The View from Here: the maiden apples and the mighty oak

The view from here was much changed, but as ever, the passing of time has softened the blow.

This is a view of our field in the first summer we were here.

oak tree in field

The tractor shows that the field is quite steep.

oak tree

Bernie is watching the tractor; I include this shot to highlight the power lines and the oak tree just to his right.

Firstly, we heard that SW Electricity needed to cut the boundary hedge.  They are permitted to do this to prevent damage to the power cables.  Ho hum, it had to be done.  This, I could live with.

But it was a sad day when we heard that the oak had been condemned.  Proper procedures had been followed; the tree was diseased and posed a danger to the nearest property.  How sad to see a mighty tree go.  This time last year, it was reduced to this:

felled

I could have cried.  To make matters worse, we got a call not long afterwards from Adam, who lives in the property behind the oak.  He’d been ‘trimming his hedge’ – which is shared with our field of course – and got carried away.  Losing the oak had brought a lot more light into his garden and encouraged him to chop down a few more ‘saplings’ and other slightly taller things which had been a part of the hedge but did grow on his land.  Only afterwards did he realise that he’d now completely opened up the sightline between us and them.  From our vantage point up the hill, we now look down into their garden.  Adam was genuinely apologetic: no doubt it’s impacted on their outlook too.  And the damage was done.

The view from here was much changed, but as ever, the passing of time has softened the blow.  What initially felt like a massive rent in our previously leafy privacy no longer feels so savage.  I still don’t like to look at what remains of the felled oak tree, but its loss in our line of sight no longer jars as it once did.

And we’ve moved on to thinking about how to make the best of what we’re left with.

Last week Nev, our ‘tree man’ was here for the day.  He’s officially an arborist and he knows his stuff.  He has a wonderful but very strong Cornish accent which I struggle with, and he’s rather hard of hearing, so conversation is interesting to say the least.  But he’s a lovely chap and has been so helpful.

The wind was fierce; the day was cold and squally.  The harsh conditions didn’t seem to bother Nev, who worked steadily, pollarding the line of ash trees which demarcate the garden and the bank.  Rather brutal – and another line of sight which is now much altered – but necessary, and the trees will have grown back within 3 years.

haircut

He also cut back the acer at B’s request.  At least I’ve always thought it was an acer.  After the deed was done, Nev referred to it as an ‘amber light’ – a sorbus (mountain ash).  I remain unconvinced, and can only hope that the treatment of an acer is the same as for a sorbus.  Beyond that, I’m saying nothing.  Here are some ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots.

Instead, I’ll move swiftly on to more positive developments.  Nev also did some planting.  Bernie had the idea of a small orchard in the lower portion of the field.  We envisaged plums and cherries.  We imagined it established, breaking up the vista between us and the neighbours.  Then we learned from Nev that Cornish conditions do not suit fruit trees in general but that there are some apple strains which thrive here.  He got quite excited when I asked about including a couple of crab apples as well.  They will improve pollination, he told us; they will add colour in spring and autumn and they will encourage the wildlife.  We asked him to choose appropriate varieties.

We spent what felt like hours, but was really about twenty minutes, marching around in freezing conditions, shouting above the wind, playing chess with the saplings until they were positioned in such a way that all three of us were satisfied.  Bernie’s focus was on ultimately providing a screen from the neighbouring property.  Mine was to leave room for what I hope might eventually become the site of a wildlife pond, and Nev, thankfully, considered the more practical issues: the required distances between each tree and providing adequate space for the tractor when hedge-cutting time comes around.

How many apple trees constitute an orchard?  Do we now have the tiniest of fledgling orchards?  We certainly have the beginnings of a copse…. An apple copse? An apple thicket?  Though it must be said that one of the saplings can’t really be described as such: to me it’s simply a twig.  We have a copse of twigs and saplings.  But I am assured that all five will grow quickly.  The apple trees are maidens: they are one year old.  I have my doubts on quite how quickly they will reach a size that will have any impact, but I’ll be very happy to discover myself wrong.

And meantime, I’m just delighting in the names of the apple varieties.

We have two crab apples: Golden Hornet, which we had in our previous garden, and Red Sentinel.  Both will bear fruits which will last on the trees well into the winter.

And the apples?

The first is an eater named Cornish Gilliflower.  Here’s what I’ve learnt about it:

SONY DSCA very old variety, brought to notice by Sir Christopher Hawkins in 1813 having been discovered in a garden in Truro, Cornwall in about 1800. The word Gilliflower is believed to have been derived from the old French word Girofle meaning clove and given to this variety because it is supposed to have a clove-like fragrance when cut.  Medium to large-sized, rather unusual irregular oblong or oblong-conical shaped fruit. The knobbly exterior is quite boldly ribbed and distinctly five crowned. The skin is rather rough, often with some russetting, greenish-yellow with up to half flushed orange-red. Very firm yellow flesh, tinged green around the core. Rather dry but sweet with a melon like fragrance.  Moderately vigorous, very spreading tree. It is a tip-bearer and unsuited for training into restricted forms such as cordons and espaliers. A light cropper.

Next we have Cornish Aromatic:

Cornish_Aromatic_appleFruit, above medium size, three inches wide, and two inches and three-quarters high; roundish, angular, slightly flattened, and narrowing towards the eye. Skin, yellow on the shaded side, and covered with large patches of pale brown russet, which extend all over the base, and sprinkled with green and russet dots; but of a beautiful bright red, which is streaked with deeper red, and strewed with patches and dots of russet on the side exposed to the sun. Eye small and closed, with long flat segments, which are reflexed at the tips and set in an irregular basin. Stalk short, inserted in a deep and narrow cavity which is lined with russet. Flesh, yellowish, firm, crisp, juicy, rich, and highly aromatic. A valuable dessert apple of first-rate quality, in use from October to Christmas. The tree is a free grower and an excellent bearer.

And finally a cooker/cider bearing the wonderful name of Colloggett Pippin.

colloggett pippin

Colloggett Pippin is a very popular Cornish variety from the Tamar Valley, dating back to the early 1920s. It is a dual purpose sharp apple and makes a very good dry, light cider. The apples are large and striking in appearance; pale yellow, angular and with bold red stripes. Also known as Cornish Giant, trees are spreading and produce regular crops. When cooked, Colloggett Pippin turns to a brisk gold puree, perfect for a proper Cornish apple sauce.

Who knew the language of apple trees could be so beguiling?  I’m now totally in love with the romance of our baby apple trees and shall be watching over their progress like a mother hen.  And who knows, maybe we’ll be wanting a cider press soon!

36 thoughts on “The View from Here: the maiden apples and the mighty oak”

  1. You have been busy. I know exactly how you feel about all that cutting back and the death of a tree. We bought our house mainly because it has a good view of woodland, but two trees were cut down last year, leaving a nasty gap. I was not happy. I’ve never seen a mountain ash (rowan) like that one, it looks very much like an acer (maple) to me Rowans have very different leaves and shape. – any I’ve come across anyway.

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    1. Yes, it’s hard to lose trees; they can’t grow back next year leaving all as it was. I think you’re right about the rowan/acer confusion. And to be fair to the tree man, B may well have told him that it’s a rowan. B is keen on cutting back but less keen on identification!

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  2. Count me in for the profound sadness over a mighty tree that had to go…. One of the huge benefits of our house was a Lebanon cedar tree, although it did already look a bit on the needy side when we bought the property. And then, in only weeks, it died completely…. My son is a landscape gardner and we had many discussions over it – but in the end we had the tree surgon in to put it ‘to rest’ I asked for some ‘stools’ from the trunk as a reminder of this magnificent beauty…. the ‘stools’ just stand outside to be used to sit, to put a planter on, to be used as an ‘occasional’ table!
    And the joy of seeing these beautiful apples you hopefully will have in about 5-6 years! Thank You for doing something for the nature. I also love crabapple trees (shrubs) – they are so very decorative and I often broke a twig for a autumnal decoration. They last forever.
    What a great post this is! Merci

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    1. My sister had stools and tables made from the trunks of trees they had removed from their garden, Kiki. The stools look great. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll have some wonderful apples before too long!

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  3. I think I know how you feel about the loss of that oak. About three years ago a mighty copper beech keeled over in a storm, and we keenly felt its death. But…. younger trees now flourish in the lighter conditions, and life goes on. Crab apples are wonderful I think. They look good, wildlife appreciates them, and so do we. Crab apple jelly anyone?

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    1. You are right of course, Margaret – the loss of the oak will benefit other things. Nature has a habit of balancing out the give and take. I made crab apple jelly one year. It looked so pretty. Oddly, I can’t remember what it tasted like. But certainly, when the new trees are (hopefully) flourishing, I shall need to get preserving again.

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  4. That was an engrossing post which recalled to my mind that poem by Robert Frost, ‘Mending Wall’. Sorry about the oak. Thanks for letting me into the secret of Cornish apples. Collogget Pippin sounds like a J L Rowling charm!

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    1. Uma, Mending Wall was new to me – thank you for drawing it to my attention. It’s message is very pertinent. We get on well with our neighbours and the thought has come to me more than once that an opening in the hedge (wall) would make it easy for us to reach one another – very much easier than taking the road!

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  5. You brought back a lot of memories for me–in the last two years our new neighbors cut down every single tree on their property, including a huge willow, right at the water’s edge, that had given us wonderful shade from the late day sun. Seeing, and hearing, those trees go nearly killed me! We’re still trying to figure out how to reconfigure our lakeside space, given the changes in privacy and shade. Sigh. The news of your orchard-to-be, however is thrilling! Apples are the most interesting fruit ever, to my way of thinking, and those evocative names and descriptions add to the romance. Have you read Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan? Great book, with a terrific chapter on apples!

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    1. How odd – I replied to your comment, Kerry, but can’t see it here now. So apologies if this is duplicated. (The first version was better!)

      I feel for you coping with your neighbours’ actions; very difficult. Thank you for the recommendation. I’d not heard of Michael Pollan: what a fascinating premise. This is definitely a book to read!

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  6. Change can be so very difficult, especially when it is thrust upon us unexpectedly and unwillingly. But oh, how you have managed to embrace so wonderfully the possibilities that these developments have presented. In years to come we will all be envying your orchard, with all those magnificent varieties. What riches are in store for you and B!! 🙂

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    1. Thank you Liz 🙂 I do find myself imagining the trees – in blossom, in full leaf, in fruit…. and a beautiful pond at their feet. With a bench close by on which to sit and be thankful 🙂 All in good time

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      1. I can see it all now! We once had a friend whose sole ambition in life was to own a tree on which grew mistletoe. What better goals can there be but ones which embrace natures gifts. 🙂

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  7. We kept waiting for the large maple between our houses to come back to life. We waited a whole cycle. Then the neighbor asked an arborist to looks at it. It turns out it was truly dead and had been hit twice by lightning! It loss has reduced the number of tiny little maple trees that always sprouted up everywhere. Love the apple varieties. My New England forebears grew apples for market. There are countless varieties here still.

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    1. Andrea, having grown up in Kent – the Garden of England as it is still sometimes known – I loved the old apple trees, especially in spring. It will take a while for ours to reach that stage but we’ve got them started 🙂

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  8. Oh, what an interesting post — the loss of the mighty oak, the tending to other trees, the interesting apples with such intriguing names — it is all very familiar to me. Thank you, Sandra, for sharing.
    Our “mighty oak” was actually an ancient and huge rare apple tree that showed the marks of age. It stood near the property line between our neighbour and us and helped give us privacy. I shouldn’t have been surprised when it keeled over, but it was such a tall and grand tree that it was a shock to see it fallen.

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    1. Cynthia, there’s something deep within most of us, I think, that connects with trees. Perhaps it’s their longevity, the sense of what they will have witnessed; a life literally cut short. Your old apple tree sounds magnificent.

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  9. How sad to see the death of that wonderful oak! I wish you luck with the apple trees, and the traditional strains you’ve chosen. There’s something comforting about continuing with traditional fruits, and they are ususally so much more tasty than the standard shop bought apples.

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  10. It is helpful to juxtapose sad losses and unwanted change with regrowth and renewal. Lovely that the new apple trees also connect back to the past being old varieties with such evocative names. Btw, I hope to be posting next week about making a wildlife pond.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your garden. Your neighbor seems very kind to apologize for inadvertently over trimming. I live in a tiny apartment with a beautiful view, but no outdoor space at all, so I pictured myself standing out in the field looking at all the possibilities of your garden.

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    1. There are almost too many possibilities, Betty-Ann! But I’m not complaining. (And our neighbour called the other day to say that he’s planning some more trimming. Oh dear!)

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  12. We planted saplings in the garden when we moved in. It’s taken 11 years but they now look established. Of the fruit trees we have apple, pear and damson. I give them away to people who like making jam. Unfortunately I have a fear of spiders and the fruit trees attract them. The birds eat some as well. We live in Scotland. The apples aren’t really any good to eat directly but can be used in crumbles and jam. You are in this for the long haul.

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    1. Ha ha, yes, I feared we might have to wait a while! I didn’t know that fruit trees attract spiders. Ours are well away from the house luckily – we get quite enough spiders already!

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