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Snowdrops, Apples and Pears

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Snowdrops, Apples and Pears
Snowdrops Duffus Estate

The snowdrops are peeking through the undergrowth across Duffus Estate as February unfolds and it is time to think about pruning the apple trees. We are very lucky at Duffus Estate in that we still have fruit trees which have stood the test of time. Ed’s ancestor, Sir Archibald Dunbar (1803 to 1898) had a pamphlet produced with a list of the apple and pear trees on the Estate, listed by perfection! Cox’s Orange Pippin is first up and attains perfection on a wall.

Snowdrops on Duffus Estate
Woodland snowdrops

An excerpt from The Northern Scot, 9 December 1893 boasts of the Fruit Growing in Moray. “There are many good gardens in the province of Moray, but probably none surpass those at Duffus House. The variety of apples and pears grown at Duffus House is very remarkable”. This was no understatement with 146 varieties of apple trees and 119 varieties of pear trees, not to mention a Black Ischia fig tree in cultivation at Duffus Estate for over 100 years. The Estate continues to reap a good harvest of figs each year.

Apple Crop

Duffus Estate Walled Garden Apples

With the passage of time and passion for fruit cultivation waning, there are now far fewer apple and pear trees on the Estate. Those which are here are carefully pruned annually. The fruit is harvested and turned into apple juice by Elgin’s Orchard for our holiday cottage guests. 2021 was not a bumper year for our apple crop, our fingers are crossed for a better harvest in 2022.


A few years ago I booked Ed onto an apple pruning course, which he delegated to me at the last minute due to other commitments. I duly went along and learned the key points of pruning apple trees and enjoyed the day. The most fun part however was at the end of the day when we wassailed the trees and drank warm cider. 

Wassail Bowl

Wassailing is a Twelfth Night tradition that has been practised in Britain for centuries. It has its roots in a pagan custom of visiting orchards to sing to the trees and spirits in the hope of ensuring a good harvest the following season. During the visit a communal wassail bowl – filled with a warm spiced cider, perry or ale – would be shared amongst revellers. After my initial self-conscious reluctance to stand and sing to a tree, it felt like we were revisiting an ancient ritual to connect with nature. I haven’t yet persuaded Ed to bring wassailing to Duffus, but keep an eye out for a ceremony soon!


Duffus Estate Walled Garden Apples

Enjoy a walk through Duffus Estate and see the gentle beauty of the snowdrops in flower. If you have time, have a look in the walled garden for the apple and pear trees, you might even find me there practising pruning.

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