Historic Rock Ledge apple tree all by itself no more

       Old Rosy finally has company in the meadow at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.

Four members of the Broadmoor Garden Club stand between the 100-year-old-plus "Old Rosy" apple tree and its grafted offspring (foreground) shortly after it was planted a few weeks ago at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site. From left are Dorothy Kraemer, Susan McMullen, Carol Baker and Kathy Rogers.
Courtesy of the Broadmoor Garden Club

       The apple tree - known for its solitary spot in a field and a gaping hole in its trunk - is the most prominent of four remaining from the era of the Chambers family, which grew orchards and planted crops there between about 1880 and 1900.
       But now, courtesy of the Broadmoor Garden Club and the wonders of science, a “child” (or clone) of the ancient growth has been planted about 15 feet away.
       That culminates a two-year process, during which four cuttings from Rosy - a nickname provided by a local artist - were combined with rootstock from a Russian apple tree called Antonovka and nurtured in a Fort Collins greenhouse.
       “We definitely wanted one by Rosy,” said ranch manager Andy Morris. “If the day comes that she falls over, we've got her progeny right there.”
       He also noted that he and his staff have shielded the young offspring with a heavy-gauge deer fence.
       Each of the clones is five to six feet tall and three-quarters to one inch in diameter, according to Kathy Rogers of the Garden Club.
       Two of them have been given spots about 100 feet from the old tree, in a fenced-in apple orchard established over the last decade near the Chambers-built Rock Ledge House.
       The fourth was given to the Venetucci Farm in south Colorado Springs, Rogers said.
       They're too young to bear apples now, but that could happen “by year five [2016],” said Scott Skogerboe, the Fort Collins gardener who did the grafting. He explained that the Antonovka he used had a “hardy” rootstock, selectively bred for strength and size, and that the clones' apples will be “identical to the original” (Old Rosy).
       Another type of Rosy clone, produced by City Parks foresters, will also be planted at the ranch this year, Morris said. In this process, two soft-wood cuttings were taken from the tree's new growth four years ago and then nursed along in a city greenhouse.
       Morris isn't sure yet where he will plant these additional “kids” of Old Rosy. “We'll have to figure that out,” he said. “The orchard is pretty full. But we'll make room.”
       Over the years, the Garden Club has given the ranch more than 60 trees. The group had been especially pointing toward this year because 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the Garden Club of America.

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