Chartwell in blossom
With the spring comes the blossom, decorating the apple trees down in the orchard and our young cherry blossom trees dotted about the property, with delicate petals filling the skies and coating the pathways.
After moving to Chartwell, the orchard was one of the first areas that Sir Winston Churchill decided to renovate, having the trees planted down by the buildings which would later become his studio. In the spring time, these trees all burst into blossom, creating a wonderful display ready to frame his home.
The apples are in flower from late April to mid-May when the trees are covered with pink and white blossom.
One to watch out for is the Malus 'Arthur Turner', with its bright pink blossom, known for its showy displays every year. Chartwell also has a single ‘Winston’ tree, named for Winston Churchill, which is still a bit too young to see blossom just yet but one to watch out for in years to come.
Caring for the orchard
During the rest of the year the trees are mainly green, but the apples will develop throughout summer for harvest from September to November. The Chartwell apples, including all the windfalls, are sent off to be juiced at a local farm and the juice is then sold in the shop.
In the winter, maintenance of the orchard can take place with the annual prune. Most of the trees at Chartwell are mature and just need a renewal pruning. Any younger trees however, are formatively pruned to establish a permanent framework of branches. This involves removing medium sized branches which are growing towards the centre of the tree in order to maintain an open goblet shape.
For most of the year, we manage the orchard grass as a meadow. This allows a variety of wildflowers to flourish and creates a rich habitat for local wildlife, such as a butterflies and moths. The meadow is particualrly beneficial for our bees, who work hard to pollenate the orchard.
Prior to 1922, the Chartwell orchard was a large kitchen garden which included a hot-house, vinery, cold frames, and fruit room. These buildings were removed by Churchill soon after he moved into Chartwell and the entire orchard was planted up with the classic cooking apple Malus ‘Bramley’s Seedling’. Unfortunately, mostly due to the 1987 Great Storm which caused wide-spread damage across Chartwell and surrounding Kent countryside, none of these original trees survive.
New trees, mainly other cooking varieties, have been planted by the National Trust, particularly in the early 1990s. The main varieties currently in the orchard are:
- Bramley’s Seedling
- Arthur Turner
- John Downie
- Lord Derby
- Newton Wonder
- Allington Pippin
- Kerry Pippin
Also dotted throughout the grounds at Chartwell, you will find some new additions to the borders and gardens – cherry trees.
Up on the Top Terrace overlooking the Walled Garden we have three young prunus ‘The Bride’ all standing in a line behind the benches, framing sweeping views out over the Kent countryside. In the borders lining the walkway from the Visitor Centre to the house we also have prunus ‘The Bride’ as well as three prunus ‘Koja-no-mai’, all flowering cherry trees.
These cherry trees are all still young and will take roughly another ten years until they are large enough to be the impressive displays they hopefully will be. In the meantime, they still bring a small amount of the lovely spring wonder that cherry blossoms always are to Chartwell, with white to pale pink petals gracing the branches for you to see.