Nothing is so good for the soul as planting a tree. At least that’s what I was told.

With that in mind we have recently been planting apple trees in our Orchards at Swan Barn Farm. I noticed last year that one of our plum trees had unfortunately died. It was in a corner of the orchard that often lies pretty wet, obviously it hadn’t coped well with the soil conditions it had been asked to cope with. Normally the trees we plant are local traditional varieties, we are trying to keep our local Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire fruit heritage alive, but we have a few modern varieties as well, mostly from Kent, and the odd variety has crept in whose main endearing characteristic is its back story. I’m always a sucker for a good story, or for a tree that reminds me of a special place, and that’s what got me thinking about a possible replacement for our demised plum tree.

I heard a while ago that an apple tree had been found growing in a corner of the old monastery garden on the Island of Bardsey off the Llyn Peninsular in North Wales. This tree has since been grafted and propogated and is now available to buy. I have never been to Bardsey, but I remember spending many days looking across the sea to it from the wonderful farm my family used to go to for holidays on the mainland facing it. This beautiful enigmatic place is famous for its scenery, wildlife and its history, due to its association with early Christianity in the British Isles. It is a very special place, but (and I realize I am speaking as a Cornishman here) the weather is not always quite as wonderful as the scenery. I remember lots of sunshine, but I know there was lots of rain too. What better a place to find an apple tree hardy enough to cope with a slightly soggy corner of an orchard in Haslemere than a tree that thrived in a forgotten corner of a tiny island off the Welsh coast (well, that’s my thinking anyway, and I like the story so I’m sticking with it!).

digging a holeYou can see from the soil we dug to create a hole for it why the last tree didn’t do so well. This time we dug an extra wide and deep hole, to make for good drainage, and added plenty of compost and light and airy soil to the hole to give the new tree the best possible start in life.

planting bardsey apple

We raised the new soil and compost up into a slight mound so that the water would have chance to drain away from the tree. Keeping its feet out of the wet should help it grow and put down strong roots during its first few years.

tree gaurd

A mulch matt, stake and rabbit guard finished the job off. We have to keep our young trees protected from rabbits, they absolutely love the fresh young bark of a fruit tree, and given half the chance will strip every last bit of bark up to rabbit head height off of it. This can be very frustrating! The spiral plastic guard keeps the rabbits at bay, and then the wooden guard and wire keeps the sheep that graze in the orchards from nibbling the tree as well.

tree planted

For the first couple of years it looks rather like we have imprisoned a twig… But, over time the twig grows and becomes a tree, full of blossom and alive with the buzzing of bees in the spring, and laden with fruit in the autumn.

Grow well little Bardsey Apple tree, every time I see you I will be reminded of the wonderful coastal scenery of your homeland.