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11 Mar 2021

Replanting apple trees at the Hill House

Written by Gavin Smith, Gardener
A man plants an a bare-stemmed apple tree in a garden. There is a high red brick wall behind him.
The apple orchard at the Hill House was first planted by me in the winter of 1984–85. It’s on the site of the former kitchen garden, which provided vegetables, fruit and cut flowers in the Blackie family’s time.

We planted a mix of culinary and dessert apple varieties in nine rows, including well established older cultivars such as Egremont Russet, Arthur Turner, Early Victoria, Lord Derby, Fortune, James Grieve and Reverend W Wilks. Unfortunately, all these trees have now been lost, some after they were damaged by gales and the rest had to be removed before construction of the Box in 2018. Years ago, local schoolchildren would come and pick the apples, put them through an apple press and enjoy a drink of fresh apple juice! Our clean air here meant that the mature trees eventually became encrusted with wispy, beard-like lichen, which always fascinated visitors.

Branches of an apple tree that are encrusted with lichen.
Lichen covering the branches of one of the apple trees of the old orchard

The trees in the newly restored orchard are a mixture of modern and older varieties. They’re all dessert apples, including Katy, Greensleeves, Braeburn, Blenheim Orange, Sunset and Worcester Pearmain. When these lovely trees start to produce fruit we’ll either be able to sell them to visitors or use them in our own delicious recipes in the Hill House café!

When the Box is removed, these trees too will have to come out – but they’ll be replaced, repeating the apple orchard process all over again!

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