Gardens:
The Orchard

Location:

Productive Gardens

Descriptive Summary:

This is a sunny, exposed, South - West facing slightl slope at the top of our Wildflower Meadow, within view of the warden’s cottage and the meadow. We have planted a 'United Kingdom of Apple Varieties' selected from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland: At some 15m x 6m in size, we have made room for 21 standard fruit trees in a utilitarian grid formation some 3.5m apart. The Orchard has stock fencing and gates at the North and South ends. Each tree also had a plastic trunk guard surrounding it for the first few years as voles are an issue here, and for 4-5 years we keep tree bases free of grass with mulch mats. The area is surrounded by a hawthorn hedge, planted to provide shelter for the young trees. No pesticides are used, but an annual potash feed in late winter and grease bands are applied.

A selection of plants:

With longevity and ease of maintenance foremost in our concerns, we have opted for planting chiefly maiden apples (usually grafted one or two year old trees) on MM106 rootstock. This is described as a 'semi-vigorous' rootstock which should give us 'classic' apple tree shapes of 3m height / spread within the next 10 - 20 years. We hope it will suit our poor soil and exposed position, and that it will need minimal staking and pruning in the long term. In winter 2010 we planted the following trees in two-metre squares of manured and mulched ground, using mycorrhizal fungi and bonemeal in the planting holes: 

Apples: Brownlees Russet / Gravenstein / Duke of Devonshire / Mere de Menage / Monarch / Keswick Codlin / Hawthornden / Scotch Bridget / Cissy / Bardsey Island / St Cecilia / Pig Aderyn / Croen Mochyn / Monmouth Beauty / Cavan Sugarcane / Yellow Pitcher / Kemp / Keegans Crab / April Queen

Pear: Snowdon Queen (a Welsh variety found half way up Snowdon the mountain) and Humbug (an Eastern European variety with striped markings), as well as Quince 'Champion'.

In winter 2011 - 12 we planted the last half dozen trees, which were Irish in origin. Locals may like to join the South Lakes Orchard Group (who supplied our 'Scotch Bridget'), and we found the Orange Pippin apple database very helpful too. Our trees were sourced mainly from 3 great nurseries: RV Roger, Gwynfor Growers & Irish Seedsavers.

Along the drystone wall we have a rough border of white-fringed campion and the following species of 'wild' rose cultivars:

Rosa rubus (a rambler) / Rosa moyesii 'Eos' / Rosa moyesii 'Hillierii' / Rosa x cantabrigiensis / Rosa foetida 'Bicolor' / Rosa moschata / Rosa omeiensis pteracantha

Maker/s:

Karen Guthrie with Adam Sutherland, Campbell Guthrie, Mee Homma & Ed Bailey

About the designers/maker/s:

Karen Guthrie with Adam Sutherland, Campbell Guthrie, Mee Homma & Ed Bailey

Date:

2010

Origin:

The Orchard was rough meadow grass / reeds until it was fenced off by our stone-waller James Herd in 2010. We had observed over time that the moderate SW slope seemed to be one of the garden's sunniest spots, and that it was relatively fast to lose frost and warm up at either end of the season. Though the soil is very poor to start with, drainage was not bad due to the gradient of the ground. In winter / spring 2010 the planting areas were manured and rotivated before light-excluding carpet mulch was applied, to kill weeds and encourage worms to draw down the manure. Not a fast way of doing things, but experience has taught us to prepare tree and shrub areas here fastidiously to get them off to a really strong start.

We chose hawthorn as a hedge to surround the orchard as it can quickly make a dense and twiggy shelter to slow down wind and protect the young fruit trees. It was planted across 2010 - 11 and has taken very well, making an average of 80cm growth in the first season - perhaps due to the use of newly available and highly beneficial fungi (mycorrhizal fungi) added to the planting holes.

Raison d'etre:

It is the height of horticultural long-sightedness and optimism to plant an orchard anywhere – it takes at least 5 years before you have any decent harvest, even in a benevolent spot. Which Lawson Park is certainly not. At a 200m altitude, a wet and windy farm feels particularly high risk, as even the wild crab apples in the forest struggle with frost, wind and the wet. But even the most unproductive orchards are beautiful, vital nature reserves. And if we had followed gardening wisdom, we wouldn't have so much as put a spade into the ground at all when we started.

When you start researching the present 'orchard renaissance' in the UK you swiftly find yourself amidst swathes of apple zealots promoting marginalised local varieties with names such as Bloody Ploughman or Keswick Codlin. Worthy as such historic preservation is we are also in the game of getting a decent crop of apples as well, so we decided to set up a nationwide orchard of varieties from Scotland, England (inc. local Cumbrian varieties), Ireland and Wales, all selected to suit our tough spot.

Adaptions / renovations

In winter 2011/12 we planted a number of resilient species roses along the drystone wall that marks the Eastern boundary of the Orchard. These have been chosen mainly for scent and hips to extend the interest of this area. Since 2015 white-fringed campion has been underplanted here, and is now doing a bit too well.

Drainage was a problem along the southern boundary closest to the stream, so 18 dogwoods (cornus alba) have been planted between stream and orchard to try and soak up some of the excess water there.

In 2017/18 mulch mats around the trees were removed to reduce the vigour of the now matured trees. The Welsh pear and the Humbug pear have both endured wired-down branches for several seasons in order to better shape the most vigorous branches and induce flowering wood to ripen, with some success, especialy on the latter.

In 2016 we put a bench in there, because it’s just a very beautiful place to sit.

  • The site in 2011, shelter mesh in place