John Hancox of Scottish Fruit trees on why every garden should have a fruit tree

Spring is a season of many delights and chief amongst these are the fruit trees, which from April onwards start to flower in a succession of confetti-soft blossom. First are the plums followed by the pears and then it’s the turn of the apple trees to open their petals.

In warmer parts of the countries both sweet and sour cherries will add to a spectacle that isn’t just beautiful in its own right but is also a promise of the harvest to come.

At the moment in Scotland huge efforts are being made by public bodies, charities and individuals to plant trees as a way of mitigating climate change, and according to John Hancox of Scottish Fruit Trees, if even a small percentage of that total was given over to fruit trees, then our landscape and eco-system would be transformed.

“Fruit trees provide interest through several seasons, as well as delicious fruit, and they also support pollinators,” he says.

With John’s help schools and other organisations have established new orchards while many old orchards have been brought back into production. But you don’t need several acres, every garden however small, has room for at least one tree, he says. The eventual size of the tree is dependant not on the variety but on the rootstock onto which it has been grafted, which means that you can opt for dwarf trees that can be grown in pots if space is at a premium.

And if you can’t squeeze in even that, then why not grow a fruit hedge around the outside of your plot?

“This is a mixture of top fruit, such as apples, and soft fruit and it is very easy to look after, you just cut off the current season’s growth in July and that’s it,” says John.

Through years of working with fruit trees, from heritage to modern varieties, John has gained insight into which perform best and here are his recommendations for apples that grow well in Scottish gardens.

Scottish Gardener: Left: 'Fiesta' (Red Pippin) Right: 'Red Falstaff'Left: 'Fiesta' (Red Pippin) Right: 'Red Falstaff'

‘Fiesta’ (Red Pippin)
A tasty Cox type apple. It is good for small gardens and very suitable for training and it is also self-fertile, so will crop well if grown on its own. It has a good balance of sweetness and acidity and it maintains these qualities for up to four months when stored.

‘Red Falstaff’
A late-season, heavy-cropping dessert apple with a fruity flavour and crisp, juicy flesh. It is self-fertile, so again can be grown on its own.

Scottish Gardener: Left 'Scrumptious' Right: 'Egremont Russet'Left 'Scrumptious' Right: 'Egremont Russet'

Named for the wonderful complexity of its flavours. These have been described as sweet, rich and honeyed, aromatic, fragrant and fresh. It is an excellent garden variety, it is heavy-cropping, has good disease resistance and the blossom is resistant to frost. It is suitable for growing in the north of Scotland and in wet areas.

‘Egremont Russet’
Has dense, rather than crisp flesh, with rough, russetting skin. It also has a very developed nutty flavour, which many find irresistible. It tastes slightly like a pear and it stores well.  It dates back to 1872 and has surprising disease resistance even for a Victorian apple tree.