Cornish Apple Varieties

Below are a few of the apple tree names known as Cornish varieties. In truth, alas, there are no native named varieties of Malus domestica, the productive apple. Originating from Kazakhstan and Southern Asia, Apple trees dribbled into the British Isles most likely through trading routes. These named varieties have proved to be tolerant of the damp weather and are productive within Cornwall and most likely would do well on the west side of this country within the Marine temperate zone 7 climate. There are other national varieties that will do well in Cornwall too, but there is a far greater list of them that are poor performers away from the dry regions of the south eastern parts of the UK where the climate is classified as Temperate zone 7, without the word ‘marine’ included.

The Cornish apples listed below cover eating, cooking, dual purpose and cider varieties.

A selection of Cornish Apple varieties Flowering group Use  Description
Bens Red 1 Eating Shrub like or compact tree in habit. Flat dark red or variably striped dark red on orange/ red flush. Ripens in September. Very variable in colour on site, influenced by soil and weather conditions.
Bread Fruit 2 Eating Fairly vigorous, spreading and reliable cropping; medium green with a brownish red to carmine flush and faint red broken stripes, with strawberry flavour when ripe. A second early/ mid season dessert apple.
Cornish Aromatic 4 Eating Said to be one of the finest Cornish late season apples. Keeping until Christmas and after, medium to large yellow with orange and red plus some russet colouring; sweet/ sub acid and aromatic.
Cornish Gilly flower 4 Eating Considered one of the finest flavours of all apples but needs favourable growing conditions, weather and skill of the grower. Tip bearing, whippy and if conditions prevail can be prone to scab, but said to be worth the challenge. Late to very late ripening.
Cornish mother 5 Dual Vigorous upright & spreading. Medium pale green with dull red flush and faint darker red stripes.
Lord of the Isles Cider A sub acid/acid taste closely related if not the same as to a national variety called Newton’s Wonder.
Manaccan Primrose 1-3 Dual While being sharp enough for cooking when the sugar content rises as the season progresses they can be eaten raw. There is a claim that its slight genetic mutation makes it moderately superior to The Rattler. It produces an overwhelming number of apples in late August/ early September
Pendragon 1 Eating Initially upright and weeping tree. Blossom is red; leaves are dark red/green. The fruit is small, red with dimpled skin. The flesh is deep red. Upon eating, your palate will register both bitter and sweet. Pink juice.
The Rattler See Manaccan Primrose
Tommy Knight 1-3 Cider The apples are small, red, hard and sweet on a densely twiggy tree. The fruit looks very attractive but late in arriving on the tree. Thought to originate in St Agnes before 1861. Most likely originally used for cider making or some sort of processed food but not for eating

Remember as a guide but not a hard and fast rule, the earlier the flowering, the earlier the harvest. However the later the flowering, the later the harvest but the better the fruit tends to be for keeping.  Some can, in the correct conditions, keep through till March of the following season.

The flowering time for apple trees can be very variable and for ease of guiding the grower,  it has been divided into 5 flowering groups in the above tables; progressing through the flowering season in incremental stages from group one to group five. There is a definite start and stop but the intermediate groups overlap one another as the season unfolds

Remember a variety of different flowering times within your collection will give you a variety of fruiting times without all the fruit coming at once.

Also you need to bear in mind that you will need at least two varieties of trees of the same or similar flowering group for pollination, as most apples are diploids (requiring two different flowers for pollination.) For example, to pollinate a tree in flowering group 2 you will need another tree from flowering group 1, 2 or 3 to achieve fruiting. Each flowering group period overlaps the adjacent one and some trees cover more than 1 or 2 flowering group periods.

Should you choose to have a Bramley in the mix as well, you will need at least 2 other trees flowering at the same time to achieve pollination as a Bramley is a triploid and requires three flowers to enable fruiting to take place.

Finally the performance of all apple trees can be affected by a variety of factors including the weather, soil, exposure and aspect. The majority of all fruiting plants require sun to enable growth and ripening.

I have observed that it is by far best to plant a smaller apple tree and allow the tree to grow into its environment than plant a larger tree and have to stake it only for the tree to fail after the stake has rotted and naturally failed.

Seasonal tips for November – buying your trees

It’s November and the last of the Indian summer has gone, leaves are falling and with only 6 weeks to the shortest day, its feeling as if winter is here.

For the keen, the tree buying season is well under way and although not available if field grown until the leaves have fallen, it’s worth ordering now, if you’ve not done so already, to avoid disappointment. Availability lists from nurseries start being produced from August for the Autumn, and it is usually the most interesting plants that are in small quantities and quickly sell out.

As a rule, field grown plants are less expensive than pot grown ones, but it is the pot grown option that you will find available in the garden centres in the spring and early summer when many folk get inspired to sort out their gardens. So, at the beginning of the season, there are usually more purchases made on impulse.

The advantage of pot grown plants is that they are able to be planted all year round providing you are prepared to water accordingly.

The bare root field grown plant season usually ends in mid-March as the sap begins to rise. It is best to plant your bare root trees prior to Christmas as many species, despite looking dormant, will produce fine white roots ready for the spring surge. Late plantings of bare root stock, where this root production is lacking, may need watering during their early stages.

Here comes Autumn

Its October 11th 2017, the late summer weather is fading and with the first of the leaves turning colour at the end of September and high wind today, the first of the serious leaf fall is commencing and autumn is creeping forward.

Plants of interest at the Forest Garden at this moment include; “Crab apple Rose hip” with its brilliant orange fruit which has been looking good for the last 5 weeks. Some of the fruit looks almost too good to be real. It serves as an excellent pollinator to other apple trees nearby and its fruit, as their sugar level continues to rise, is just about ready to eat and certainly could be included in a fruit salad. My instinct, from having previously tasted crab apple wine, tells me that these fruits would make a good wine too.

The last of the blackberry cultivars “Thorne free” are still managing to ripen some fruit, and as a recent visitor said of the 25mm diameter fruits, “These taste like red wine”.  These plants are primo canes meaning they will flower on the current year’s growth. Indeed last year’s growth was cut down in April and it has managed to grow 6 metres in length, flowered and have been fruiting since mid-September; simply amazing!

Finally, for now, the plant of the month is the “Chilean guava”. It’s the last of the summer/autumn soft fruits. This plant, now in its 4th year, has over 300 very tasty red berries of approximately 8mm in diameter on it. The taste is not dissimilar to that of a strawberry flavoured Opal fruit or Starburst. This was reputed to be Queen Victoria’s favourite fruit, allegedly grown in Cornwall and sent to London for her consumption. Some forms of this plant can make a good hedge up to a metre high.