VGC Cricket President’s letter Nov. 2005 ©Karen England
My mini apple orchard is just 4 years old and already its story rivals the best children’s fairy tale. Originally, I told my cousin who owns Sunshine Gardens that I wanted to buy nine “Anna” apple trees for a spot I designed to be a tiny orchard. I wanted “Anna” apples because I have grown them successfully before and love the fruit. My cousin (who should have been a used car salesman) said he would give me a good deal (read “Free”) if I took some apple trees off his hands that he could not sell. These particular trees were originally a special order for a woman who reneged and, in me; he saw the golden (Dorsett) opportunity to unload what he could not sell to the public. Ah, the joys of family. The caveat was they were not all “Annas” and several trees were no longer marked. It was a “take them all or nothing” deal. Although they were not all the same variety or the variety I had initially wanted, “free” is hard to pass up, so I took them, & the orchard was planted.
To my delight, very early on, several of the trees produced fruit and, as a result, I was able to identify some of the unmarked varieties. Also, two of the original trees died (due to a gopher) and I wanted to replace them with my first choice, “Annas”, only to have my cousin talk me into more used cars, i.e. some “Golden Dorsetts” he had in overstock. Ok, I admit it – I’m easy, I took ‘em. By the 2nd year, I had identified all but one of the nine apple trees and all but the unknown tree were producing fruit.
It was obvious from the beginning that the unknown variety was very different from the rest, the quintessential ugly duckling. Gangly in growth, leaves with tip burn and struggling to adjust to orchard life. During the first two years, the apples were watered with an overhead spray until our garden help installed drip irrigation to the orchard. Almost immediately, the trees responded to the change with exponential growth, & the ugly duckling tree responded most of all, transforming before my eyes into the most glorious tree, no longer gangly, with healthy large green leaves and sweet white blossoms that reminded me of something but I didn’t know what. Then it bore fruit. Unbelievably, it isn’t an apple at all – it is a pear! Now I know what it reminded me of, the flowering pear trees that are planted all around our area. I was always told that fruiting pears do not do well in our climate so I would never have planted one deliberately and here I had one thriving. My ugly duckling apple has turned into a beautiful swan pear. This is my kind of gardening, exciting & sweet. When I’m out working in the yard, I sing this little ditty:
“In the first year of Orcharding,
my Cousin gave to me,
Five “Golden Dorsetts”,
Two “Anna” apples,
One yummy “Braeburn”
and a swan of lovely pear tree.”
I bet you can guess what kind of pie I’m making for Thanksgiving this year…
Wishing you all happy gardening and a blessed Thanksgiving,