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Eco-Answers from the Pros: Heirloom Apples

We are located in the South Shore area of Massachusetts and are looking for some heirloom apple trees. Do you know of a good source in our area?

I recommend Fedco Trees and Miller Nurseries.

Trevor L. Smith, LandEscapes Design, Arlington, MA

The best source for heirloom apple trees (hands down) is John Bunker of Fedco Trees. He is widely considered to be the foremost expert on this subject (at least in New England).

Fedco (John Bunker)
PO Box 520
Waterville ME 04903
207 426-8500

Russ Cohen, Wild Foods Expert, Boston, MA

My own experience with heirloom apples is that it is best to order them online. This means one would be getting just a baby tree that looks like a stick – they call them whips. It also means you don’t get instant landscape, but they root quickly and grow very well, and you have a very good choice of true heirlooms online. I bought whips from Stark Bros. out of Missouri way back when and the trees bore quickly and are still alive and kicking more than 20 years later. I purchased semi-dwarf trees which have worked very well size wise in a suburban scale landscape, while flowering and bearing beautifully.

I find the website for The Boston Tree Party gives great information on sources, ordering, and growing the trees and I agree with everything they say! Be sure to protect the whips from rabbits and deer chewing the bark. One caution for current times is that, in the Boston area, apples (both blooming and fruiting) are badly affected by the winter moth. The tiny caterpillars come out within the bloom and leaf buds, having been laid there during the previous winter, and wreak havoc. In my experience apple trees sometimes are completely defoliated and by early summer must grow a whole new set of leaves (which they do; they are tough!), but forget fruit if this happens. I manage my trees completely organically, so I am living with this problem for the time being as it does not kill the tree. I believe there are ways to organically manage, but one should understand the problem before growing apples around Boston at this time.

Amanda Sloan, Landscape Architect, GLA/BETA Group, Inc., Norwood, MA

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