Orchard Visit with Alan


The nice thing about good quality pruning saws is they allow you to cut pretty big stuff while holding onto a tree with one hand. I wasn’t born with a particular fear of heights so if my position is secure, it doesn’t matter much how high up a tree I am. Of course, you also need to know how to take off a top without knocking yourself off the tree in the process- I don’t usually top off big enough wood to do that, especially now that I’m officially a senior citizen.


Alan was installing some trees down the road from where I live and was kind enough to offer me a tour of a very old orchard and some apple picking.

Here’s Alan with some large, well branched plum trees.

Some of the trees in the orchard look very old. I think he mentioned that some of them were originally Baldwins and maybe some Macs. This tree has seen better days, but still seems pretty productive.

One of the ways that Alan has made his mark on the orchard is by grafting newer/better varieties like Goldrush, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Swaar, etc. In this pic, I think the original tree is Fallawater (yellow cooker), with Winesap(I think?) grafted on.

Here are 4 of the apples we picked. And 3 of my Goldrush for comparison. Interestingly, both his and the one on the far right (the only two I cut up so far), were almost identical brix. Both were in the 15-16% range. So, while mine are ugly and bug ridden, it is the same underlying fruit. I also didn’t thin enough this year, so mine are too small.

Aside from the Goldrush, I liked the Swaar, which was dense, with a decent amount of flavor (though not quite as intense as Goldrush). My daughter liked the Hudson’s Golden Gem best, even though it was starting to soften. A much more subdued flavor. Both were also in the 15-16% range, similar to the Goldrush. I though that the red one was a Winesap, but the taste makes me doubt it- good crunch, but only 9-12% brix, and without much flavor.

I shared a few with coworkers and was surprised when one liked a somewhat soft Spigold (I think) over Goldrush. Others (more properly :slight_smile: ) were impressed with Goldrush.


Bob, what was the name of the small apple from your own tree you gave me (wood, please)? That one was really fantastic.

16 brix is low for Goldrush. I just measured one from one of my nursery trees not in great sun that hit 18 and hope the ones on my better exposed orchard trees will reach close to 20 when I harvest them next weekend. Unfortunately, the Buckhorn orchard uses lawn sprinklers that knocks down brix numbers a couple of points.

When we walked through the orchard I missed one that had just a few apples left of the highest quality in the orchard, besides, maybe, Goldrush. I think it may be the genuine Ashmead’s Kernel, as opposed to the Cummin’s, fully russeted, and earlier ripening version, that I’ve identified as AK and you questioned. They are similar apples in taste and texture.


That was Winston, also known as “Winter King”. I got it from ARS in 2015:


It was an apple I got after seeing Stephen Hayes’s Youtube video:

If all I had was the ARS data, I never would have gotten it, as they report the brix at 10.1%. But, based on the videos, I went with it and am pretty pleased. I measured the brix at 22% on the other one I picked yesterday. I picked some earlier (maybe late Sept or early Oct) which were good, but not really standouts.

One problem which Stephen Hayes mentions is that they are particularly prone to oversetting and need extra thinning for size. Even thinned, they look to only be a medium apple. I didn’t thin much, so mine were a bit small.

The grafts grew decently initially, but is on top of a heavily bearing B9 and has really spurred up. I’d be happy to send you what new growth there is, but none of it will be up to the ideal pencil thickness.

Agreed- I’ve had 20-21 brix on my Goldrush, back when it was smaller and didn’t overset. But, even at 16 Goldrush is a pretty good apple. I like the lemony acid kick.

Nice- my AK all either rippened or rotted long ago.


I think having huge apples are overrated. There are so many time I just want a good quick eating lunchbox sized apple. My kids appreciate them as well as they are easier to eat out of hand.



Thanks for the pics and the info. Always like to learn about new, good eating apples.

@speedster1, the reasons I thin fruitlets are to avoid biennial tendency esp. of those prone to biennialing and to avoid branch breaking. The size does not count as much but leaving too many fruit on could lower quality of fruit, too.


Agreed. The quality is the biggest issue. The other impact is that the tree spends a lot of energy making seeds, rather than fruit flesh. I remember reading that pound for pound it takes the tree a lot more energy to make the seeds.

One more apple pic from yesterday:

I had never heard of Tsugaru before, but both my daughters really liked it. I liked Swaar better, but I can see why they like Tsugaru. In terms of texture, they are almost opposite, with Tsugaru being tender, crisp, and juicy, while Swaar is dense and hard, with moderate juice. In terms of taste, Tsugaru is mildly sweet, without any tart (the apple version of a low-acid peach), while Swaar is more balanced. I had a 2nd Tsugaru which was almost entirely red, which was a bit sweeter (12-13 brix).

Another note on Winston- it is well regarded on OrangePippin, where both its disease resistance (Scab) and storage ability (March) is touted. It gets its flavor from Cox and it’s disease resistance from Worcester Pearmain.


I’m going to try and get Winston. It’s always interested me when Steven Hayes spoke of it.


I may be over-saturating the group with pics, but here are a few more from Alan very kindly allowing me to tag along with him in one of the nicest orchards I’ve been in. It is extremely low density, almost like a park. I counted ~35 trees in approximately 3/4 of an acre (measured with a ruler from Google’s terrain view). I told my daughter about it and she correctly noted that they have less than half the trees as me in more than twice the space. I want to cram everything in, but doing it that way is certainly aesthetically pleasing. It also leads to lots of dawn to dusk sun. I should have brought a better camera to get a wide angle shot.

I kept Alan entertained by running away from a fly (thinking it was a yellow jacket), explosively grabbing an old Sweet Sixteen apple (a rotten ball of liquid with a deceptively solid looking skin), and asking him why he didn’t like the taste of Anise (evidently slightly slurring it to sound like something you sit on).

Here we are in front of a Braeburn tree. One of the harder apples to grow- even with extra fungicide and good sun exposure it has some scab.

This was the first time I got to sample a Espous Spitzenburg (aside from a soft one years ago). A nice mix of sweet (17-19 brix on the ones I’ve had so far and Alan had a 22) and tart, with moderately juice and lots of aromatics. I liked it so much that I had trouble stopping eating it and brought the half eaten apple home to finish later. I also brought a few other back…

I’ll probably eat the Spitzenburgs first, as while they are very good now, I can see that they may not keep their texture. One that should is Goldrush. Here I am in front of one of the Goldrush trees. They have large, beautiful fruit.

This orchard was one of two situated on a massive, beautiful estate. In this pic, I’m following Alan out, driving between a wildflower meadow and a soccer field.

I can’t thank Alan enough for his generosity!

Spitz no spitter at 22% sugar

Great pictures. Thanks for posting. My trees are packed in also. There is something special in appearace when larger trees have adequate space.


You didn’t mention the fact that that is the uphill orchard on the property. A hike away is another 50+ trees with a higher percentage of pears and stonefruit than apples. The upper orchard I planted as whips about 15 years ago, the lower was trees from my nursery 2 years before.

The Spitz remaining on the trees when you came were the runts of the litter, for the most part, and not the most exposed fruit. I believe they are the highest brix trees there, including Goldrush and Fuji, something that is not often in the comments about this fine old NY variety (that’s right- discovered near Woodstock, NY). Often it is said that it is not good off the tree and needs to be stored to reach best flavor, but that is in the mouth of the beholder. Some say the same of Goldrush.

The orchard is on a clay-loam soil that tends to stay moist all season, which is good for the trees but not so for the fruit. However, dawn to dusk sun compensates a great deal for the excessive moisture of the soil. One thing the moisture does do is assure the fruit properly thinned will get good size.

Spitz no spitter at 22% sugar

My grafts of Spitz should give me a few to try next year. Glad to hear how good they are. I could wander in there for hours.



Glad you took pictures as Alan has not shown us many pics of those orchards/trees :smile: The more, the better.

@alan, I’ve been interested in grafting Spitz for a while but am concerned about its label of “susceptible to fire blight” .
Do you feel that it’s more fire blight prone than others you grow?


NOT boring. Photos of well managed trees are invaluable. Would love to see more when leaves are off, too, or more anytime of year. Thanks to both of you. Sue


Fireblight is not a very important issue on apples in orchards I manage and I don’t grow enough Spitz yet to evaluate relative susceptibility. In 25 years of managing thousands of trees, I’ve never lost or had major damage to an apple tree. Part of it is growing trees on vigorous root stocks.


I don’t have any more room for the whole new tree.

I can only graft new varieties on to my existing trees. I just want to be careful not to graft fire blight prone varieties to any of my trees as I could end up losing the whole trees.


Yes, the property is really huge- it has a 2nd orchard, which is slightly larger (1 acre vs 3/4 acre from what I can see on the map). The distance between them is only about 900 feet as the crow flies, but the path we took was over half a mile, on a 60+ acre spread.

Neither orchard is all that dense- ~40 trees per acre is a very low density.

Also of note is that it is sloped to the North, possibly delaying spring bloom a bit.

They may have been slightly lower brix, but most of them got fine size. They are also a very pretty apple, with a distinctive spotted look.

I’m surprised that people would want to age Spitzenburgs- maybe that happens more if they are picked earlier. I would think that they would lose texture if picked by this point. Goldrush is a bit strong, so I can see some people keeping them a bit, even if I like them the way they are.

I bet the combination of moisture and sun exposure would be good for plums. The Damsons you have there must get to be pretty sweet- maybe enough to overcome the astringency?


If Spitz is like Goldrush I will love it right off the tree. My Goldrush that got the best sun are wonderful this year.


This year they never got over the astringent hump for some reason. Other years they do become palatable by Sept, but so many other plums are better for eating fresh. The owners of the property don’t use them so I let a 4 women partnership of a liquor distillery use them to create an ancient Portuguese liquor. It tastes like a plummy port.


I picked all my Gold Rush this morning when temp was 26 F and hard frost was everywhere. The GR that were on a shady side of the tree are covered with sooty blotch. The ones on a sunny side are mostly clean apples.

It seems the amount of sunlight plays a big role on an appearance of GR apples. I don’t see such a diiference on Honey Crisp or William!s Pride.