which is one of Scrumptious’ parents, it fruits over an extended period. For those of us who suffer from the cold, its blossom handles spring frosts pretty well making it a good choice for frost pockets and colder parts of the UK.

For the more technical, Scrumptious apple trees belong in group C for pollination. They can therefore be pollinated by any (non-triploid) apple in pollination groups B, C or D. Its parentage is Golden Delicious and Discovery and it is therefore preferable (but not essential to select a pollinator that does not also have either of those varieties as a parent). It is a spur fruiting apple tree, which means pruning is straightforward and which also means that it can be grown as a step-over, a cordon or as an espalier as well as the more usual bush and half standard shapes. It performs well on semi-vigorous MM106 and semi-dwarfing M9 rootstocks which means it can fit into any garden or orchard capable of housing a fruit tree. Bare-root apple trees should be planted between November and the end of April while container grown trees – which tend to be more expensive- can be bought at any time of year.