Alexandra's post about unknown varieties of fruit trees reminded me of something I've been wondering about. We hear a lot about the loss of old varieties in pretty much every subfield of gardening. I wonder how much of that is due to gardeners relinquishing the responsibility of supplying plant varieties to large companies? Back 100 years ago keen hobby gardeners used to develop varieties of plants in their own gardens that they then passed on to other people, either privately or through a retailer. So what would happen if we took the plunge and did the uncertain thing of growing seedling trees and seeing if we came up with some good ones to share around?
Alexandra Westlund I think that's what we would be doing to be honest.
30 January at 23:19
Alexandra Westlund Even if just to develop good varieties for our individual growing areas.
30 January at 23:19 ·
Carolyn Gemmell Yes, I am all for local and residential varieties, there are interesting people doing it in the USA with nuts. And it’s actually how most of our food varieties have come to us in the past. I know you can get a lot of great cherry plums from seed, but my apricot experiments have been variable and not very successful, we know some people have got wonderful avocados and others are total duds, we have to keep at it though, we can't fall for the status quo and be fooled into believing that we can't produce things that are good and locally adapted, we certainly can , its how it was and will be again.
31 January at 10:17 ·
Cecilia Dart-Thornton I'm doing that with apples and peaches, Sandra, breeding them from seed. Peaches are easy because the seedlings are pretty much like the parents. We already have a successful new peach cultivar that's prolific, vigorous and delicious. Apples are a real challenge since they are extreme heterozygotes. (love that phrase)
31 January at 09:30 ·
Cecilia Dart-Thornton This book contains a list of which fruits grow relatively true to their parents' characteristics and which ones are extreme heterozygotes. https://www.createspace.com/4658970
31 January at 09:34 ·
Bec Elmes I have a small apple tree that my partner grew from seed, it's done quite well and I'm very keen to see what happens with it. Even if it doesn't produce fruit that I can eat or stew, it will go to the chooks and supplement their diet while it fruits
31 January at 10:11 ·
Sandra McHarg I've got lovely freestone ripe peaches that I grew from supermarket seeds which have done very well in my garden, and this year a couple of seedling trees are fruiting for the first time that I think are second generation white peaches. So I know that they do well here, that they come reasonably true to type, but at the same time there will be just a little bit of genetic variation between the trees. My seedling plums are a bit more variable, mostly cherry plum size, so I've been culling out a few that are nothing special and keeping the good ones. This year I've set aside a strip along our back boundary where all the fruit tree seeds from our eating and preserving are being tossed. I'll see what eventuates, and maybe 10 years from now I'll do a cull back to the best ones.
31 January at 12:35 ·
Stu Burns Did you write that book, Cecilia?
31 January at 14:16 ·
Stu Burns By the way, I think people should plant seeds of things they have been told won't grow in their climate. If the climate is changing, there will need to be some changes. It won't take much to make stone fruits unviable on mainland Australia.
31 January at 14:17 ·
Robert Millet I have experienced this first hand. A friend found a great seedling apple in his yard, gave me some budding materials and i had a friend make several trees on to M27 dwarfing root stock. I then tried to give them away to nurseries or the like and so far have had no luck . the tree is a great producer and in the gardener's yard is doing wonderfully well, loaded with fruit. oh well, seems that no one is interested, really.
31 January at 15:05 ·
Sandra McHarg Would you have a local community garden that might be able to grow them? Somewhere like that would be a good point for sharing out budwood- lots of people would have the chance to actually see it in fruit.
31 January at 16:24 ·
Cecilia Dart-Thornton Yes I did, Stu Burns. It is a subject I am very interested in, and the book includes some historic, but timeless and still pertinent info written by the great Melbourne botanist David Alexander Crichton.
31 January at 16:30 ·
Stu Burns Awesome! I will track me down a copy. I have a couple of books about breeding vegetable varieties, and I am a compulsive propagator. I grew some Lychee seedlings last year, but none of them lasted the winter, sadly.
31 January at 17:13 ·
Sandra McHarg Ditto my lychees. Mind you, I'm not sure where I could have grown a 10m tall frost sensitive tree anyway...
31 January at 17:32 ·
Stu Burns I usually don't think that far ahead. That's why I have dozens of avocado and chestnut and almond seedlings in pots! Also several sugar pines and a couple of bunyas.
31 January at 17:49 ·
Sandra McHarg I had seeds, I had a pot, I thought "why not- see what happens." smile emoticon
31 January at 17:51 ·
Cecilia Dart-Thornton Good one, Stu - Sugar pines only grow up to 82 metres tall; I'm sure you'll find a spot for them somewhere in the garden! I had to smile when I read "I usually don't think that far ahead." Ditto for me. I am also a compulsive propagator (trying to kick the habit - where is Propagators Anonymous when you need them).
31 January at 18:51 ·
Cecilia Dart-Thornton PS Sandra McHarg instead of lychees grow wampi/wampee. We are having a lot of success with ours, outdoors in Melbourne's climate. Lovely fruit similar to lychee.
31 January at 18:53 ·
Sandra McHarg Hadn't heard of that one. It's listed as being a cold zone 10-11 plant so it might be a bit marginal here. We're officially zone 9a-9b (mostly 9b with occasional 9a mornings), I have got a few zone 10's surviving in sheltered spots but I've lost the zone 11's I've tried. Daley' page reckons it will handle -5 with some protection, which is about our coldest. Maybe I could try it in a pot.
31 January at 19:32 ·
Stu Burns 82 metres or 82 feet? The only example I've ever seen is the one i collected seeds from and it's only about 10-12m tall I reckon. The cones are amazing though. About half a metre long in some cases.
31 January at 19:41 ·
Cecilia Dart-Thornton ". Tallest ever recorded was "Yosemite Giant", an 82.05 m (269.2 ft) tall specimen in Yosemite National Park, which died from bark beetle attack in 2007." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinus_lambertiana
31 January at 22:36 ·
Robert Millet Sandra McHarg: what a great idea! I have not thought of that possibility. How nice to tap into the collective mind of the world and get a great answer. Would that pollies did that honestly once in a while. R. Millet
1 February at 12:42 ·
Ben Waite I have a few things I wont to grow a seedling row of in the paddock... the problem is finding a good supply of seeds in Aus for some of the unusual ones. Sometimes there is a limited gene pool here unsure emoticon
I spoke to Fred at Petty's about growing 200 seedlings from his favorite 5 apples in the collection and growing them at my place smile emoticon
The flip side is good record keeping. We all know how hard it is to track things sometimes... I have a map / spreadsheet with all my varieties I try to keep up to date but it's hard. I reckon many 'lost' varieties are still about in old orchards as unknown trees
3 February at 13:49 ·
Sandra McHarg Very probable. We've got an old apple tree in our yard that we want to distribute budwood/scions from because it recently dropped a very large branch where I'd been standing about 30 seconds previously. It's got rot through the trunk so it's become quite unsafe. It seems to be growing on its own roots (it has a trunk too large to put your arms around) so we've encouraged some suckers to grow, and also have some seedling trees around.
3 February at 14:28 ·
Neville Burley Maybe need to give the retailers a break. If the clients only want pink lady apples there's no point adding others if they won't sell. Times are changing and their attitude will as demand for alternative varieties lifts so will their need for supply
3 February at 14:43 ·
Sandra McHarg Ditto nurserymen. No good developing a new variety that won't sell enough to be financially viable; either home gardeners or orchardists would have to buy them in high numbers for the economies of scale necessary for business survival to kick in. It's good though that there's people keen enough to chase up the old varieties and, like Ben, grow out seedlings to develop new ones. We've got a dangerously narrowing genetic base for a lot of our important food plants, so even if it's only a relatively small number of people doing these things, I think it may be important.
3 February at 14:52 ·
Ben Waite Neville is right of course... Nurseries sell what people want to buy.
There are niches already. Bulleen Art and Garden stocks some very different pears (maybe from the Toora collection?) as well as other rare fruits that seem to be done by home growers. Maybe there will be a push towards more diversity driven by more engaged and educated home growers.
I'd like to think that this is the thin end of the wedge of a movement to varieties that are good for home growers rather than the commercial situation, as the requirements are very different. Ditto for a lot of horticultural advice but that is a little off topic...
Personally, I'd be stoked if I develop a few varieties that would excite people in groups like this. Commercial success isn't likely for what I would like to breed for.
3 February at 16:32 ·
Neville Burley There are avenues for diversity, Neil Barraclough was sending genetic material to Yalca I think it was Traf Prince to have it on their 2015 catalogue but alas the tree is mulched. So as I said earlier it is happening again. There is also another new grower coming onto the scene as Nathan Goodman has restarted propagating fruit trees again and is looking at supplying the common and heritage varieties as well from Bairnsdale.
3 February at 20:09 ·
Stu Burns I think Bob Magnus in Tassie was starting to sell old(er) varieties too.
3 February at 20:14 ·
Petethe Permie our retail fruit tree list is 700 vars to the general Public and over 200 more for private collectors form Our collection ( quite a few people on this list have been our customers) many of our trees are certified organic and certified biodynamic ( unique in the world) Silvia and I have been working here to develop the collection for 20 years
6 February at 22:39 ·
Petethe Permie Our Nursery is Telopea \Mtn Permaculture & Nursery see www.petethepermie.com we also do many markets taking our trees and this Sunday 200kgs of heritage plums we picked tonight until dark more to pick tomorrow.
Courses to explore Permaculture, organic & BD growing, heritage fruits, cheese making, cider brewing course...
6 February at 22:41 ·
7 February at 09:35 ·
Christine Hobbs Cecilia Dart-Thornton here is the link just navigate through it
Fruit | Petethepermie.com
the list is available online now plus the markets we will attend over winter bare root season, see these details...
7 February at 18:59 ·
Petethe Permie the list up on our site is for bare root season 2014 but it give you an idea of what we have available, about April I will put up 2015 list with the new stuff to be added for this season.
7 February at 19:50 ·
Christine Hobbs Petethe Permie do you provide grafting wood of any of these apples? I can’t grow any more trees as I have only a suburban block, but have enough space to accommodate more grafts on the trees I do have. I am particularly interested in Gravenstein.. or maybe even Stewarts seedling..
7 February at 19:56 ·
Petethe Permie yes we sell virus free scion of 500 apples, and many other fruits come June long weekend
7 February at 22:12 ·
Sabine Hirsch I've just planted some mango seeds. Takes 2 mths for seedling to emerge - can't wait!
7 February at 22:51 ·
Neil Barraclough How do you get it virus tested Pete?
8 February at 06:11 ·
Christine Hobbs yes I am interested in this also as I have two apple trees that were completely virus free up until my son grafted onto them, I have suspected for a while it was either introduced by birds landing on my trees after visiting a neighbors infected trees, or maybe from the graft themselves. It is a wooly aphid type thing.. I dont like chemicals so I tried to eliminate by constantly just using my hose with a strong jet of water to spray off while the branches were less covered with leaves, hut now they are in fruit & lots of leaf cover I cant get the water in where its needed. I found that if I ignore it the wood where the wooly stuff is becomes distorted. so any other suggestions that are safe..
8 February at 06:20 ·
Stu Burns If there's a virus, it was probably brought by the woolly aphids, rather than the reverse. And they can show up whenever they like. But grafting can transfer virus between trees, and there's not much you can do about it once it is there.
8 February at 12:47 ·
Petethe Permie thanks for Virus question Neil, to clarify we are free of Mosiac virus on the apples and scion which you know is easy to see in leaf with the little yellow pixels, none of us can afford all the virus testing like when we wanted to bring some to Aust , mosaic is not that great an issue for the home gardener of even the orchardist but we as collectors want to keep our stuff as clean as possiblke so when we swap or sell we are doing it best as we can.
20 hrs · Like
Petethe Permie on that note unfortunately we learnt some hard lessons with Petty's orchard collection where we had 12 trees with mosaic virus then we ( being naive) let a young man collect 200 scion for his fruit tree business where he did not clean his tools and so when we also got new equipment and pruned all the trees as a community we also did not clean them effectively so now the entire Petty's collection has mosaic virus ( I was only able to mark about ten trees a few years ago that would be clean) it was lucky I had started my collection at home as well, I received 12 apples form Grove with mosaic and last year I received Royal Gala from Woodbridge with Mosaic, these I burn to try to keep it clean but it gets harder as its transferred systemically and thru secateurs ( it is also though that it can transfer if roots grow (graft) themselves together under ground which would explain some observations of mine especially with so many at just 1/2 mtr apart on wires.
20 hrs ·
Petethe Permie so Neil I don't think we could even expect to have EMLA M26 or M9 clean rootstock anymore in Aus
20 hrs ·
Stu Burns I wonder if it's possible to use tissue culture to get clean material? It's been done with other species.
20 hrs ·
Cecilia Dart-Thornton Yes Stu Burns as far as I know this is the only way to clean plant tissue, and plants that have received this treatment respond by demonstrating incredible vigour. That said, Mark Brammer of Strzelecki Apples has ben experimenting with heat-treating apple scion to try to get rid of mosaic virus.
Stu Burns Does it work? I imagine the temps to kill viruses must be pretty close to what would kill the plant cells too.
Cecilia Dart-Thornton yes that's the problem. I don't know whether he's had any success, only that he was trying.BTW I always thought apple mosaic virus could be latent, ie.even if you don't see the little yellow spots, it's still lurking in the plant. Is this right?
Stu Burns I would guess that the virus will show symptoms to varying degrees in different plants, and the only way to know for sure if it's virus free is to test it.
Petethe Permie to clear up the EMLA class rootstocks they basically out ran the virus and regrafted from fast growing tips yearly until it was declared virus free, one of the tutors on my Permacultiure Design Certificate class has been getting a rootstock of me yearly to attempt this. But really its not too big a deal as all the virus does is reduce photosynthesis and therefore reduce vigour a bit- seems no other effects, its just as a supplier i want to only give out the best scion possible
Neville Burley Yep Cecilia Dart-Thornton it can be latent, so we might be wasting our time a bit, as said above it's not that big an issue as it presents worse on trees heavily stressed. Think of measles (a very mild dose) and this is how it behaves. Most commercial orchards carry it but it's not seen or so small amounts not noticed as the trees are watered and fed well. I've seen trees heavily covered still producing very large crops.
Petethe Permie so on that point I have a list of apples I would like to get mosaic virus free as my ones came with it and are located in another place
Petethe Permie so Bess Pool, Red Limbetwig, Royal Gala, and a few more, it took years to get Snow apple ( Famuse) that was clean as all the trees being produced & sold had it & and even from the large nursery producers
Ben Waite The temperature is only around 40 degrees and can be from a few minutes to several weeks depending on the virus and plant species.
You could experiment on infected scion from highly susceptible varieties.... though you would need clean rootstock to graft it onto.
Ben Waite For apple, I would suggest a couple of hours for stored scion in a 40 degree water bath would be survivable... maybe do it and graft them late so they could kick straight into growing, as that treatment would probably break dormancy?
Cecilia Dart-Thornton I've got access to Snow Apple from the 1940s. I don't think it's Fameuse, I think it's the blindingly white-fleshed one kids used to get in their school lunchboxes. It's from an orchard that's organic and appears to be virus free. I brought some scion to the last Petty's Grafting Day. Will probably be able to bring more next time.
Sandra McHarg There's an apple tree hanging over our fence from the neighbour's yard which I think is a Snow Apple. White flesh, deep pink-red skin, small fruit and very tasty. The tree is old but I don't know how old.
Cecilia Dart-Thornton Is the flesh a brilliant white, Sandra? It could be the good old Snowy!
Sandra McHarg This is what they look like. I don't think they're completely ripe yet- I'm fairly sure they go pink all over.