At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green.
Moonlit Apples: John Drinkwater 1917
How romantic! In our largely treeless, wind swept Outer Isles the concept of the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” eulogisedby the romantics poets is purely metaphorical. The are no golden hued leaves to fall and whirl on the wind, no rich earthy smell of leaf mould and fungi mingling with the decadent aroma of ripening fruit. Instead think, wild wet and windy. Atlantic depressions and westerly winds in the tail of dying hurricanes, stormy seas and heavy squalls. It is time for the island gardeners to gather in the fruit harvest, although apple picking is a fairy modest activity.
I am still perservering with my dwarf apple trees in the croft garden orchard. In April 2014, we planted 12 trees and against the odds, 10 have survived, although some are in more robust heath than others. This is a minor triumph, considering that the soil is too poor and our weather is not particularly suited for growing fruit trees, even very dwarf ones.
In a good year we can harvest 6 very small apples, which are either donated to the blackbirds or added to the green tomato chutney. This year I was feeling very optimistic as in May there was blossom on almost all the trees, and the fruit began to set. Then we had a northerly gale which blew away the blossom and the tiny fruit! Northern springs can be cold, but northerly winds in May are particularly cruel.
This year the summer months were cold and wet, but I nurtured my apple trees and the reward was 12 apples from two trees – both Blenheim Orange. I would have preferred to leave them on the tree a little longer, but with the forecast of storm force winds, I decided that they would be safer sitting in the shed.
The RHS describe as “the Blenheim Orange as a culinary and dessert cultivar. This very vigorous tree is suitable for northerly, colder, higher rainfall areas. The light crops of apples have a yellow-green skin, becoming yellow and flushed orange-red, and a characteristic nutty flavour. “
As they require pollen from another variety to produce fruit, I will be cosseting all my trees, and if we have some fine, calm spring weather, perhaps I will have more apples next year.
The vision of carefully arranged lines of apples sitting in the garden shed and producing one of the most quintessential of autumn scents everytime the door was opened, must remain a childhood memory. However, I am content with my 12 small apples sitting in a tray next to the serried ranks of shiny jars of chutney.