There are, apparently, more than 2,000 varieties of apples in this country, which is enough to keep the doctor away for several years without eating the same variety twice. We’ve only a couple of dozen types at Yewbarrow House, none of them rare, as far as I know, but just below the house, in what used to be the garden of Yewbarrow Lodge, is Grange’s Community Orchard, which has many varieties, including the rare Keswick Codlin. There are also mulberry, quince, pear, hazel, medlar, plums, greengage, wild crab apple and damson trees.
The orchard has only been going since 1998, so many of the trees are small and immature. They are well protected from rabbits and deer with substantial guards placed well away from the tree. If the guards weren’t there, the trees would be dead. But it looks as though, regrettably, many of the trees are destined to remain immature for a long time because they are being forced to compete with grass at the base of the trunk. It’s often unappreciated just how grass can constipate a tree and prevent it from growing. Angus White, the owner of Architectural Plants (see my posting of April 11th) noted that a tree which grew in open soil grew 171/2 times faster than one which grew in grass. He recommends that any grass should be one metre away from the trunk, which means that a sapling will be stuck in the middle of a bed which is two metres wide, which may look pretty silly at first, but will aid its growth no end. As this picture shows, the grass is being allowed to grow right up to the trunk in the community orchard- something that should only be allowed to happen once the tree is fully mature.