The years of effort, waiting, work, waiting, sweat, labour, waiting, inputs, waiting, are, if the weather cooperates, going to result in some reasonable quantity of fruit this harvest season. A survey of the main orchard found at least 51 apple trees with fruit blossoms. Several varieties and all three root stock types (bud9, m111 and antonovka) have fruit buds. Last year, for comparison, we could count on one hand the number of trees with fruit buds, and we harvested all of 6 apples. Some of the older trees in the nursery bed, aka the Strawberry Patch orchard, also have fruit buds, for the second year. Those trees produced a few hundred Hewe’s Virginia Crab apples.
We are working with The Boulder Apple Tree Project, and have been for more than a year. This is a nice write up on the BATP.
The June 2017 edition of Colorado Gardener has an article we contributed on the topic of popularizing grafting skills as a way to build appreciation for Colorado’s historic apples. In addition to the better-known West Slope fruit-growing districts, Canon City, Wheatridge/Arvada, Boulder, Longmont and other areas on the Front Range once had vibrant orchard industries. There are surely hundreds, possibly thousands, of trees still alive from that golden era of apple growing before the advent of supermarket chains. These trees have both historical and horticultural value.
Among these elder trees are surely some lost varieties — cultivars known to have originated here but which are otherwise forgotten. Because they grow well in our conditions, they represent an opportunity for small growers whose focus is local markets, as well as backyard orchardists.
With inspiration from Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (they’ve already rediscovered the Colorado Orange and other lost apples, and done terrific work to bring back the orchard industry in the Cortez area) and others, we’re beginning an effort to locate old historic apple trees along Colorado’s Front Range and graft new copies of them. We’d welcome your help, if you’re interested in moving this project forward — a little, a lot, or anywhere in between.
As a starting point, we need to know where old trees are and develop criteria for prioritizing which ones to save. If you know of trees we ought to consider, can you provide an address or (better) GPS coordinates, plus a couple of photos? (Please be respectful of private property and appreciative of owners who have kept these special trees alive)
We anticipate that during the busy summer months we won’t be able to visit many trees, but can probably put more energy into that in September/October. We’d love to be in touch now, though, with folks who’d like to work on Front Range apples and orchard history. Please send us a message!
Meanwhile, what else could we all work on? How about bud grafting? After a successful dormant grafting workshop in April, we’d like to tackle a workshop or two of bud grafting this summer. If you have a tree that needs preserving, there’s a window of opportunity in July when apples can be easily ‘budded’. We have a small supply of rootstocks onto which buds can be grafted. Interested in bud grafting this summer?
This is going to be a lot of fun.
Do you know of any old (difficult or impossible to put your arms around the base of the trunk) apple trees in your neighborhood in Colorado? If you do, please get in touch with us! If you have already done so, thanks!