Archive for August, 2009

Apple Dormancy Myths
August 29, 2009

Elementary Fuji

Gardening books and other authoritative sources tell us that apples need a certain period of cold weather and dormancy to fruit, as this re-sets the tree’s internal clock; warm climates are therefore unsuitable for growing apples since they will never get their clocks reset.

This Fuji apple and a Pink Lady just outside the photo are in front of an elementary school I drive by everyday.  They are evergreen; they never do lose their leaves and go dormant over the winter.  The new leaves in the spring  just push out the old leaves and blossoms will appear among the fully-leafed tree.  So much for the dormancy theory.

As you can see, it doesn’t hurt the productivity any, and the Pink Lady is just as loaded.  These trees don’t get a lot of love by the way, they just do this by themselves; its not like the school is putting some secret potion on them or some special culture method.  They just get watered by the automatic sprinklers and the drops raked up occasionally.  Makes you wonder what other myths we just accept instead of actually trying to see if it is indeed true.


Pitmaston Pineapple
August 26, 2009

Pitmaston PineappleRaised around 1785 in Herefords, England, Pitmaston Pineapple is a tiny apple that came to notice at the London Horticultural Society Exhibition in 1845.  In a good year its intensely flavored, sweet, yet sharp, rich, nutty, and honeyed; some years its not so good.  Ours was nothing like the first description, but sweet, a bit tart, and juicy.  I didn’t even taste a hint of pineapple, which I hear is quite common.  I imagine our heat doesn’t do it much good, as in a colder climate it ripens in early October.  Late August to early September is our peak hot season, and this apple may just ripen too early to be its best here.  The skin has a fine russet on it and a beautiful golden tone; a nice representitive of our Golden State.

August 25, 2009

PristineWe harvested our first Pristine apple, a scab-resistant variety from the Purdue, Rutgers, University of Illinois (PRI) breeding program.  When they can they try to have the letters “P-R-I” in the name somewhere, like Williams PRIde, EnterPRIse, etc.

Despite our heat it showed no signs of sun damage, and was crisp, tender, and juicy, with a nice sweet-tart balance that kept your interest. a welcome change compared to the sweet but boring Gala ripening right next to it.  The M26 rootstock tree had a lot of blind wood on it, and so we’ll be grafting it onto a more vigorous rootstock like M7 to try and fix this, plus we’ll be wanting a lot more of these apples.

Our license for this patented variety is stricly for testing only, and we are not allowed to propagate it for sale.  But don’t despair, Raintree Nursery will be happy to sell you Pristine trees.  We’ll be adding this to our “favorites” list at

Warm Climate Apples
August 13, 2009

Applemix 8.13.09A view of the apples on the Belgian fence shows why I’m grateful that I went this route instead of putting in a redwood fence like I was planning on .  The apples turned out to be way cheaper, and of course we get apples!  There is just one wire at the top that supports the whole thing, and it gets stronger every year (and self-healing from damage).

Red Apples
August 10, 2009

Williams' Pride MiniNo, these aren’t Santa Rose Plums; these are Williams’ Pride apples, a bit small because I didn’t thin enough, that dropped off the tree this morning. 

Usually an apple requires sunny, warm days and cold nights to color up best, but Williams’ Pride seems to color up from the heat.  Hot, humid August nights make them deep purple like the example above, almost the color of Arkansas Black you see on the header of this blog.

This is an excellent quality apple that has proven worthy enough for me to plant it on seedling rootstock to shade the bedroom, only one of three full-size apple trees on my city lot (out of over 100 apple trees).  I’ve also recommended it to a deer researcher in Georgia who’s looking for an apple to plant for feedlots to attract deer.  The quality of Williams’ Pride and its disease-resistance should make a good fit for him.

Stalking the Wild Apple Tree
August 2, 2009

E Clarks RanchSee the apple tree in the brown meadow about dead center of this photo?  I did while driving about where this photo was taken (yes, I know, my apple obsession is becoming creepy). 

I tried to get to it for a couple years, but the valley its in is guarded by steep hillsides and almost impenetrable brush and stickers.  Finally last Saturday I asked our adventurous Scoutmaster Bill to accompany me to stalk it, and if possible, bag a cutting.

We went round the back down a steep firebreak that a 4WD club considered challenging enough to make multiple assaults, and got within stalking range.  Since we approached from downwind the poor tree never saw us coming and we bagged a nice section of budwood for my trophy collection.  We found about a dozen other 100+ year-old trees in the herd spaced on 20′ centers, suggesting this valley once was home to thousands of apple trees prior to it being taken over by the Forest Service.

E Clarks Apple Tree

But the tree (Rome Beauty by the way) almost had its revenge.  It was about 90 degrees and we didn’t relish the steep hike up the slippery firebreak, and so we thought from the aerial photo I had that we could bushwack back to the trucks, and so we started out through the fern-covered hillside.  Soon the ferns turned to brush, and then the brush turned to thickets of live oak and stickerbushes that we hacked a trail through with my little pruning shears.  After about an hour of hacking and brush busting, we debated turning back and taking the firebreak, but we were about out of water and decided to press on.  We hit tantalizing pockets of open space, but it quickly turned to thick brush again.  Taking a break under a rare piece of shade, we finished off the last of the water and I hoped my wife wouldn’t become a widow. 

Bushwack Bill

Breaking out in the open we saw the trucks heartbreakingly high up on the hillside, and started out again.  The photo below shows what we came through, and yes, Bill is standing up (this was one of the more open sections).  With a final push, we made it to the trucks and the two bottles of hot water Bill kept in the side panels.  With grateful hearts we drove to Seven Oaks resort, where we ordered two of the most delicious ice teas I’ve ever had.  I grafted our “prize” onto Antonovka rootstocks this evening for transplanting to the Historic Mountain Apple Orchard next fall.