Years ago, starting first orchard, I asked my parents and my in-laws: What was your favorite apple as a kid? Each of them knew instantly even though they were in their sixties and seventies. Michigan in-laws blurted out Northern Spy and Fameuse (Snow). Iowa parents said Whitney Crab and Duchess (of Oldenburg). So I grafted them.
Surprise, surprise, their Upper Midwest apples didn’t like coastal Maryland. but I got points for trying and some good rootstock for re-grafting. To this day I’ve never tasted Snow or Whitney Crab but I got a few really tart Duchess before blight got it.
If you succeed in this you have no idea how happy you’ll make them, esp. if it’s an uncommon variety.
I got into this hobby by wanting to preserve apple trees my grandfather planted. The land my grandparents owned passed out of the family but the present owners were nice enough to allow back there to take some cuttings. The varieties were fairly common: Mcintosh, Northern Spy and Delicious, but still glad to know that those old trees live on.
DH & I bought his maternal grandmothers house, although we had built 18 months earlier he couldnt bear to have the home pass to strangers. Her favorite apple tree, king of tompkins county is still alive in the back yard, roughly 90 years old and the tree we enjoy was a branch DH swung from as a child. Wind blew it over, soil covered what was on the ground and the branch grew. It has hollowed, but produces like crazy we are tending its off spring and both our boys have grafted trees at their houses. Only apple grandma deemed good enough for pie, only apple my family allows for pies. Keeps grandma close.
My great-grandparents had a pear and peach orchard. Year before last we were allowed back on the property by the current owners. There was one ancient pear tree left. I was able to get scions and have a few grafts of it now in my orchard. I have no idea what variety it is, and my dad and uncles don’t know what it is either. It is really cool to have that connection to the old farm my dad grew up on though. The neighbors to the farm used to come over to pick pears to can back when the pear trees were in full production, so it’s probably nothing special taste wise, but it’s still a cool connection to two generations that are long gone. The peach trees were all long gone when I was there, but here and there were seedling peach trees growing wild amongst the edges of the forests and fields.
You and I both, grandparents are selling the land I have my garden of 3 years on; will have to dig out all the thornless raspberry/blackberry, apple/pear/plum rootstock, and lowbush blueberries next month. He has an Asian pear in his line of 18 apple trees that taste like those blue colored freezie’s when ripe. The land is still up in the air whether my family can afford it or not, it will get sold eventually. I just hope the next owners treat that place with respect as much as my grandfather and I did, and maybe allow me to take scion wood from the Asian pear and seed from the salmonberry and pacific crabapple. The dream will live on, as much as it pains me; we have to make due with what land we have.
We are growing a couple fruit trees near Annapolis. I know we don’t have a big orchard but hopefully we can get some other folks from Maryland to come over and give us their opinions. Planted 3 Whitney Crab in 2021 and had three crabapples in 2023 so I hope we have more this year. Whitney photo attached. There are 3 paw paws that I planted in 2019 and had our first paw paw fruit in 2023. Our 5 apple trees planted in 2017 are growing well…but only two apples last year. My wife says they take seven years to grow so we will see what 2024 brings. And our 5 peach trees had a bumper crop in 2023 so I am hoping for a repeat this year. Lastly, we planted a couple kiwi berries bushes in 2022 so I guess we have to wait another 4-5 years for the kiwis to appear.
My Grandparents had a 5000 tree apple orchard near Dixon, Missouri; I don’t know what variates they grew, but I do have two of the old wooden barrels that they packed apples in for shipment.
My parents planted Northen Spy, King David and Winesap apples; Green Gage plums and 4 trees of Bartlett pears. They also had one old apple tree that almost died when it fell with a hollow trunk, but sent up shoots and regrew to over 15 feet. I think it was Wolf River with hugh apples, not good to eat fresh but great for pies. I now have a young Wolf River that produced 6 small apples last year.
My Bartlett pear is too young to produce but the two Kieffer pears had a great crop.
I sometimes am saddened at being two generations removed from the farm on either side of the family. No one expressed their favorite apple, but visiting the Sheboygan family in 1970, they talked about enjoying what they called, “Rattlebox.” The seeds came loose inside & could be heard when shaken. They said it was a red fruit & rather cylindrical. Maybe a Yellow Belleflower seedling?
I’ve never run across either, so can only surmise. So, I am trying to establish a backyard orchard the grandkids will treasure as the fruits come into production, eating Grampa’s favorites.
If you know the name of grandparent’s orchard the internet might have have something about what they grew. There is an archives of old apple catalogs if you have their orchard name, others here can point you in right direction.
We are growing Roxbury Russet, which my grandparents grew at their house in CT. My interest in russets generally came about partly from my dad’s descriptions of apples he ate growing up in Michigan.
The seeds came loose inside & could be heard when shaken.
I remember reading about an heirloom apple that was known for this, but unfortunately I can’t dredge up the name at the moment, and a little bit of poking around didn’t shake out the information I was looking for. To add to Hambone’s offerings, though, I did find this:
I tried to grow Cox Orange Pippin, the favorite apple of my German grandfather. He grew apples on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic until the land was taken from our family when the borders were moved after WWII. He taught my father to graft, who taught me the basics. Unfortunately it did poorly in my zone compared to other apples.