Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Monthly Archives: January 2014

Hereford Redstreak

Kingston Black


Ellis Bitter


Maintenance for old fruit trees

Often we hear the comment, “I have an old pear tree and an apple tree, but neither seem to do any good.” Let’s compare a tree to ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves and never go outside if and when we can, we gradually accumulate all sorts of problems too. You may say, what has that got to do with my fruit trees? Surely they are outside all the time?

It’s all to do with light. It does us humans good to be in the sunshine, and the same applies to fruit trees, in the sense that they need good light throughout. If the trees have been left to themselves and have produced masses of shoots all round, virtually a solid mass of growth that creates darkness inside the canopy of the tree, then the leaves are no longer able to carry out the functions they were designed for. Photosynthesis goes into survival mode: the little energy that the shaded leaves manage to produce is used simply to keep the structure alive. There is no energy left to create productive fruiting wood as a replacement for older non-productive branches.

In this situation, the best way to attain a complete reversal is not by removing lots of little bits of wood, but by opening the tree right up by removing four or five large branches, so that the sunshine can penetrate into the centre of the tree. Seal the wounds with Arbrex, feed the tree with organic matter, water the tree in dry periods and you will be amazed at the results. Be patient and give the tree at least two years to mend its ways.

Read more about how to look after older trees.

Photo courtesy of Trey Pitsenberger/



Suntan, candidate for the best eating apple ever

Suntan, photo courtesy of

Suntan, photo courtesy of

We have been growing fruit and trees in this country since 1960, and I have been able to taste a huge range of varieties over the years. If you asked me which are the best eating apples ever raised and produced in this country, I would say Ashmead Kernel and Suntan. Both varieties have supreme eating qualities and good keeping qualities. But why, you may say, are these varieties so neglected, and never recommended by gardening magazines and the like?

The problem with Ashmead Kernel and Suntan is pollination. Without correct pollinators, these varieties will not be able to produce regular crops. Chivers Delight and Grenadier are both self-fertile, and they are good companions for Suntan.

Strangely, Suntan runs the risk of disappearing from many nurseries. Today there are only two tree propagators who list Suntan, and this is due to the variety gradually disappearing from public view. But it is truly a superb apple, and I would place it in number one position, for its great flavour, its crispness, and the fact that after picking in late October, it keeps easily until after Christmas.

Suntan does best on M26 rootstock. It should never be planted on its own: the best companion varieties are Royal Gala, Egremont Russet, Chiver’s Delight, Annie Elisabeth, and Claygate Pearmain.

Of course, new varieties are appearing all the time. Scrumptious is a very new variety, very promising, with a great future. But it’ll take something else to knock Suntan off that number one pedestal!

Browse our list of fruit tree varieties

Compact Stella