Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit


Suntan, photo courtesy of Home Orchard Society Incorporated

Suntan, photo courtesy of Home Orchard Society Incorporated

Suntan is a dessert apple, very attractive with orange-red skin over a yellowish base. It has intense aromatic, rich, sweet flavour, and a good sharpness. The fruit ripens fairly late (end September-late October) and can keep right through Christmas to February when stored correctly, in single-layer trays in a cold room or shed facing north, with lowish temperatures (not below 3°C), fluctuating as little as possible. In this way it will retain its unique flavour.

The flavour is similar, but better, than Cox’s Orange Pippin. It flowers late, and so it is suitable for the North. The tree is easy to grow, though care has to be taken with canker when grown in damper areas. It was bred in Kent in 1956 as a cross between Cox’s Orange Pippin and Court Pendu Plat. This is a triploid variety, and so it needs two pollinators. The variety produces its best characteristics if grown on M9 or M26 rootstock.

My personal experience with Suntan

We have been growing fruit and trees in this country since 1960, and I have been able to taste a huge range of varieties over the years. If you asked me which are the best eating apples ever raised and produced in this country, I would say Ashmead Kernel and Suntan. Both varieties have supreme eating qualities and good keeping qualities. But why, you may say, are these varieties so neglected, and never recommended by gardening magazines and the like?

The problem with Ashmead Kernel and Suntan is pollination. Without correct pollinators, these varieties will not be able to produce regular crops. Chivers Delight and Grenadier are both self-fertile, and they are good companions for Suntan. Chivers Delight, Grenadier and Suntan, planted together, are a great combination.

Strangely, Suntan runs the risk of disappearing from many nurseries. Today there are only two tree propagators who list Suntan, and this is due to the variety gradually disappearing from public view. But it is truly a superb apple, and I would place it in number one position, for its great flavour, its crispness, and the fact that after picking in late October, it keeps easily until after Christmas.

Suntan does best on M26 rootstock. It should never be planted on its own: the best companion varieties are Royal Gala, Egremont Russet, Chiver’s Delight, Annie Elisabeth, and Claygate Pearmain.

Of course, new varieties are appearing all the time. Scrumptious is a very new variety, very promising, with a great future. But it’ll take something else to knock Suntan off that number one pedestal!

2 responses to “Suntan

  1. I Ali May 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    I was wondering if you had any opinions or experience of growing Suntan on other rootstocks, besides the ones you recommend (m9 & m26)? I was considering growing it on mm106, as I have had difficulties with the smaller rootstocks. Also, do you have any opinions on growing it in any other form than the recommended bush form? Would a restricted form, such as a pyramid or maybe espalier, be recommended. As it is a vigorous triploid I have no idea how it would grow as either a pyramid or espalier, but would be interested in your views.
    Kind regards,
    I Ali

    • realenglishfruit May 13, 2015 at 8:19 am

      As you already stated in your comment, Suntan is a very vigorous variety. A good and late-flowering diploid pollination partner is therefore essential to achieve regular fruit set. This is of even more importance if you use MM106 as the rootstock. If you have enough room than there is no reason why you could not use this stock. Depending on soil quality and soil depth, Suntan on MM106 will need 30 to 40 square metres of land space.

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