NC State Extension

Lee Calhoun’s Heirloom Apple Orchard Show & Tell

Photos and text by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.

October 2009

The Chatham County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension organized a “show and tell” at Lee Calhoun’s Heirloom Southern Apple Orchard. So many people wanted to attend that we did two visits, one on September 14 and the second on October 7.

Lee Calhoun is a nationally known expert on heirloom southern apples. He is the author of the very popular but now out-of-print book, Old Southern Apples, which gives the history of over 1,600 distinct southern apple varieties. For over 30 years, Lee has traveled around the south looking for long-lost apple varieties. Each one comes with its unique history and many are gorgeous to look at and have fascinating names (not to mention quite tasty!). Some were consumed fresh, while others were grown for cider or vinegar or for stewing.

Lee used to operate a nursery that sold grafted heirloom southern apple trees but has since retired. He mentored other nursery growers in the southeast who now offer the trees. Read a News & Observer article about Lee Calhoun and David Vernon, one of the nursery growers Lee mentored. Lee helped establish the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard at Horne Creek Living Historical Farm in Pinnacle, NC and still helps maintain those trees and dedicates himself to educating others.

Over 120 folks attended the orchard show and tell events and saw more than 300 varieties of old southern apples. Lee recently converted much of his orchard to dwarf trees to make them easier to maintain.

Click here to read a News & Observer article
about Lee Calhoun’s work.

Visitors gather around Lee so they don’t miss a word when he talks about his favorite topic: heirloom apples!

Visitors get a close look at the apple trees.

Lee talks about pruning and training apple trees.

Lee uses the oblique cordon training system for his dwarf trees which maximizes production efficiency and also makes the trees easier to manage.

Visitors gather around while Lee talks about his apple trees.

Visitors get a look at some of the different varieties.

Visitors get a look at some of the different varieties that had just been harvested. We also got to taste them!

Lee points out the mason bee wood nesting blocks he installed in the pole barn.

Lee points out the mason bee wood nesting blocks he installed in the pole barn. The native orchard mason bee, also called the blue mason bee, is a crucial apple pollinator.

Lee talks about his grape vines.

Visitors get a look at one of Lee’s grape vines.

Lee talks about his other fruit trees and vegetable gardens.

Lee talks about his other fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Lee enjoys growing heirloom vegetables and sharing his favorite seeds.
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