Good, old, New England apples (or apples for New England)?

Please keep us updated on the Old Pierre apple. I saw that variety at Fedco back in their 2015 catalog when I joined them. I was going to order it but could not find any reference to anyone that actually had one. I wanted to see their reviews of the actual apple. Sounded like an interesting story to the apple. I get suckered into buying trees because of the name or interesting story behind the fruit at times.

Mike, so far Old Pierre has done pretty well. It was a good size tree when it arrived, perhaps the biggest I’ve bought mail order 5/8" + and almost 6’ tall with fair branching. I typically top pretty severely when I plant bare-root trees for whatever reason I just couldn’t with this one so I tied the central leader over pretty close to horizontal and weighted down the biggest branches as well. It came through its first season here with no powdery mildew or any other issues for that matter. As for getting sucked in by a narrative or a name, I understand completely. This one was an absolute must for me. I liked the name, the estimated age of the tree, and ancestors from that area in that era, I had to find a place to plant it. Probably 2 more years before we see fruit but very dark green healthy growth and reported late harvest season has me cautiously optimistic in the meantime. Wasn’t the Apple described as orange, late, medium to large with pretty good sugar levels(18%+)?

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From what I remember it was that description you mentioned. At that time I was not looking for a late apple. It sounded interesting. I thought it would be offered again the next year or perhaps this year but it is not listed. I also checked my Seed Savers catalog for 2017 and it is not listed there either. ( I do not have that year Fedco catalog any longer- I though it would be available again the next year so I recycled the catalog). I was not sure if it was merely a cider apple since the sugar was that high or if it was a more dessert apple. That was why I was looking for reviews before I bought one. Now I guess I will have to wait to hear what you say about this apple. When you want the tree to give you fruit it seems to take F…O…R…E…V…E…R…

Once again, Tom, you’ve been very helpful. What you said in your earlier comment about picking varieties pretty much hits the nail on the head for me, in terms of trying to triangulate between different sources to figure out what would be a good bet to try (or at least not a bad one). It is fun, and I do enjoy the research aspect, though it can get a bit bewildering at times.

Your report on Orleans Reinettes sounds great. Happy to say that’s one of the ones that I’ve ordered already! It seems to make sense that the French apples would do well where you are - I’ve sometimes seen people mention that they “prefer a warm spot,” and I plan to put ours in the sunniest area we have available here. (I still think I’m going to hold off on Calville for now, but I will definitely keep your recommendation in mind. It would certainly make good sense for espalier, as you point out.)

That’s interesting about the Wyken Pippin. Am I right in recalling that it’s generally a yellow, vaguely Old-Nonpareilish-looking apple in England? Different growing conditions, or a misidentification, I wonder. In either case, it sounds like you got a good tree!

Helpful to hear about your experience with Gray Pearmain as well (though I’m sorry that it hasn’t been more positive). I do have that and Black Oxford ordered from Fedco, so I will be interested to see how the Maine apples do here. I’ll plan to give the GP a slightly cooler spot. That would probably also make sense for some of the English apples that have a reputation for washing out in the heat.

Thank you also for the additional information about Old Pierre (and thank you to Mike for asking) - I’ll keep that name in mind when perusing Fedco in the future.

@Matt_in_Maryland: When they start taking applications for photographers at Apple Vogue, you will have your portfolio ready.

Thanks again!


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Hi Mike,

You asked me about Blue Pearmain. No, it is not particularly juicy. But it is not super dry either.

This was my taste review of Blue Pearmain from this past fall:

Matt, thank you for the information and description of the Blue Pearmain. It may be one I can squeeze into an area just to give it a try. It looks great in your pictures. I just had not read that many actual reviews of people that had eaten them. More reviews in books or from nursery catalogs. I am leery of the catalog reviews. They tend to hide any fruit deficiencies in order to sell a tree.

Thanks for posting that again, Matt. Derek Mills at Hocking Hills Orchard describes Blue Pearmain as one of his favorite apples. I’ve ordered some scion wood from him, so hopefully it will do well for us, too. There seem to be people who love it, people who find it interesting, and people who think its kind of meh, but my wife found the descriptions, and the pictures, very appealing, so it made our list.

I guess I should update the list of things that I’m ordering, now that I’ve sent the orders off.

In the category of old New England/Northeastern apples:

American Beauty
Black Oxford
Blue Pearmain
Gray Pearmain
Hunt Russet
Roxbury Russet
Westfield Seek No Further
Wheeler’s Golden Russet

(Notable omission at this point: Hubbardston Nonesuch, which I do really want to try but will have to track down sometime in the future.)

And apples from elsewhere:

Adams Pearmain
Ashmead’s Kernel
Claygate Pearmain
Hoople’s Antique Gold
Kidd’s Orange Red
Orleans Reinette
Pitmaston Pineapple
Pomme Gris
Reine des Reinettes

My basic selection criteria:

  1. Reputation for being healthy and hardy, or at least not especially problematic (though I’m aware that some of the varieties I’ve selected do have their issues, and in other cases there’s simply not all that much information)

  2. Range of seasons and tastes, with a bit heavier emphasis on later apples that keep decently well and an attempt to balance higher-flavored apples with relatively mild but pleasantly distinctive types (my wife’s preference). No real early apples at this point, though.

  3. Irrational bonus points for local heroes and sentimental favorites, including a couple of things I just took a flyer on, more or less.

All this will be coming in the form of scion wood which I will be grafting to new rootstock with my dad this spring, once we get past the danger of a hard frost.

For the rootstock, I think I’m going to go with G 935, which I’ve seen get very positive reviews here. It may be a little more vigor than I need for a Belgian fence, strictly speaking, but the recommendations I got trended toward more vigor for relatively colder climates, and hopefully the added oomph will give the trees a little more ability to bounce back from whatever setbacks are inflicted upon them by the environment and, um, me. Because while I’m certainly planning to give it my best shot, I do expect that the first few years of this “experiment” will be something of a shakedown cruise…

Probably getting in a little bit over my head with this, but I decided that I wanted to throw a bunch of stuff out there and see what worked out and what didn’t. And for the price of a stick of scion wood, that’s a little bit easier to do.

Thank you for all your help, everyone, and of course, all your future comments, suggestions, and what-kind-of-knucklehead-are-you?'s will be greatly appreciated.


Two sample fruits are growing on Hunt Russet out back. So far, pretty good size, they are coloring up red nicely through the lighter russet than expected. It has been a very easy care tree, despite some warnings I’ve read it can be sensitive to fire blight.
Only fire blight strike in 10 years here hit Honeycrisp. If Hunt turns out as nice as I am hoping, I may top-work any losers among a half dozen others to it in the future.


I have seen lots of press about latent virus problems on G935 rootstocks where the trees grow a few years then fall into decline. A few months ago Good Fruit grower discussed the issue and some research in progress in Washington where some growers are loosing large blocks of recently planted G935 trees on certain varieties.

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Agreed, from a knowledgeable source G222 was recommended.

Thanks for passing along the heads-up about the issues with G935. I read about that on this thread started by @Levers101.

Based on that info, I ended up changing my rootstock order to G41, which seems to be working out pretty well so far. (According to the thread above, G11, G41, and G222 don’t seem to share the virus susceptibility issues of G16, G30, and G935.) Grandpa’s was very accommodating about making the change.

Here’s a review of how my bench grafted apples have been doing, now that we’re getting toward the end of the growing season here.

Grafts failed:

Claygate Pearmain
Lord Lambourne
Roxbury Russet (1 of 2)
Hoople’s Antique Gold (1 of 2)
Wheeler’s Golden Russet (1 of 2)

Laggards, slugabeds, barely hanging on:

Blue Pearmain: This graft showed no signs of taking until well into the summer, well after I had started to let the rootstock grow out. At that point I didn’t feel like I could remove the rootstock growth without risking killing the whole thing, so I just let it go. Ended up with only the most minimal scion growth, but it didn’t die, so I guess I’ll nip off the RS stuff when it goes dormant and see how it does next year.

Roxbury Russet: Started out ok but then kind of stalled, and one of the two main branches died around midsummer. Not sure exactly what happened, suspecting maybe a virus? If it doesn’t bounce back next year I’ll look to replace it.

Decent but a few issues:

Westfield Seek No Further (x2), Black Oxford (x2), American Beauty: All three of these varieties grew ok, but noticeably on the less vigorous side, and with some signs of disease susceptibility (leaf yellowing that I took to be CAR), though this was pretty minor. All three also had some issues with aphids.
When I went out to check just now, I noticed that WSNF seems to still be growing more actively than most varieties.

Ashmead’s Kernel: Grew ok, not great, but looked kind of generally ratty.

Wheeler’s Golden Russet: Grew ok, not great, but wanted to veer off to the side.

OK, middle of the pack:

Adams Pearmain, Orleans Reinette: Both were a bit less vigorous than average but seemingly healthy. OR seemed to want to get a bit bushy while AP seemed to be a little more willowy.

Reine des Reinettes, Kidd’s Orange Red (x2): Both about average in terms of vigor, no particular problems noted. One of the KOR was grafted on a notably skimpy rootstock (my fault there), and came through OK, so that was nice.

Strongest growers:

Hoople’s Antique Gold: Jumped out early and kept going strong. Seemed to handle leafhopper issues better than most, though it did show some minor late disease damage - Marsonnina (sp?)? Very healthy, pretty growth otherwise.

Hunt Russet, Fall Russet, Mother, Gray Pearmain, and Pitmaston Pineapple: All seemed vigorous and healthy. GP may actually have ended up growing the most of all my trees, though it seemed to struggle more with leafhopper damage in midsummer. HR and Mother were right there with HAG in terms of growth and health. FR was slightly less vigorous but notably healthy despite being in a somewhat less favorable spot. PP started quite a bit slower than the rest but has looked better and better as the season goes on, and like FR has seemed notably clean and healthy.

Overall, I feel like things have been going pretty well. Definitely some lessons learned, but the trees seem to be doing ok.

Things to work on for next year include:

Transplanting trees and starting to train them to a trellis.
Improving scion and rootstock storage for any varieties that I’ll be adding or regrafting.
Keeping leaf-damaging insects in check (esp. leafhoppers, spider mites, and aphids)

PS @NuttingBumpus: Happy to hear Hunt Russet has been doing so well for you - I look forward to hearing how it tastes!


I hope you can get another shot at Lord Lambourne. I really liked this one, but its fruit splits badly in arid conditions. Incredibly precocious, you must strip it of fruits from the first season after grafting (although it makes quite a picture to see it blooming from the top of a whip!) Partially self fertile, it blooms mid-early among apples.
It should go on the largest root stock you’ve got, or after the graft takes, re-plant it and bury the graft union so the bud wood takes root. It will never be a big tree.


BTW, I have Claygate Pearmain. It is also precocious, blooming in its third leaf. I have two grafted onto Bud 118, hoping they’d get some size in order to put russets by the sidewalk. They grow slowly, and these are affected by turf encroaching on the root zone while young, so must clear that up, give 'em some compost this fall and mulch well. Next year, they may grow that much better.

If this sounds discouraging, you need to know the season is fairly short here, the soil only so-so sand. Claygate is praised by HIghandDry, who lives in Reno, NV. His conditions are similar to mine. For that reason I am giving them more time to prove themselves. Among English apples, Claygate might be a winner in your region.

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Thank you for sharing your experiences with Lord Lambourne and Claygate Pearmain. LL is not something that had been really been on my radar, to be honest, but Derek Mills of Hocking Hills Orchard kindly included it as a bonus with our scion order, and I think he chose really well for us. It’s certainly something I would try grafting again.

It’s useful to know that Claygate may be somewhat on the less vigorous side. If it’s made it through the heat and cold with you out there, it should be able to handle what we see here. Scott mentioned that Claygate had problems with rotting for him down in Baltimore, but I’m hoping it will do ok up here.

Funny that you should mention the encroaching turf, by the way. My current project has been stripping away the sod in the area where I’m planning to plant out apples from our little nursery in the spring.

Hi Jamie! Any updates on this topic? I am planning to espalier some trees and wanted to know how your project has progressed.

Edit: I see you had posted on this thread Attempting Espalier with Two Super-Dwarf Apples - #9 by JinMA

Hey Ryan,

Cool to hear that you are thinking about an espalier project. Personally I think it’s a great way to go for a backyard (or frontyard) orchard.

If you haven’t checked out @HollyGates excellent threads on his espaliers, I’d definitely encourage you to do so. Like you, he has an engineer’s mind and approach to things, and his project is much better thought out than mine. (I would probably be the first little pig in the story, but the wolf hasn’t come to blow everything down yet, so…)

Personally, I’ve been really happy with the espalier approach. We have a fairly small yard that’s partly shaded by our house and large city street trees, so making the most of space and sun is a big thing, and I also feel like espalier makes the trees easier to take care of overall. I especially like the Belgian fence setup, because the individual trees are much easier to manage than a multi-tier espalier would be, but the cumulative effect is still equally striking. (And we get a lot of positive comments on the more visible fence in our front yard.)

In terms of updates, it looks like my oldest trees are now heading into their fifth year since bench grafting. We have not yet gotten fruit, though a couple of trees did have a few blossoms last year (Blue Pearmain, Hunt Russet, Wheeler’s Golden Russet, and Reine des Reinettes are the ones I remember). Reine des Reinettes started to form fruit but they didn’t mature. More of the trees do seem to be starting to form spurs, though, so I’m optimistic that we’ll start to get there soon - should know more in a couple of months.

I’ve also had better results on grafting since the first year (where I shot myself in the foot by storing my bench grafts in pots that drained poorly). Grafting in-ground rootstock works better for me, I think.

Here’s my current variety list with a few notes (again, no fruit yet). In keeping with the theme of the thread, I’ve noted the ones with MA/New England connections):

Adams Pearmain: On the less vigorous side but pretty well behaved.
American Beauty (MA): Has grown pretty nicely.
Ashmead’s Kernel: Declined after being transplanted out of the nursery and eventually died. Attempting a new graft this year.
Black Oxford x2 (ME): One of the stronger growers. Pretty striking tree: kind of like the fruit, the bark has a really dark purplish color. Have had a little trouble training it as a Belgian fence because it really wants to form a central leader.
Belle de Boskoop: Grafted last year, seems vigorous.
Blenheim Orange: Grafted last year, seems very vigorous.
Blue Pearmain (NE): I really didn’t think this one was going to make it the first year, but it recovered from its early struggles and is now a pretty strong-growing tree. Distinctive bark color, similar to Black Oxford but not quite as dark.
Bramley’s Seedling: Grafted last year, runaway freight train. Both Blenheim and Bramley are supposed to tend pretty strongly toward tip-bearing, so the plan is to grow them as freestanding trees and graft other, less vigorous tip bearers onto them.
Claygate Pearmain: Finally succeeded in grafting this one last year. Time to transplant it into the lineup.
Cornish Aromatic: Grew well initially but had a roughish year recovering from transplantation (I’ve ended up moving things around more than was good for them - one of those lessons learned)
Court Pendu Plat: Grafted a couple years ago. Not terribly vigorous. (This is one that I suspect I may rethink down the road, but I was in a “why not?” mood at the time.)
Edward VII: Grafted a couple years ago, and seems to grow pretty nicely. Pollination partner with CPP (both are supposed to bloom very late).
Fall Russet: Seems to grow pretty well but tends to get some kind of leaf spot towards the end of the season. (Not scab, I’m pretty sure - I think it’s Glomerella?)
Gray Pearmain (ME): Grows well, nice sturdy tree so far.
Hoople’s Antique Gold: Decent grower, generally healthy, but seems to be subject to the same late season leaf issues as Fall Russet. I know you were looking for this one - I believe I got the scion from Singing Tree, and there are other places that have it.
Hubbardston Nonesuch (MA): Botched the graft on this one a couple years ago and it’s struggled as a result. If it doesn’t come on stronger this year I will probably try to regraft it.
Hunt Russet (MA): One of my stronger growing trees.
Kerry Pippin: Grafted last year.
Kidd’s Orange Red: Grows well, healthy, seems to take well to espalier.
Mother (MA): In the middle with vigor, but healthy.
Old Nonpareil: In the middle with vigor, but very healthy.
Orleans Reinette: Another moderately vigorous but healthy tree. This is one that seems to respond to heavier heading cuts by bushing out into a lot of twiggy growth. One reason I have come to prefer notching as a much more reliable way to stimulate secondary branching. I’ve had an Orleans Reinette that was one of the best apples I’ve ever eaten. So good that I’m planning to graft another tree this year.
Pitmaston Pineapple: Very good grower, espaliers well.
Pomme Gris: Grafted a couple of years ago, transplanted last year, seems to be doing ok.
Pumpkin Russet (NE): This one has really struggled for me, partly because it got moved a couple of years in a row. Taking a wait and see approach on this one.
Reine des Reinettes: Another moderately vigorous but generally quite healthy tree.
Roxbury Russet x2 (MA): Kind of a tale of two trees here. One barely made it out of the first year, and while it’s survived, it’s been outstripped by the tree I grafted a couple years later, which has been a good solid grower. Out of the antique apples that we’ve tried, this was probably my wife’s favorite, and one of mine as well, right up there with Orleans Reinette.
Westfield Seek No Further x2 (MA): Local hero from Western Mass. Seems to grow well.
Wheeler’s Golden Russet (MA): Probably my rarest variety. According to Burford, apparently a sport of Golden Russet from nearby us here in Western Mass. Strong growing, very healthy. Had a couple of flowers last year if I remember correctly.

This year I’m planning to graft:

Ashmead’s Kernel (replacing the tree that died)
Orleans Reinette (adding another tree from my own scion)
St. Edmund’s Pippin
Windham Russet (NE)

Also growing some pears, but they’re not as far along. Current varieties:

Beurre Superfin
Comtesse Clara Frijs
Dana Hovey (MA)
Harvest Queen
Harrow Sweet
Korean Giant
Des Urbanistes
Winter Nelis

But a bunch of the pears got mauled by rabbits (snow was high enough to expose unprotected scaffolds - another lesson learned), so we’ll see what shakes out there.

This year I’m planning to graft:

Beurre Clairgeau
Cabot of Vermont (VT)
Louise Bonne de Jersey

Kind of second-guessing myself already on BC and LBdJ, but we’ll see how it turns out.

In general, I have had much more trouble with pears than I have with apples, partly due to pear psylla and partly due to the challenges involved in getting OHxF rootstock to establish itself. (In my experience, it does NOT like being transplanted.)

And we have one peach tree, Madison.


Great selections. I hope these all take and you get some wonderful apples from them.

Thank you for the update Jamie! I have seen @HollyGates project as well, it is also very impressive. Keep those pictures coming once things progress! I think that having updated lists of which trees do well for espalier (and disease resistance) for certain areas is very important.

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Did a little thinning of the apple trees today. First time that I’ve had apples to thin, so that’s exciting. Here are a couple early observations:

Adams Pearmain was the first tree to bloom this spring, and by a good margin. Pretty pink buds and pink-veined blossoms. Set a bit of fruit which I thinned pretty heavily given that it’s still growing into its space and it’s not the strongest growing tree.

Mother had the heaviest bloom and fruit set, which surprised me a bit, as I expected it to take longer. Also attractive buds and blossoms.

Reine des Reinettes also had a good amount of blooms and blossoms. It had blossomed very lightly last year without setting fruit, but fruit is developing this year.

Hunt Russet had also blossomed lightly last year without setting fruit. Not a lot of blossoms this year, either, but a fruit or two does seem to be on its way.

Two that had blossoms and now fruit for the first time are Orleans Reinette and Pitmaston Pineapple. Neither had blossomed previously. Black Oxford, Gray Pearmain, and Hoople’s Antique Gold also had at least a smattering of blossoms.

As the trees are starting to have blossoms for the first time, I’ve noticed that some trees (like Adams Pearmain, Mother, and the two Reinettes) seem to have most of their blossoms lower down in the tree, while others (Black Oxford, Hunt Russet, Hoople’s Antique Gold) seem to have them more up toward the top. The lower-blossoming trees also seem to be blossoming more readily than the higher-blossoming ones. I’m not sure what that portends if anything but it’s something I’ve observed.


This discussion got me thinking about the trees in our orchard. About 20% of our orchard apple trees have New England origins.

Northfield Beauty, Vt
always abundant, very good (in its season)
Magog Readstreak, Vt
never has produced the giant-sized fruit we were expecting. Better as a cooker.
Garden Royal, Mass.
great things in a small package
Striped Harvey, Me.
its striking appearance is its best attribute
Porter, Mass.
that it was included by name in the original Fanny Farmer cookbook should have warned us it is not so great as a fresh eating apple, but it is a great cooker
Mother, Mass.
one of our all-around favorites, but is a bit variable in flavor some years
Red Canada, Conn. or Mass.
the only apple in Beach’s Apples of NY to get a “good to best” rating (as opposed to vg-best). We must have the right growing conditions for flavor, because the apples are quite enjoyable.
Hubbardston Nonesuch, Mass.
Scott and others list this as a later ripening variety, but it is ready much sooner here, similar in season to what Scott Farm reports for southern Vermont. Glad we don’t have to wait. Another favorite.
Dyer, RI
the tree took a long time to first bear fruit, but it is now in my top five favorite apples
Pound Sweet, Conn.
got scionwood from a friend. Better than its original primary usage — food for pigs — would suggest. How’s that for faint praise?
Tolman Sweet, probably Conn. or Mass.
only started to come into bearing, so have to withhold judgment
Peck’s Pleasant, RI
after a few years of failed grafting attempts, this year two are showing signs of success.
American Beauty, Mass.
first tree died before fruiting. Successful graft this spring, so no opinion yet.
Starkey, Me.
quite flavorful, even without allowing a few weeks to mellow
Briggs Auburn, Me.
this was the first year the tree was not full of blossoms. OK flavor, but we use most of the apples in cider
Westfield Seek-no-further, Mass.
I’m reading no love for Westfield. Both my wife and I like its distinctive flavor and don’t taste any astringency. A friend, however, top-worked her Westfield after renaming it Eat-no-further. It took our first tree on Antonovka 9 years to first bear, and it has been a shy bearer. However, a second tree on B9 was quite precocious, and this year it is very full.
Black Gilliflower, Conn.
successfully grafted last year
Blue Pearmain, unknown New England
our first one was mislabeled and turned out to be some crab. Successfully grafted scionwood a few years ago but still waiting for our first fruit. Based on samplings of friends’ Blue Pearmain, I have high praise for the apple. Good appearance, satisfying flavor, and a full apple eating experience
Baldwin, Mass.
expected it to be fully biennial, but hasn’t been. In its first couple years of bearing, the fruit did not have a good flavor, but we might have picked too early. Now that we pick later and the tree has matured, flavor has improved, but it has never been better than good.