Vines in Scotland

Can we grow vines in Scotland?  The small village of Kippen in Stirlingshire ( blink and you’ll miss it ), was the site of a massive vine in the early twentieth century. It was however planted in a heated glasshouse, of the variety Gros Colman.

Almost on the beach in Fife, Christopher Trotter has a small acreage of vines planted , and after 5 yrs he is hoping to get a harvest next summer and produce the first grape wine in Scotland! The varieties he uses are Solaris Rondo and Siegerrebe, both from Northern Europe. It is a gamble to grow vines this far north, but he has chosen hardy varieties recommended by Vineyards in Yorkshire who have learnt a bit by trial and error. And he is in the warmest and sunniest part of Scotland, and who knows what climate change is going to do to us in the next few decades? It may become too dry to grow vines in the south of France one day. I spent last spring pruning organic vines in the south of France. It is amazing how they thrive in very poor stony soil and with no irrigation all summer. The local shepherd was allowed to pass through during the winter, so the ground gets a dose of organic fertiliser. Sulphur sprays were used to keep mildew at bay.


Grape Vine

We have a Black Hamburgh grapevine in our glasshouse, and it never fails to give us a good sweet dessert crop as long as we keep the blackbird out when they are beginning to ripen! Somehow he always knows when they are nearly ready before us.It is important to keep the vines cool in winter, they dont like heat all year.

In a Nutshell

In a Nutshell… Set to and brutt your plats!
Some notes on Hazelnuts in Scotland.

The hazel is an important native tree to Scotland (they floated in to the west coast perhaps), and as we sell cobnuts and hazels at Appletreeman, I thought I would put down some notes on their cultivation. Unfortunately there is no information on how to grow them for profit in Scotland, and as most of the UK production is in Kent, and places like Piedmont in Western Italy and Turkey have a thriving hazelnut industry, I have had to glean some notes from old books and European papers. So let’s start with what we do know about their cultivation from these other areas…

We have a Hazel plantation near us, which is productive most years from trees closely spaced and about 25ft tall. They are very vigorous, having lots of ‘’water shoots’’ extending up through their centres to reach the light. The fruit is almost impossible to harvest… we have to wait for them to drop after the Squirrels have had their fill! If we are lucky, there may be piles of nuts surviving under the winter’s blanket of snow. The trees are 14 years old and almost perfect for coppicing now and making use of the rods for hurdle making etc. However they aren’t so good for nut production and collecting.


Our native hazel is Corylus avellana. The filbert with its ‘’bearded’’ cover is C. maxima. W.J. Bean lists 10 species, Hillier’s Manual, 8 species. The 2004/5 RHS Plantfinder has 53 entries of species and varieties.They are all native to Northern climes. It is suggested by Bob Flowerdew that these two and C. americana and C. colurna have all interbred to some extent and account for our productive nut clones of today. (see refs. below).

The problem with our local C. avellana for production of nuts is partly due to them being on the very good glacial soils of Tayside, making very vigorous trees, and their close planting drawing them up to the light. So, don’t be too worried about planting on a stony or less favourable soil, though probably avoid wet areas and frost hollows. And don’t crowd them in. A nice well-drained slope with some protection from the East is probably ideal. And they quite like an alkaline soil, though this isn’t essential.

Our local hazels flower very early, sometimes February, usually March. The male catkins are forming, and extending from November, the little red females later. They are wind pollinated, so shaking the branches, or even performing pollination with a little brush on a nice early spring morning is ideal. Of course, you would need reachable branches to do this. Hopefully the male and female flowers will be open at the same time. Our native Hazel must undoubtedly be very hardy, though the non-cropping years are probably due to frost damage. I wonder if we should be investigating late flowering varieties here in Scotland? (See lists below from various authors).

Hazels to coppice at Duchess Woods

Hazels to coppice at Duchess Woods

When you receive a new tree, aim to have a short stem and 5 or 6 branches only. Tie these down or put spacers in to make these fairly horizontal – i.e. make a goblet shape. Any shoots coming up through the centre should be ripped off, and suckers removed also. This may be a continuous exercise every year judging by our local trees. When only 30cm long, allow these framework branches to divide.

So you have achieved a nice open centred tree in the first few years… maintain this framework and head back new growth to keep these trees just above head height so you can pick the nuts. The next stage is to allow lots of laterals to form on your main branches. Strong ones are cut back to two buds, weaker ones may be left. In March, after pollination, cut back the tips of the laterals to a pollinated flower. This is where your nuts will be forming. Then in August, all strong lateral growths are ‘’brutted’’, i.e. the ends are snapped to leave them hanging. This slows down the growth of the tree, lets air in, and puts energy into the nuts. The brutted shoots are cut back in the winter again.

Cross-pollination seems to be important for many varieties and clones, so don’t just buy one tree or variety. Each year try to find another to add to your wee collection. Plant them in a group to aid wind pollination, 4 m apart maximum.

So, in essence it is a bit like pruning a cordon apple tree on each branch if you are familiar with that. A vigorous tree, removed of all excessive growth, and prevented from crowding itself, and having some pollination partners, is the aim. Then there’s the birds, the squirrels and bud mites, and nut weevils to contend with…

Sanders, pge. 58 (see refs) has a good description of the pruning method described above.

Some varieties to look out for:

  • Kentish Cob ( Longue D’Espagne )
  • Webb’s Prize Cob
  • Bollwyller
  • Cosford – thin shelled, good pollinator
  • Pearson’s Prolific ( Nottingham ) – smaller tree
  • Filberts: Red Lambert
  • Trazel (cross between C. avellana and C. colurna) Chinoka and Freeoka.

The Victorians took a good interest in Hazelnuts, and Hogg listed no less than 32 varieties.(pages 426-433 in the 1884 edition). Including the following:

  • Atlas ( C. algeriensis, the Spanish Cob ).
  • Aveline De Provence
  • Barr’s Spanish
  • Bizane
  • Bond
  • Burchardt’s
  • Burn’s ( a grappes precoce )
  • Cannon Ball
  • Cluster ( a grappes )
  • Cosford
  • Daviana
  • Duke of Edinburgh
  • Eugenie
  • Frizzled Hazel ( C. laciniatus )
  • Frizzled Filbert
  • Hartington Prolific
  • Lambert Filbert ( syn Kentish Cob and Webb’s Prize ?)
  • Large Black Fruited ( a gros fruits noirs )
  • Lichtenstein’s
  • Liegel’s
  • Loddiges’ Barcelona
  • Merveille De Bollwyller
  • Norwich Prolific
  • Pearson’s Prolific
  • Primley
  • Prolific Filbert
  • Purple Filbert
  • Striped Fruited ( a fruits Stries )
  • St .Grisier
  • The Shah
  • White Filbert

The National Fruit Collection has Filbert Frizzled, and Kentish Cob, Butler, Ennis

The Kentish Cob Association lists the following trees:

  • Kentish Cob is a reliable cropper, relatively hardy, with excellent flavour. It is recommended for domestic use. It is pollinated by Gunslebert, Cosford and Merveille de Bollwiller, and probably also by wild hazels.
  • Merveille de Bollwiller (also called Hall’s Giant) is a hardy, vigorous and productive variety with large nuts. It is pollinated by Kentish Cob, Cosford, Butler and Ennis.
  • Butler is a large mid- to late-season nut. It is hardy, vigorous and a heavy cropper, and a short-husked variety which de-husks freely when ripe. It is popular for modern commercial production, and is pollinated by Ennis and Merveille de Bollwiller.
  • Ennis is a very attractive large round nut with a superb flavour, but a tendency to produce a significant proportion of blank nuts. It is pollinated by Butler and Merveille de Bollwiller.
  • Purple Filbert (also misnamed Red Filbert) is an ornamental variety with red or purple leaves. It produces a small crop of thin-shelled nuts of excellent flavour but which are particularly susceptible to nut weevil. It is not recommended for nut production.

WJ Bean, Hardy Trees and Shrubs of the British Isle.

  • Corylus spp. listed:
  • americana
  • avellana,
  • chinensis
  • colurna
  • jaquemontii
  • cornuta
  • heterophylla
  • maxima
  • sieboldiana
  • tibetica

Some useful references:

RHS Fruit Yearbook, 1950 by J. Turnbull, pgs 106-109.
Bob Flowerdews’s Complete Fruit Book, 1997, pges 198-199
Hogg, R., The Fruit Manual, 1884. pages 426-433.
Sanders, T.W., Fruit Growing, (no date), pages 55-61 and 215.

Finally, do hazelnuts float?

We’d love to hear from anyone who manages their hazels or cobs for their nuts in Scotland.

The Tree Nursery in Winter

Appletreeman rarely has a day off in winter! We are still lifting trees for delivery as bare root trees, and this can continue as long as the soil is not frozen solid and when all the trees are sold and delivered of course.  We are also in the process of cutting back 4,000 rootstocks, which are about 1.8m high, to the bottom bud. So there is quite a sizable bonfire to deal with at some stage! This job is done come rain or snow, though a half day is allowed in bad weather.

Appletreeman's Nursery In Winter

Appletreeman’s Nursery In Winter

These stocks were budded (a form of grafting) in August, so we have also been taking the polythene off which has been protecting the bud from drying out. These stocks will then sit as little 10cm high stumps until the bud opens up (hopefully) in May, and forms a new shoot and hence your named apple tree variety.

Budded Tree In January

Budded Tree In January

If only the ground would dry up, we would also be ploughing a new patch of field (we move every year) and be planting our next batch of rootstocks for grafting and budding heritage varieties for 2015. So no winter hibernation here!

Culzean Castle

Those of you who havn’t visited Culzean before are going to be impressed with the Castle’s clifftop view over the Forth of Clyde towards the Isle of Arran. But for me its the tropical feel to the Fountain Garden, the miles of easy paths in the woods to the Swan Pond and beyond, but especially the trees and garden plants in Happy Valley and the Walled Garden that are of interest. Its open 9.30 to sunset each day (well, except the walled garden on New Year’s Day!)

There are Parrotias, Sciadipitys and Myrtles with their beautiful bark to delight in Happy Valley, and a beautiful arch of old Scottish Apples at the back of the walled garden. If you want to see a good selection of Scottish fruit, visit in early autumn.

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You will find Oslin, Stirling Castle, Bloody Ploughman and East Lothian Pippin here which I planted in about 1992. They have been kept beautifully as cordons, some making strong growth and thick stems, though all were on dwarfing rootstocks.

There are also many fruit trees within the walled garden, including a unique Scottish variety, Culzean Seedling. Also of great interest to fruittreemen (& women) in the walled garden is the enormous Fig tree in the south east facing corner of the wall, which has layered itself along the ground to a large extent. It produces lots of fruit and has to be rigorously controlled each year, such is the advantage of a good wall to plant against. Do visit this gem in West Scotland and enjoy!

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchards

I have just visited a very important and very well maintained fruit garden in East Lothian and thought a wee report was needed! It opens under the Scottish Gardens Scheme twice a year.

There is evidence that, by the 12th century, Tyninghame was a Monastery served by Lindisfarne, but also that St Baldred was there in the 8th century. As in many areas of Scotland, fruit and medicinal plants would have been grown by the monks, and the tradition continues here today. The Bishop’s of St Andrews used the site also.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman.

In 1628, the !st Earl of Haddington acquired the property, which remained in the family until 1987. He and his wife planted many trees and tamed what was an open wild landscape.

The lovely red sandstone of the house was added by William Burn in 1828.

The walled garden dates from 1750, and had heated walls originally. It is some distance from the big house and there are restored glasshouses with figs, peaches and vines.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman.

The 12th Earl and Lady Sarah formed much of what we can see today – post war they started to remodel the walled garden from one employing 8 gardeners by changing it to an ornamental one. He died in 1986.

The last 50 years saw low maintenance as the order of the day, with an arboretum planted, and annuals replaced by roses in the secret garden, and many borders grassed over, but luckily some old apples remain in the walled garden. These old ones are ow standards and several are propped to keep them up; a fine younger orchard in the north west corner has some exciting old Victorian varieties. Here can be found dessert fruit of King of the Pippins, a golden pippin / cox cross, Cellini,
Laxton’s epicure and exquisite, a Cellini / Cox hybrid. Epicure is a wealthy / cox cross – I think someone liked their Cox apples! These are set in long grass with patches of bluebells. Devonshire Quarrenden, an early flat crisp apple, can be found within a boundary of old espaliered trees, nicely set within the gravel.

At the north end of the walled garden is apparently what used to be an apple store.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman.

A very productive Louise Bon De Jersey pear lines the west facing wall, with golf ball sized fruits in May, and some Victoria plums form the centre of an ornamental display. Two small medlars on quince rootstocks stand near the gate to the Apple Walk. This is outside the south wall and is of cordons over a substantial post and wire arch. Many varieties here, but indiscernible except for labelled Discovery and Allington Pippin. Many appear to have been grafted in situ, with lots of
woolly aphid and canker. This may be a result of the considerable shading of nearby trees.

The apple walk in the secret garden, originally under-planted with pheasant eye narcissisi, blue grape hyacinths and geraniums, has almost gone, only a few standards remaining. A fine big Malus floribunda overhangs this area. These old trees may have been the apples trees that supplied the scions for the collection of Scottish varieties sent to the National Fruit Collection in 1949 by a Mr Brotherston, the head gardener.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman.

The following varieties were saved for posterity by Mr Brotherston in 1949:

  • Leathercoat Russet
  • Yorkshire Aromatic
  • Small’s Admirable
  • Love Beauty
  • Liddell’s Seedling
  • Lass o’ Gowrie
  • Lady of the Wemyss
  • Green Kilpandy Pippin
  • East Lothian Pippin
Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman.

Many thanks to Chas and Albert, current and retired head gardeners who have done a fantastic job of maintaining this lovely garden.