Isle of Wight Apple People and Places
Sunset from Mary's orchard
Mary is a lady of many wide ranging interests and talents, including bee keeping and apple growing, as well as helping to produce sheep and turkeys on a mixed arable farm at Limerstone. The orchard was started in 1995, inspired and encouraged by Bob Buckett. In the early years of the Orchard Mary found Bob’s advice and help invaluable, learning not only to how to grow and prune the trees but also to produce new trees by grafting. She says that one of the most satisfying things in gardening is to see a tree that she has produced herself come into fruit for the first time.
At first Mary’s aim was simply to extend the garden making it both productive and decorative. A formal garden was planned to fit in and to complement the Jacobean farmhouse, on a diamond shaped piece of land to the back and to one side of the house (there were already some inherited cordons and espaliers trained on the wall on the other side of the house).
The start of the Isle of Wight Farmer’s Market coincided with growing production from the Orchard. The different varieties of freshly picked apples that Mary sells at the Farmer’s Market are very popular, customers come back week after week, giving feedback on the apples, swapping recipes and asking advice about choice, growing and pruning apples. Over the years Mary has refined her choice of apples, ‘if it doesn’t taste good it’s out’. Taste is very personal and some apples are improved by storage and others can only be appreciated picked directly from the tree but Mary has noticed that ‘every apple seems to have its year’ and some apples taste better some years than others. One of the most consistent eating apples is Sunset, which has a nice 'coxy' taste, has cropped every year and is easy to look after as it requires little maintenance. The most consistent cooking apple has been Golden Noble which cooks to a fluff and has a delightful flavour.
Mary’s Apple has gone, also D’Arcy Spice and Sheep’s Nose has been relegated to a place in the woods and Egremont Russet has taken its place. Mary is now growing more pears, the Conference pear she grafted from wood taken from Bob’s orchard is now fruiting. The best pear to date is Concorde, although it does tend to have huge crops and branches need to be propped up.
The orchard has increased the wildlife population with a resident pair (or more) of Green Woodpeckers busily investigating the anthills under the trees. One year there was a never to be forgotten sight of a flock of 57 redwings, this year a smaller group visited during the recent cold weather and a pair stayed on in the garden when the others left.
One of Mary’s most treasured possessions is a book given to her by Bob shortly before he became ill, ‘The Pruning of Apples and Pears by renewal methods’ and the inscription reads ‘To an enthusiastic novice from a very old hand, Best Wishes, Bob’.
Mary at Apple Weekend 2006
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