|Bramley Apples History
The first Bramley tree grew from pips planted by a young girl, Mary Ann Brailsford, in her garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England.
A local butcher, Matthew Bramley, bought the cottage and garden.
It was while Matthew Bramley lived in the cottage that a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather, asked if he could take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the apple. Bramley agreed, but insisted the apple should bear his name – hence ‘Bramley’s Seedling’.
The first recorded sale of the variety is in Henry Merryweather’s book of accounts on 31 October 1862. He sold “three Bramley apples for 2/- to Mr Geo Cooper of Upton Hall”.
Fruits of the grafted apple were first exhibited before the Royal Horticultural Society’s Fruit Committee on 6 December 1876. They were highly commended.
Bramley Seedlings received a First Class Certificate by the Committee of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of Apples held in Manchester in October.
1889 and 1893
Bramley Seedling was awarded a First Class Certificate by the Committee of the Nottingham Botanical Society and at the Gardening and Forestry Exhibition in September 1893. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Apple Show awarded further First Class Certificates to the Bramley in August 1893.
Disaster struck when the original Bramley tree blew down during violent storms at the turn of the century. However, the tree somehow survived and is still bearing fruit more than 100 years later.
During the early 1900s the Bramley trees were extensively planted, with the fruit a useful source of food during the First World War.
The 1944 fruit census comprised more than one third of six and a quarter million Bramley’s Seedling trees in commercial plantations in England and Wales.
Bramley growers themselves are working closely together to expand their market opportunities and, through the Bramley Campaign, which was set up in 1989, are running successful consumer campaigns funded by voluntary subscription.
The Bramley tree was one of fifty great British trees chosen by the Tree Council’s country-wide network of tree wardens, as a special way to mark the Golden Jubilee and to celebrate fifty great years – one for every year of the Queen’s reign.
The old nickname for the Bramley was “The King of Covent Garden” and still exists today in the New Covent Garden Market, where all specialist fruit wholesales can offer Bramleys to their customers for 12 months of the year.
The original Bramley apple tree continues to bear fruit to this day. Those few pips planted by a little girl in her garden in Nottinghamshire 200 years ago are responsible for what is today a £50 million industry, with commercial growers across Kent, East Anglia and the West Midlands.
Characteristics of Bramley Apple
Bramley’s Seedling is the most delicious cooking apple, but as it makes a very large tree, it is best grown as a bush on a dwarfing rootstock or as an espalier, grown flat against a wall or fence, with pairs of branches from a central stem.
Bramley applesApples are grafted on to rootstocks that determine the vigour of the tree, not the variety.
The rootstock producing the smallest trees is called M27, and the resulting tree is not likely to grow to much more than 6 ft in height or spread. This is the one used for ‘stepover’ apples trees as well as for bushes.
Next comes M9, which produces a tree a little bit larger, while
MM106 is probably the best rootstock for an average-sized garden – a tree grown on this will reach 10-12 ft in height and spread. This one is also best for use in poor or thin, sandy soils.
Also look out for Bramley Clone 20, which is 20 per cent less vigorous than its parent but also 20 per cent more prolific.
Most apples, unlike plums, are not self-fertile so they need another variety flowering nearby at the same time to pollinate them successfully. Bramley’s Seedling is a triploid, which mean it needs two other varieties nearby for successful pollination. In a small garden, cordons – single stems set at 45 degrees and trained flat – make the most sense. Good varieties with excellent flavour that flower at the same time as Bramley’s Seedling include ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Katy’, ‘Laxton’s Superb’, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Winter Gem’.
Bramley Apple Flower
Pollination of Bramley Apples
Bramley apples are the mainstay of English apple cookery, and Bramley’s Seedling apple trees are a common feature of English gardens and orchards. Bramley is also a popular variety in North America, and unlike many English apple varieties, it is well-suited to the North American climate of cold winters and long hot summers.
In most respects Bramley is an excellent apple variety for the garden or small orchard, being easy to grow, very productive, and with good natural disease resistance. For anyone with an interest in apple cookery or juice production it is an essential choice.
However there is one important factor to be aware of: Bramley’s Seedling is a triploid variety – it has 3 sets of chromosomes instead of 2 like most apples (and humans). This has some important consequences:
Bramley trees cannot pollinate themselves, although like many triploid varieties they do seem to have some partial self-fertility.
Bramley’s own pollen is effectively sterile and cannot be used to pollinate other apple trees. (Ironically, Bramley blossom is particularly attractive).
The classic sign that you have a pollination problem with your Bramley tree is if the tree looks healthy, and produces lots of blossom, but no apple fruitlets form after the blossom finishes.
The ideal solution is to find two other different varieties that will pollinate the Bramley tree – and also each other. Fortunately Bramley flowers in the middle of the main apple blossom season, so there is a wide choice of varieties that will pollinate it. If you live in a suburban area or village in an apple-growing district you will probably find there are sufficient compatible trees in neighboring gardens. In the worst case you will have to buy 2 other compatible trees and plant them yourself. (Note that these do not have to be full-size trees, they just need to be compatible and planted near enough to enable bees to travel between them and the Bramley).
Here are some combinations that will pollinate Bramley’s Seedling and each other.
Golden Delicious and Cox’s Orange Pippin (Golden Delicious is a good pollinator for many English apple varieties)
Golden Delicious and Granny Smith (these are both good pollinators for many other apple trees)
Bountiful and Grenadier (two good English cookers in their own right)
Cox’s Orange Pippin and Katy
Red Falstaff and Spartan
James Grieve and Charles Ross
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