The Silver Bough


The Silver Bough: a cultural conversation about apples

This project started with an apple tree planting tour of Scotland in February 2014 and ended by co-hosting a National Orchard Gathering in Dunblane on 7th November 2014 with Forth Environment Link and Orchard Research and Enterprise. Out of the Orchard Gathering grew Orchard Collective Scotland.

We see the Silver Bough as complementary to the Seed Kist, but representing the perennials instead of the annuals: everything that can be propagated by collecting seed can get stored in the Seed Kist; every plant that needs to be nurtured and looked after where it grows should be celebrated under the Silver Bough.

Silver Bough Tour 2014

In February and March 2014 the Seed Truck set off on a cultural tour of Scotland, planting 7 heritage orchards of seven trees, and mixing practical tree panting with storytelling and home made tree welcoming ceremonies.

“Celebrate a food tradition, invent a new one”

The Silver Bough refers to a silver apple branch, laden with blossom or fruit, that was the passport to Tir nan Òg, the land of eternal youth, of Celtic mythology. Placed in the contemporary commodified context of “Tesco Everyday Golden Delicious; 5 for £1; origin: South Africa”, this reference seems out of place – but mythologies are usually not forgotten but instead reinvented.

People are now reversing the trend in the latter half of last century of grubbing up commercial orchards by enthusiasticly planting school and community orchards up and down the land. In Our latest project hopes to tap into this energy and is aimed at rekindling the rich cultural legacy of the apple tree in Scotland. We chose seven collections of seven trees from around the country that tell interesting or lesser known parts of the diverse history of the fruit. Each collection currently has a ‘headline variety':

1. ROSS-SHIRE: Coul Blush. The most northerly variety, raised at Coul House, 1827

2. MORAY: Beauty of Moray. First recorded in 1883.

3. ANGUS: Chivers Delight. A Cambridgeshire apple raised in about 1920, with a Montrose connection, as the Chivers company had a factory there – an interesting piece of socio-economic history. Plus some other old Angus trees, Tower of Glamis, Hood’s Supreme and Arbroath Oslin.

4. CARSE OF GOWRIE: Bloody Ploughman. Legend has it that the seedling that grew out of the bones of the ploughman shot scrumping apples at Megginch Castle, Perthshire. Plus some other Carse of Gowrie favourites, Weight, Lass O Gowrie, Lady of the Wemyss, and Port Allen Russet.

5. LOTHIAN: Hawthornden. A very old variety from Bonnyrig, plus some other old Lothian varieties, such as East Lothian Pippin, Cutler Grieve and Tam Jeffrey.

6. BORDERS: White Melrose. From Melrose Abbey – and there is an ancient version still growing there.

7. GALLOWAY: Galloway Pippin. A very ancient variety, probably from Wigtown.

Apple Hunter’s Handbook

The result of the Silver Bough Tour was the Apple Hunter’s Handbook, a fascinating journey into the story of apples in Scotland as told by seven apples, and aimed at 7-12 year olds. The book was written by Fergus Walker and Meg Elphee and the design was done by D8 in Glasgow. You can read your own copy online here or download it: