Spring has well and truly sprung in our orchards here at Ardress, in the Orchard County Armagh. We are surrounded by a sea of colour and the fantastic smell of the blossom, together with the sound of the bees buzzing as they do their important work. This is the promise of new growth and a new crop of apples. A very special time of the year. A time where, for as long as Greg our cider maker can remember, the Mac Neice family have always had to pose for the annual apple blossom photograph…whether they liked it or not!!
What makes our orchards at Ardress so special is the care and attention they get from us! The land is also ideal for apples, a heavy loam on clay and a high nutrient holding capacity that is essential for growing apples. We have around 110 acres of apple trees – so lots of bloom around this time.
One tradition that will be missed this year will be the National Trust Ardress House Apple Blossom Sundays, which have been a favourite event of ours for many years. Ardress House is a beautiful 17th Century farmhouse, remodelled in Georgian times – well worth a visit when it is safe to do so. We manage around 5,000 Bramley apple trees on National Trust land. Greg’s family began leasing the land from the Ensor family since the 1940s and continued the tenancy when the National Trust took possession of the Ardress House Estate.
This year’s blossom
This season there has been plenty of bloom but early frosts have already taken their toll and many have been killed and will never become apples. We have had the earliest blossom in a long time due to the mild winter. A lot of the work that the apple tree does to produce a good blossom in spring happens during the previous year’s growth so all the inputs made the previous year will impact the blossom for the following year. More blossom means more apples, provided that they are not killed by frost and provided they are well pollinated.
A spring to remember
Like every business we have felt the impact of Covid-19. Our first thoughts are for the health and safety of our dedicated employees who continue to come into work every day to make sure we produce the best Armagh Bramley apples and the best Mac Ivors Cider. Then we think of our wider community and those who are most vulnerable. We feel that if we can do all we can to care of our people, together we can take care of the business that we all love. We will get through this.
Like the apple trees that we nurture, we will move through the seasons in the hope of a bountiful harvest to come!