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Bush cherry trees – perfect for small outdoor areas

If you’re wondering what to plant in your small outdoor space – they why not consider a bush cherry tree?  These are a great idea for those who have limited space for a larger tree, but still want the benefit of an attractive feature in their garden and also trees that provide plenty of fruit.

We have selected four cherry bush trees which perfectly fit the bill.  Three are delicious dessert cherries and one a popular cooking variety.

Cherry bush tree details

The eventual height of a bush-trained tree will be between 2-3 metres from two to three years old.  Our bushes’ central leaders are pruned to approximately 1.2m.  From this point, side branches will grow eventually taking the shape of a ‘traditional tree’.  A gorgeous addition to any small outdoor space.

The benefits of cherry trees

The beauty of including cherry trees in your space is that not only do you get to enjoy beautiful blossom in the spring, but also a stunning display of red, shiny fruit in the summer, which taste delicious too!

Pre-order now

Our bush cherry trees are busy taking shape in our nurseries, but can be pre-ordered now ready for delivery in late spring or early summer.  See the details of the four bush cherries currently available to order from us below – along with links to our on-line shop.

Unique trees from Grow

Don’t forget our fabulous trees are unique as they are hand grafted by us from heritage trees in the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale.  Fruit trees don’t get more special than this!

Available to order now

Kordia Bush:  This is an attractive looking dessert cherry, that produces black cherries. The fruits are extremely juicy with a rich sweet flavour. It is very reliable when it comes to cropping as it produces lots of fruits ready for July.

Morello Bush: Morello cherries (also known as, the Sour Cherry) are perfect for making, pies, jams and our personal favourite, cherry gin & vodka!

It is very hardy and a reliable cropper. In the spring, Morello produces an abundance of show stopping white blossoms and are suitable for planting in any aspect.

Napoleon Bigarreau Bush: An old fashioned variety, often known as Naps, is an excellent white dessert cherry with a shiny finish.  Ready to pick in late July and August.

Stella Bush: Stella is a gorgeous dessert cherry that produces deep red fruits that are juicy and sweet.

Pre-order on-line via our website here.

As it’s a self-fertile variety, you only need to plant one in order to have abundant crop. If however you would like more than cherry tree, Stella works as a great pollinator for many other Cherry varieties.

It is a winner of an RHS Award of Garden Merit, 1968.


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Where apples come from

This time of year, the orchards around Kent are bursting with beautiful apples of all shapes, sizes, tastes and colours.  Brogdale is home to the National Fruit Collections.  With 2,200 varieties of apples, it is the largest collection in the world.  But did you ever wonder where this delicious fruit we all take so for granted came from?

Where did apples originally come from?

Nikolai Vavilov was a Russian scientist who, in 1929, first worked out the apple genome.  This revealed that the ancestor of most of our apple trees was the ‘Malus Sieversii’.

This is a wild apple originating from Kazakhstan many, many thousands of years ago. Kazakhstan was renowned for its ‘apple forests’ on the Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan China border in particular the Tien Shan “Mountains of Heaven”.  At the heart of this area is the Almaty region of Kazakhstan, whose former capital Alma Ata translates to “Father of Apples”  This is where the apples we now enjoy originally came from.

How did apples arrive in England?

Like many things, we have the Romans to thank for bringing apples to these shores. It’s hard to imagine Britain without orchards and apples, but that was the case before Roman times. The Romans discovered apples in Syria and played an important role in transporting them using the Silk Road to the rest of their Empire.

About grafting

At Grow, we take our hats off to the Romans who were expert grafters.  This is the technique we use to grow our own apple trees – using stock from the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale.  Grafting is necessary as apple trees grown from seed will have completely different DNA than their parent tree.  This can make them look and taste very different from the original tree.

Grafting is the process where you fuse the variety (by taking a piece of graftwood from the parent tree) onto the rootstock.   There are many delicious apples named as “pippins” grown from the pip and often delicious by happy coincidence!

It’s incredible that the Romans were so expert at this process.  This enabled them to develop the extensive range of tasty apples – many of which we enjoy in Britain today.

More information

​For more information about grafting and rootstocks, take a look at our earlier blog here.

To find out which apple trees are currently available from Grow at Brogdale, check out our shop here.

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About crab apple trees

About crab apple trees

Crab apples are a very popular choice among gardeners and there are several good reasons why. This blog tells you about crab apples and why you should be thinking about including a crab apple tree in your garden or open space.

Why crab apples are popular

Crab apples are currently enjoying a surge in popularity and quite rightly so for many good reasons.  They really do offer the most value, as their stunning and abundant blossom is quickly followed by plentiful fruits. These gorgeous crab apple fruits differ in shape size and colour, depending on variety.  Once fruiting has finished, their leaves change to the most striking shades of crimsons, reds and gold.  It is only in the depth of winter that crab apples take a rest, ready to spring into life once again in Spring.

Crab apple benefits

Many varieties are edible to humans and can be made into the quintessential crab apple jelly.

All varieties will attract wildlife, from moths and butterflies to birds of every type! Crab apples are often included in orchards or in situations where apple trees need to be pollinated.  Because they blossom for a long period, covering early to late blossoming apples, they are a valuable asset where pollination is an issue.

More information

The team at Grow at Brogdale are fruit tree experts and have lovely half standard crab apple trees at their nursery in Faversham – such as the beautiful John Downie crab apple in the pictures.

Please check out our shop on the website here.

For more advice and information on crab apples and any other fruit trees, please do contact us – contact details here.

About Grow at Brogdale

Grow at Brogdale is a specialist fruit tree nursery with a difference, as we graft trees from the highly esteemed National Fruit Collection – one of the largest fruit collections in the world.

This means our fruit trees include a wide range of rare and heritage varieties.  Each tree that we graft that you take home is a little piece of history

Our extensive selection of trees and shrubs – all hand-grown by us – include apples, pears, apricots, cherries, crab apples, damsons, medlars, quinces and more.

As well as standard (free standing) trees, we also specialise in espaliers, stepovers and fan-trained trees.


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About Rootstocks

Importance of choosing your rootstock

Here’s some helpful advice from Grow at Brogdale about rootstocks and how to select the best rootstock for your fruit tree. Choosing the correct rootstock is as important as choosing the right variety. Trees are very much like people, with varieties having differing amounts of natural vigour.   Your soil will also be a deciding factor, with clay soils having a dwarfing effect on trees.  Bramley for example is very vigorous whilst Decio, one of the oldest varieties in the collections is very dwarfing and will need all the encouragement we can give it to grow!

The history of rootstocks

Until the twentieth century here was very little choice when it came to rootstocks.  If you wanted to plant an apple tree, most likely it was on a traditional orchard rootstock and it was going to be big!  The first half of the twentieth century saw much investment and research into apple rootstocks at government research stations, East Malling and Merton.

These new rootstocks were recognised by their prefix M for Malling and MM for Malling- Merton.  They remain the most popular rootstocks used today.

Choosing your rootstock

The temptation if you are wishing to grow fruit trees that are to be kept relatively small, is to simply plant dwarfing rootstocks.  But if your soil is heavy, particularly clay based, this will further stunt the growth resulting in an unhappy tree, struggling to get through the heavy layers of clay.  Our head nurseryman has a favourite saying “it will just stand there and look at you!” meaning it is unlikely to produce much fruit at all and will struggle to get all of the nutrients it needs from the earth by itself.

For smaller trees to be planted in pots etc, we would recommend you choose M27, M7 and M9 for apples, Gisela 5 or Gisela 6 (G5 & G6) for cherries, Quince C (QC) for pears and Pixy for stone fruits.  Step-overs, cordons and patio trees will all be on dwarfing rootstocks.

To plant directly in the soil where a smaller tree is required, consider bushes or restricted forms such as espaliers and FANS.

Grafting larger trees

On the other hand, if you wish to plant larger trees, half-standards will probably be the most suitable for you.  These tend to be grafted onto semi-vigorous rootstocks; MM106, MM111 and MM116 for apples, Quince A (QA) for Pears, SJA for stone fruits and Colt for Cherries.

Espaliers are also largely propagated onto MM106 as some vigour is required in order, for the tree to have enough oomph to continue to be able to put on the growth required to form the tiers.

If space is not an issue and you wish to replant old orchard style trees, look at full standards or trees grafted onto vigorous rootstocks.  M25 for apples, Pyrus Communis and Seedling for Pears, Brompton and Myrobalan for stone fruits (seedling rootstock), Avium F12/1 for Cherries but a very tall ladder will be essential!

More information

​For more information take a look at the Rootstocks Page on our website here  and to order from our website click here.


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The Best Apples for Making Cider

Kent is home to some fabulous cider producers, many made from local apples.  Here’s a low down on the best apples for making cider.

Background to cider making

Kent being the garden of England is now gaining quite a reputation for some incredible hand crafted, artisan Kentish ciders including Brogdale’s own Woolly Pig!

Differing from traditional scrumpy, Kentish cider is usually predominately made from cooking and dessert varieties.  So you can have the best of both worlds – fruit trees for the family, with enough to have a dabble in making your own cider!

Traditionally made from windfalls, friends and family would gather to press and create their own unique blend, which would change from season to season depending on what had been gifted from whom!

Many Kentish Ciders feature a blend of heritage, varieties.  Woolly pig features no less than 30 varieties from the orchards of Brogdale.

Grown your own trees for cider apples

If you have room to grow a small number of trees, try Bramley, Discovery, Grenadier, Howgate Wonder and a Russet, all reliable croppers that will produce a delicious blend.

Other varieties to consider are Braeburn, Cox, Golden Delicious, Golden Noble, Greensleeves, Grenadier, James Grieve, Katy, Spartan and Worcester Pearmain.   All of which will press beautifully for juice so the kids do not miss out.  That is of course, if you can resist eating all of the apples as they are ready!

For more information

Check out our website for current apple tree availability.

If you fancy learning how to make your own cider, Brogdale Collections here at Brogdale is holding Cider Making Workshops in October.  More details here.

If you can’t wait that long, then buy some delicious Woolly Pig Cider from Tiddly Pomme!  It makes its wonderful Woolly Pig Cider from Brogdale apples.  More information here.

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About Fruit Tree Step-overs

Learn about fruit tree step-overs and why they’re becoming so popular with gardeners.

What is a step-over?

A step-over is a low growing tree, typically being around 45cms in height.  It has a single branch either side of the trunk that has been trained horizontally, (miniature espalier).  Depending on variety, a step-over will grow on average to 2 metres wide and it gets its quirky name from the fact you can literally step over it!

Step-overs are becoming extremely fashionable as they provide a solution to fruit growing in the smallest of gardens, they are also often used to define areas, making an attractive division on the allotment or vegetable patch, or a novel edge to a pathway.

The fruits themselves (Grow offers apples and pears trained in this form) grow from “spurs” along the horizontal branches.  Of course, being a fruit tree, they also have the benefit of stunning blossom. Where several are planted, they soon form a beautiful edible hedge!

How we grow fruit tree step-overs

Our step-overs start off life as a maiden tree, that has been grafted from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale.  We select the appropriate dwarfing rootstock, which is suited best to the particular variety being grafted.  Some of the older, rarer, trees in the collection are naturally dwarfing and so we are able to use our experience and knowledge to ascertain, when a slightly more vigorous rootstock is better suited.

If you are wanting to train your own step-overs M9 is probably the most widely available rootstock to use.  M27 is the smallest of all apple rootstocks currently but this is best suited to more modern, commercial varieties.

The maiden tree (young tree) is grown on for a year and then pruned down to the desired height. When dormant in the winter (normally 45cms) the fresh spring growth is then tied in on the training frame and allowed to continue to grow.

We do not offer bare rooted trees in this form as step-overs require dwarfing rootstocks and we find that our pot grown trees have a stronger, more established root system without the risk of being damaged when lifted.

How to plant step-overs

When planting your fruit tree step-overs, we would recommend installing a simple post and wire system.  You will need just one row of wire, tensioned at one end (you can buy a tensioner block to make light work of this).  The opposing end of wire can be threaded through an eyelet (vine eye) and simply screwed into your post.

To plant, simply take the tree from its pot, you can add a handful of organic matter to the planting hole if you wish, well-rotted manure is our favourite medium.  When in situ remove the bamboo growing frame and gently secure the two branches onto your wire system. Pipe cleaners or soft covered ties are preferable as they will not damage the delicate growth.

Maintaining your step-over

It is important to keep an area around the trunk of the tree free from competition from weeds and grass.  If other plant material is allowed to grow it will have first dibs at the nutrients and moisture in the soil, depriving your tree of what it needs.

Allow a distance of 2m from trunk to trunk when planting more than one step-over.   Keep your trees well-watered through dry spells, they do not have big enough roots to fend for themselves yet!

Mulching is a good way to feed your fruit tree step-overs, suppress weeds/grass etc, and to lock in moisture.  You can do this in the spring or autumn.  Liquid seaweed can be used on a regular basis as an additional feed (Monty Don has “feeding Fridays!).

As your tree grows, a little maintenance work will need to be carried out each year, to keep the tree in shape and to continue to be healthy and productive.  In the growing season (July/August).  Once the arms are established, cut back the laterals that emerge from them to three or four leaves above the basal cluster.

Shoots that emerge later on can be pruned back hard to one or two leaves to avoid congestion.  Pruning in this way will allow fruiting spurs to develop over time.  If a leader tries to emerge, simply prune this out.

When step-overs fruit

In years when a bumper crop is produced, you will need to thin out the fruit to ensure that there is room for the remaining fruits to develop properly and be of good quality and to avoid the tree from becoming exhausted and move into a biennial cropping habit.


For up-to-date availability of our ready trained step-over apples and pears, visit our website 

 Apple step-overs available at £40.00, Pear step-overs available at £42.00 prices correct August 2021

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August Fruit Tree Jobs

Here’s a summary of August fruit tree jobs

This time of year is very satisfying for fruit growers, as all that hard work pays off with some wonderful fresh fruit to pick and enjoy.

There are still a couple of August fruit tree jobs you should be aware of in order to care for your fruit trees in the summer.

Ready to pick

Some early fruiting varieties of apples will be ready to pick in August.  Beauty of Bath, and Kent’s own Discovery and Tydeman’s Early Worcester are amongst those that are generally ready now.

If you are not sure whether they are ready or not, simply cup your hand around the apple and give it a gentle twist, if ripe it will come away easily.  If not, it needs a little longer so just keep checking!

Apricots, peaches and nectarines will also begin to crop now.  Handle the fruit just before picking, you should feel a little “give” in the flesh if they are ready to pick.

Some varieties of damsons, gage and plums will also be ready to harvest now but do bear in mind that the colder weather earlier on in the year and then the hot, dry weather, can alter picking times, holding them back in the cold or bringing them forward with the heat.  So always give stone fruits a gentle squeeze to check they are ripe before picking.

Summer pruning

One fruit important August fruit tree job is a bit of pruning. Trained trees (Cordons, Espaliers and step-overs) should be summer pruned now.  Cut back the shoots that emerge from the laterals to three or four leaves above the basal cluster.  Shoots that emerge later on where an established spur exists can be pruned back hard to one or two leaves to avoid congestion.  Remove and extra shoots on the vertical stem of the tree.

Continue weeding and watering!

Keep an area around the base of your fruit trees free from grass, weeds and other competition from plants.

Most importantly, enjoy all that wonderful, fresh and delicious fruit.

For more help and advice from Grow at Brogdale, click here.