Sandy’s Garden ... Apple ‘Appiness

Ailsa and I have very recently returned from a cruise in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Monday, 2nd September 2019, 11:14 am
Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

We visited eight countries, in this order – Norway, England, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, Germany and Sweden.

And if, gentle reader, you are wondering why we started in Norway and sailed to England, the answer is that our cruise began in Oslo and went thence to Tilbury … for London … before crossing the North Sea to cruise along the north-western shores of Europe prior to turning into the Baltic to reach Stockholm, its final destination.

We enjoyed every single minute of the ten days aboard a cruise liner which is at the centre of a four-part documentary presently showing on Channel 5, part three of which is

scheduled to be seen this week; and believe me, life on board is just as delightful as it has been portrayed so far. However, that’s an aside to explain how we came to be visiting the Swedish island of Gotland, a charming location noted principally for its principal town of Visby.

Visby is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, that organisation’s thumbnail description of which reads:

‘The Hanseatic Town of Visby, a former Viking site on the island of Gotland, was the main centre of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic from the 12th to the 14th century. Its 13th- century ramparts and more than 200 warehouses and wealthy merchants’ dwellings from the same period make it the best-preserved fortified commercial city in northern Europe.’

UNESCO doesn’t mention the charming, small botanic garden on the edge of the town … the DBW Botanic Garden … which was founded in 1855 and is noted for its collection of trees, including fig trees and mulberry trees that are not usually to be found in northern Europe.

Of course, there are more common species of trees as well, including a remarkable old apple tree, reputed to have been one of the first saplings planted when the garden was started and which still bears edible fruit at the age of 164! Ah, an ’appy apple tree, forsooth, and one which has obviously enjoyed a better life than the apple tree we

planted when we first moved into our present home.

That unhappy tree seemed to have the ability to attract every widespread pest and every common disease known to man. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has this to say

of apple trees: ‘Apples are easy to grow, productive, and there are cultivars, shapes and sizes for every garden. They can be susceptible to a range of pests, diseases and disorders, but in most cases action can be taken to prevent or control the problem.

Susceptibility to the problems differs between cultivars – you would be very unlucky to have a tree that suffers from all of the problems.’ Well, I must be plain unlucky for, to the best of my recollection … we abandoned the tree many years ago … it’s final ailment was an attack by a root disease, most likely either honey fungus or Phytophthora root rot. Prior to this the poor tree often featured heavy infections of powdery mildew which seriously reduced it physical strength and general well-being.

Unsurprisingly, the tree’s ill health resulted in it shedding some of the small crop of undersized apples which it did struggle to produce. This is, the RHS say, a

phenomenon known as the June drop, although it can occur in July as well as June.

It is a natural process, during which the tree reduces its total crop to a level whereby the remaining fruit can be adequately supplied with nutrients until they are mature. The Society also says that poor growing conditions, such as drought, excess shade, lack of nutrients and poor pruning technique all contribute to an un’appy apple tree; so perhaps I am not so much unlucky as simply unskilled and the old tree in Visby has benefited from tender, loving care.