Greenmantle Nursery: Vintage Apples off the Beaten Path

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greenmantle nursery heirloom apple trees benchgraft

In my neverending quest to cover every square inch of Tall Clover with anything that bears fruit, I stumbled across a remarkable site: Greenmantle Nursery of Humboldt, California. The nursery has been in business since 1983, and features some old homestead varieties from plant breeder Albert Etter (1872-1950). Today I received three small bench-grafts (on M111 rootstock) of his small dessert/cider apples that the nursery calls Sweetmeat Crab ™ I ordered Muscat de Venus™, Amberoso™, and Atalanta™.

These whips will be nurtured and well cared for before they are placed in their permanent spot. I will need to make sure the graft takes and that there is central lead to take the tree to new heights.  I can wait, especially after reading the catalog description for Muscat de Venus™, “While the texture is crisp, the flavor is intensely vinous and suggestive of muscat grapes. This is an extraordinary choice for dessert or cider. There is more pleasure in a single little Muscat de Venus™ than a bushel of most big apple varieties.”

apple blossomsUpdate 2013: One of the bench-grafts died, but that was my fault in how I handled the young rootstock. Two remain and bloom each year, but still no apples. Perhaps 2013 will be the year of my first ‘crop.’

Update 2015: Amberoso produced a few small apples for the very first time, and I’d have to say it’s been worth the wait, as they were truly exceptional in flavor and texture. Sweet-sour flavorful treats, the diminutive gems are true to their description on the Greenmantle Nursery website: “The flesh has a pronounced amber tinge and is remarkably crisp and juicy, with pineapple aromatic overtones.” Hopefully next year the other Etter variety will produce apples and reveal itself as either Venus de Muscat or Atalanta.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Please bring a few of the Muscat de Venus apples in so that we can taste test. I love the idea of heirloom plants, and would like to create a very small garden in my very small yard and devote it to heirloom tomatoes and such.

  2. These dying benchgrafts may not be your fault. Many people have bad luck with Greenmantle benchgrafts, including myself. I have extensive experience with grafting and growing benchgrafts. It’s not just our fault that they don’t do well.

    • Thanks Steven, the two I have left are doing fine now but still about 5 feet tall with minimal lateral branches. I don’t usually fertilize my fruit trees, but I may have give it shot to encourage a little growth spurt now and then. I planted them in 2008 hope to get some apples next year.

  3. BTW, Tom, in the olden days kids used to make a little money by picking strawberries on the island. Back then, there were several farms specializing in strawberries. I worked for Tok Otsuka. Anyway, I think they grew “Marshall” strawberries. Do you happen to know if anyone on the island (or anywhere else) sells seedlings, or even the seeds of the Marshalls? Those were the BEST strawberries and I’d like to grow some of my own. Thanks! Linda

    • Linda, I am familiar with Marshall’s and they are a wonderful strawberry, but you really have to pick and eat them the same day, which of course is not a problem, is it. How cool you used to pick strawberries on the island. That seems to be a right of passage for most island kids in the past. I don’t have any Marshall strawberries currently, but I think you can find them at the Farmers Market in late spring. I’ll keep my eyes open for you. Also I’m sure if you contact the Vashon Fruit Club, you’ll find some members there growing the legendary berry. Here’s their link: https://vashonislandfruitclub.wordpress.com/ Happy Growing!

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