Advice, Gardeners of Tennessee?

So, as long-time readers know, I have been kind of mulling over this whole “heirloom apple” thing. I love the idea of giving space to old strains of apples to help preserve them. And we have the space.

The Butcher and I talked about this some at lunch and he’s thinking they’d be an interesting addition to the other side of the creek, since we don’t really do anything with that space and it’s sunny.

So, I think this year, I’m going to buy a couple of trees for Christmas. I’d like them to be ones known to have grown in Tennessee back in the day and that hold up as well for eating as baking. I could order them online, but I’m happy to give my money to someone local if someone local sells heirloom apple seedlings. Does anyone know?

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11 thoughts on “Advice, Gardeners of Tennessee?

  1. It depends. After about the middle of the 19th century (I think — Bridgett?) there was a lot more emphasis on apples for eating and cooking. So varieties that gained popularity in the 1860s through the end of the century tended to be more what B seems to be looking for.

  2. Colonial apples were for cider/applejack, eating as a sauce on stuff, and drying for later. Some get stored whole, but most got turned into something else.

  3. I know some of the nurseries around here are starting to specialise in helping people locate heirloom varieties the way bookstores help people find out of print books.

    Check with Bates and McDonald & Driver. I can’t remember whose outdoor sign I saw “We can special-order Heirloom plants” on…. So I guess this is really very little help at all.

  4. My folks in NE TN have an overgrown orchard on their farm that still produces. What varieties are you looking for? I could probably get them to give me some apples that you could plant whole.

  5. Jessamy, planting apples from old trees won’t get you heirloom apples with known characteristics — it will get you random seedlings, with variable but unknown traits. Instead, it’d be better to graft cuttings from those heirloom trees onto modern rootstock — which is what you get if you buy heirloom fruit trees from reputable sources.

  6. Okey doke. Now I know better than to volunteer when someone is asking for gardeners’ advice…..which I am obviously not.

    (thanks, lynn)

  7. What a great idea, B.
    Two great reads on apples: Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer” and Michael Pollan’s “Botany of Desire.” Apples figure in each, although apples are not the sole focus. In Prodigal Summer a character has an apple orchard, including a back pasture where she plants them wild to see if anything interesting will come up (the non-grafting rootstock/scions part). And one of the sections of Botany of Desire is all about the apple in colonial America. Who knew? Johnny Appleseed was planting for hard cider!

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