Gunby apples galore
There are an astonishing 54 varieties of apple at Gunby! The many different apples are planted so that there is a supply of fruit in natural storage from August until May.
The history of Gunby's apples
The bulk of the Gunby collection are those varieties that would have been available to purchase from national nursery collections from the 1920s. However in the garden’s evolution varieties bred in the 1960s such as sharp crisp juicy eating apples Falstaff, Greensleeves and cooking apple Bountiful find a place at Gunby.
The oldest apple tree on site, planted in the Orchard Cottage grounds is Catshead, a variety known from 1629. The most recent variety is Winter Gem bred in 1985 and introduced to nursery sale in 1993.
Apples are grown throughout the garden
The Field Marshal’s orchard dating from the late 1920s contains a number of the original standard grown trees. A replacement programme has been underway at the western end for more than ten years as the older trees have died out.
The east garden was planted as an orchard starting in the early 1990s initially to accept some grafts taken from the Field Marshal’s orchard along with suitable additional trees.
The Apple Walk, a pergola line of apples, holds further of the collection. Cordon trained apples planted alongside oak posts meet above a grass path. The 1944 fruit plan shows the then earliest planting as 1926 with ongoing plantings through 1930s and 1940s. Originally matched pairs but to increase diversity over time they are mostly now individual plantings.
In the kitchen garden open centre trees from the 1930s and 1940s provide an architectural form within the borders. Laxton’s Superb, Laxton’s Fortune, Worcester Pearmain can be found here.
2006 saw a new line of oblique cordons planted, Egremont Russet, Worcester Pearmain and the local Ellisons Orange. There is evidence that such cordons existed in the gardens at an earlier time.
Gunby's Apples throughout the year
In August dessert apple Beauty of Bath is ready to pick and eat straight from the tree whilst Reverend W. Wilks is the first cooking apple ready to use. Early Victoria and Grenadier are next for cooking.
Laxton’s Fortune, James Grieve, Lord Lambourne follow for dessert use.
Sunset is grown in preference to Cox’s Orange Pippin in Gunby's northern location.
September sees a real favourite ready for culinary use: Queen, a very distinctive flat round striped fruit, which is the perfect apple both in its looks and in use, cooking to a sharp bright puree and excellent for baking too.
Cooking apples for storage are grown in larger quantity, Catshead and Bramley’s Seedling “Quarrendon”, whilst Newton Wonder is a dual purpose apple that can be used for cooking at first, but sweetens in store for dessert use in winter.
The name “Quarrendon” is taken from a reference to a tree at the centre of the Field Marshal’s orchard on the 1944 fruit tree plan. The apple is Bramley like and may have been a mis-identification at the time. The tree was replicated by grafting in 1991 with three new trees subsequently planted in both orchards.
The most recent apple planting, forming a vegetable border divide, and to allow demonstration of another style of fruit tree training, is a short line of step-over trees, planted January 2014. The varieties are Katy from 1947 and Discovery with the unusual bright red Bloody Ploughman, to complete the line, this being grafted by ourselves from local sourced scions.
Recent grafting attempts to replicate some of the garden’s varieties for replanting is underway, successful grafts planted in the fruit cage area to grow on. An addition to this is an attempt to rescue and conserve a Lincolnshire apple known as Penny Loaf.