Apple Tree Life Cycle

I haven’t managed to blog much lately – the tail end of 2016 seems to have been way to busy (social whirl darhhhlings!) As the year draws to a close though, I feel a few reviewing posts coming on. One little project I started back at the beginning of the year was to try and document the life and times of our garden apple tree. I had originally planned to take a photo of the tree once a week throughout the year, but a) I kept forgetting and b) no-one would really want to look at 52 photos of the same tree! So although this post is full of photos, there’s hopefully a bit more variety.

Our apple tree is a medium sized, but fairly productive one, that gives us loads of delicious Discovery apples most years. At the beginning of the year though the tree was of course completely bare and remained so right up until the end of March.


A couple of weeks later in mid April and the leaf buds were just about visible and starting to open up.


Two more weeks and the leaves were filling out. I much prefer it when the tree is in leaf as it provides more privacy in the garden (not that our neighbours I’m sure have any interest in what we get up to in our garden!)


A mere 8 days later still and not only was the tree almost completely greened out, but the blossom was open too. The blossom seems to go on a two yearly cycle – one year it will completely cover the tree, the next year we don’t get very much – this year was one of the not very much years. It still looked beautiful though and was buzzing with bees for the short time it was out. The blossom never lasts long and this year it all got knocked off by a torrential downpour just a couple of days after this photo was taken.


Two weeks later at the end of May and the blossom was gone and the tree was fully green. The birds appreciate the cover provided by the leaves, although they never seem to actually nest in it.


By mid June small apples were visible. Although there hadn’t seemed like there was much blossom, we still had a lot of apples, so I guess the bees did a good job on what was there. On years where there is a huge amount of blossom, there can actually be too many apples. They crowd together on the branches, with not enough room to grow properly and many end up dropping off, so we don’t really get any more apples than on a poor blossom year.


By August the apples had turned the characteristic shiny red of the Discovery. The ones that get most sun turn the brightest red – they always remind me of the apple the witch uses to tempt Snow White!


We always end up with far too many apples for our own use, but Chris has a friend at work who makes cider, so he comes and clears the tree for us. Not only do the apples get put to good use, but it saves us having to pick up loads of rotting ones off the grass. So by September the apples were all gone and just a few of the leaves were starting to turn yellow.


By October the leaves were still all there but were definitely wearing their autumnal colours


A few windy days at the end of October and most of the leaves had gone by November.


And by yesterday the tree was back to square one – the only green left a few clumps of mistletoe that has recently colonised it.


As well as taking general shots of the whole tree, I tried to capture close ups of some of the individual parts. The leaf buds at the beginning of the year were brown and tightly furled but by mid April the young leaves had emerged, looking lovely and fresh green.



The blossom is of course effortlessly photogenic. It starts of a gorgeous deep pink before the flowers unfurl to almost pure white with just a hint of a blush. We’re very lucky to live in the Herefordshire/Worcestershire area, where in the spring there are orchards all around filled with apple blossom. It looks great on just our single tree, but when you see whole orchards in bloom it really is stunning.




The whole point of an apple tree (from a human point of view at least) is of course the apples.  The  young apples were green and had a downy fuzz (I’d never noticed the fuzziness before until I took these photos!) In May as the apples first form you could still see the remnants of the blossom flowers sticking out at the top.


As the apples matured they lost their fuzziness and turned shiny and red; the upper sides almost always turning red first as they got the most sunshine.


Most of the apples were of course turned into cider. They didn’t all get picked though and the few remaining ended up as food for wasps on the ground.


Every year I do pick a few for our own use before the cider makers take the main crop.


Discovery apples aren’t particularly good for storage, so you either have to eat them quickly or find some other use for them. Fortunately I’ve found they make very good mincemeat, courtesy of an excellent Delia (who else) recipe.


So the final stage in the life of our apples – jars of homemade mincemeat. It is nearly Christmas after all!


Mellow Fruitfulness

It may only be September, but it is starting to seriously feel like autumn in the garden now and has been for a few weeks! The nights are drawing in and the garden is starting to mellow into autumn, plant by plant. I’m hoping our resident hedgehogs are doing enough to fatten themselves up for the winter; but judging by the amount of time this one spent at the food bowl the other night, I think he or she at least has got the right idea!


We’re planning on getting a hedgehog nest box this year to help them out a bit further. Hopefully we can find a suitable spot for it under the brambles that are gradually taking over the back end of the garden.  Said brambles have been fruiting for weeks now – lovely fat juicy berries.


The beauty of picking blackberries from your own garden, especially if you garden organically, is that you know there’s nothing untoward been sprayed on them (with the possible exception of the lower ones which may fall foul of neighbourhood cats scent marking!)


I’ve picked some, but there are too many for us really, so I’m hoping the birds will take their fill, although they seem at the moment to prefer the suet bird food provided and are spurning the healthy fruit option!

Our other fruit crop is from our Discovery apple tree, which is an early cropping variety with lovely red sweet apples.


The tree a few weeks ago looked like this – laden with apples that were already starting to drop on our shoddy attempt at a lawn.

Apple tree with apples

Again there were too many apples for the two of us, but fortunately Chris has a cider-making friend who kindly came round and cleared most of them for us. Hopefully we’ll get some of the finished product! So a day’s apple picking and a few weeks later the tree is looking like this – leaves just starting to change colour from green to yellow in places.

Apple tree without apples

Another “crop” from the garden are the artichokes – Globe ones. To be honest they don’t really get harvested as I always leave them until they’re too big and tough. And anyway, I love the purple flowers which the bees go crazy for and they give fantastic structural interest amongst the prevailing weeds!

Artichoke flowers

Small mushrooms are also popping up now in the “lawn” – another autumnal sign. I’ve no idea what species they are or whether they are edible, so they’ll stay where they are amongst the grass.


One final thought – as if the approach of autumn wasn’t daunting enough, some of the apples from the tree have already made their way into this – Christmas is coming!


30 Days Wild – Day 22

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_22Day 22 of 30 Days Wild and it’s Wednesday, which means pub lunch with my Dad – today it was the delightful little town of Presteigne just over the Welsh border. It always feels like we’ve stepped back in time when we go there – Presteigne seems to run at a gentler, slower pace of life than anywhere else.

Anyway, don’t know if it was the Presteigne effect or what, but I decided to go back in time and explore Dad’s garden looking at things like I did when we were kids. My sister and I spent an awful lot of our childhood knee deep in mud and water in the stream that ran alongside our garden or just generally mucking about outside. The joys of a 1970s childhood!

We grew up in Herefordshire in a small village in a house that had been built on an old orchard. Our garden still retained quite a few apple trees which, when we were kids, were still quite productive – we even earned money occasionally picking the apples and selling them to a local farmer; we probably only got a few quid, but as children it seemed like we’d made a fortune! Now (more years later than I care to calculate) most of the trees have gone – mainly fallen in high winds as they got too old and brittle. There are a few left, like this cider apple one, which is still fairly sound and producing apples.

Apple tree


Several of the others though are little more than tall hollow stumps. This one had bits of wool around the hole, so unless the local sheep have started climbing, I think the hollow trunks are being used for bird nests, which is great.

Hollow apple tree

Several of the trees have clearly been choked by ivy growing up them. It’s probably a good job they weren’t like this when we were kids, or we’d have tried to climb them. (I’m old enough and heavy enough now not to consider this today!)

Ivy on tree

All the apple trees are covered in mistletoe. It is a little family ritual still that every year we pick big bunches of mistletoe from the apple trees for Christmas – there’s something lovely about growing your own Christmas decorations!


I was really pleased that the elderflower was in bloom in the garden. This too brought back childhood memories. We used to fill buckets with the flowers then turn them into “Elderflower Champagne”. No idea whether it was actually alcoholic, but we drank it as children (may explain a lot about my later life!) It was quite explosive – I seem to remember being woken in the night by bottles exploding in the kitchen on a fairly regular basis. As smaller children we used to make elderberry “pies” – basically a bowl of mushed up elderberries that no-one would eat.


The bottom of the garden is a bit overgrown (just how I like my gardens). One plant that is doing particularly well is Cleavers – or as we called them as kids – sticky buds. Childhood days in the garden always ended up with both us and the cats coming back inside covered in these.

Sticky Buds

Dad’s garden is always full of birds and today was no exception. As I walked down to the bottom, a buzzard flew out of a tree – he’d clearly spotted me before I spotted him. Needless to say he was too quick for me to get a photo. I had more luck with a pheasant that was wandering by the stream, but they don’t feel like much of a challenge.


I could hear lots of the birds this afternoon in the garden, but there’s one that really evokes childhood for me. It’s nothing fancy or rare – just the sound of pigeons cooing at each other.  You can hear them on and off all day. Even now if I hear them in my own garden and close my eyes I am transported back to my parents’ house – for me it’s always been a very comforting sound.  One thing I noticed while trying to get a recording of them today, was that there’s a lot more traffic going past Dad’s house than there was in the 1970s – I suppose that’s inevitable, even though his house is pretty much out in the sticks. So it took several goes to record them without too much traffic noise in the background.


They say smell is a very evocative sense when it comes to recalling memories. Dad’s garden has a lot of old fashioned roses – ones that are actually scented and smell like roses should. They are big, blousy varieties – one of which Dad took from his mother’s garden back in the 1960s! Sniffing them today reminded me of the garden in summer’s past. Roses today from shops just don’t smell like this.


Roses 2

The stream that runs alongside the garden was one of the main sources of entertainment for us as children. The stream is still there, although it’s a bit harder to get to now. Of course it could just be that the middle-aged me is less flexible climbing through fences than the childhood me was! It is only a small stream that feeds into the River Lugg and it’s possibly not the most picturesque (the various deposits from the farm next door add to the ambience shall we say!), but for me it will always be a special place.


We used to spend endless hours fishing for minnows and sticklebacks, which we’d then keep in an old paddling pool. With hindsight the poor things probably didn’t enjoy the experience very much, but we (and the cats) were enthralled by them. So in honour of my childhood I borrowed a kid’s fishing net from my sister (who also kindly took a photo of it when I realised I’d forgotten to do so). It was quite a deluxe model compared to the ones we had as kids, which just had plain canes and nets that were always getting torn and having to be repaired!


Grabbing the net, I scrambled through the fence and down to the stream. Standing there, net in hand, peering into the water I was 10 years old again. Happy Days. And much to my surprise (and his) I caught a stickleback. A Spineless Si of my very own (if you didn’t watch Springwatch last year you won’t know what I’m on about here), except this one did indeed have spines. He didn’t look very impressed by the experience though.


Stickleback 2

This Spined Si was of course released back into the stream as soon as I’d photographed him (no overheated paddling pool for him!) and I hope the whole experience wasn’t too traumatic for him.

Of all the things I’ve done on 30 Days Wild – I think fishing in the stream today, with a cheap plastic net, catching a stickleback, is probably the best. It’s easy to view your childhood with rose tinted spectacles, but I do truly think we were very lucky to grow up where we did and how we did. It was things like this, that left me with a lifelong love of nature and set me on the path I’ve taken for the rest of my life – all thanks perhaps to a few small fish.

Bramble 30 WEEDSAnd to finish as always the latest weed in my 30 Lazy Garden Weeds – the Bramble, seen here with a Honey Bee making the most of it. We have a dense thicket of brambles at the end of our garden, separating us from the neighbours. When the brambles are in flower they are abuzz with bees. And of course in the late summer we are rewarded with a plentiful supply of blackberries – the beauty of organic gardening is we don’t need to worry about there being any chemicals on these – although I do make sure we only pick those out of reach of cat’s scent marking the garden!