Isle of Wight Apple People and Places

Dave and Alison Harding

We have both enjoyed gardening all our lives and for twenty three years Dav earned his living as a gardener.  (Now in our 70's we are both retired) When Dave decided on a change of career we both gained qualifications, RHS General Certificate for me and City and Guilds Amenity Horticulture Stage 2 for him, to add to our years of practical experience.  Dave has always been interested in pruning and training, fruit trees, roses, shrubs etc. and apple pruning became a major interest and a winter job.

At home we grow 15 varieties of apple, mainly trained as cordons or espaliers as we do not have a large garden.  We have refined our choice over the years, sometimes we come across a really good variety that is new to us and then Dave grafts it onto a rootstock (bought from Deacons) and we take out something that is not doing so well.  Ellison’s Orange went in the early days as I disliked the aniseed taste, Egremont Russet has stood the test of time, still there after nearly forty years.  The most recent additions have been Chiver’s Delight (died Winter 2014) and Winston.  We try to have a range of apples over as long a season as possible, from Tydeman’s Early in early August through to Idared and Winston that store fairly well in the shed after picking in October.  Cookers range from Arthur Turner to start the season to Crawley Beauty, a late keeper that also flowers late and avoids a late spring frost.

We began helping Chris and Barney Barnes with Apple Weekend at Afton Park in the early days and after a few years we were putting up a display of approximately 100 apple varieties in the Apple Tent.  We collected these from all over the Island, from Dave’s pruning customers, from our garden, from Mary Case’s orchard and from friends and neighbours.   Dave also shared the pruning demonstrations with Nick Greathead from Blackmoors who was in the Apple tent with us for a few years.  We learnt as we went along and I started drawing and painting the different varieties as we could not buy the books we needed for identification in the early days (you can probably spot the early efforts).  The painted records became very bulky and I put most of the information in the computer; these records form the basis for this website.  Identifying apples is as much an art as a science but always interesting.

There are so many interesting orchards, old and new, on the island and so many individual apple trees to be spotted when out for a walk, probably the result of a discarded apple core.  We have met so many welcoming, helpful orchard owners, some of whom have become friends who Dave returned to each year on the pruning round.  We hope you enjoy this website and find it useful, perhaps you have some information you would like to share?  If so please let us know.