How to name your own apple variety

Apples do not grow true from seed, so planting a pip from your favourite supermarket apple variety will unfortunately not give you a tree of the same variety. Instead it will be a cross between that variety and another unknown pollinator - most likely a crab-apple planted in the orchard for that purpose, which is why most pip-grown apples produce poor quality apples.

However, the good news is that if you do successfully grow an apple tree from a pip, it will be a genuinely new and completely unique variety. If the apples turn out to taste nice, you will be able to name it and perhaps find a fruit tree nursery to propagate it for you.

But in order to claim your slice of apple fame you need to come up with a good name! Here is a list of methods that have been used in the past, which might inspire you and help make your new apple variety sound as appealing as possible.

Name it after a famous person

Up until the Victorian era this was one of the most popular methods of naming an apple. Your new apple will immediately be popular and respectable because of the association with the famous person.

Lord LambourneLord Lambourne

Lords (and Ladies) were particularly popular for this purpose, e.g. Lord Lambourne, Lord Derby.

Any association with royalty was also useful e.g. Lane's Prince Albert - named after the husband of Queen Victoria.

The popular cooking apple Reverend Wilks was named after a secretary of the RHS - about as good an endorsement as you could get!

However this method seems to be less popular with modern apple developers. There is no Lady Gaga apple for example. Perhaps modern copyright and branding requirements are more stringent than they were in Victorian times.

Name it after yourself

This is another popular strategy, the benefit here is that if (a big "if") the apple becomes famous, you will also become famous by association!

Bramley's SeedlingBramley's Seedling

Perhaps the best-known example is Granny Smith. This was named by Maria Smith, an Australian housewife (and presumably grandmother) of the 1860s who found a seedling apple tree growing in her compost heap and noticed the apples were very good keepers.

Then of course there is Richard Cox, whose eponymous Cox's Orange Pippin is widely considered the best flavoured of all apples.

Another well-known example is a certain Mr Bramley, who in the early 19th century bought a house and garden where the daughter of the previous owner, Mary Ann Brailsford, had planted a seedling apple tree which produced remarkably good cooking apples. He allowed a local nursery to propagate it as long as they used his name!

Name it after the place where it was raised

This is perhaps one of the most commonly-used and easiest naming strategies.

Braeburn - named after the place where it was first grownBraeburn - named after the place where it was first grown

In its simplest form we have varieties like Barnack Beauty, a village on the A1 north of London. Similarly, the old American variety Newtown Pippin hails from Newtown on Long Island.

The Scottish variety Lass O'Gowrie is a more sophisticated - and charming - variation.

One of the most popular commercial varieties - Braeburn - also uses this approach. It was named after Braeburn Orchards where it was first grown. It undoubtedly helps that this word has a nice traditional Scottish ring to it.

Another variation is Rubinette, which is also known as Rafzubin, after the Swiss town of Rafz where it was developed.

Use a popular girls name

A small number of apple varieties use this approach, but it has to be a popular name in order to work.

Perhaps the most successful example is the Swedish variety Katya, known in the UK as Katy. A nice simple name for a nice simple apple - and everyone knows someone called Katy so the market is guaranteed!

Perhaps less successful is the American variety Jonathan. This is very well-regarded amongst apple enthusiasts on account of its excellent flavour ... but boys names just don't seem to work as well.

Use a word which sounds nice

If you think your new variety has international potential you will want a name that sounds nice in many languages and cultures. Modern apple breeders have started to name their apples using words that have nothing to do with apples, but have happy connotations and mean the same in several languages, e.g. Jazz or Gala or Fiesta.

A variation on this is to use words which simply sound nice. The modern commercial varieties Zari and Kanzi come from words which have nice sounds and are easy to pronounce - even if their Swahili origin is probably lost on most consumers.

Name the apple after its most attractive characteristics

Honeycrisp - a particularly crisp appleHoneycrisp - a particularly crisp apple

When viking explorer Erik the Red sailed west from Iceland and discovered new land, he named it Greenland. He knew that an attractive name would encourage other settlers to join him. This method has worked nicely for apples too, and was used to name two of the world's most popular varieties - Golden Delicious and Red Delicious.

The potential drawback with this method is that you have to be confident the variety will live up to the name. (Despite it's supermarket reputation, Golden Delicious is indeed a lovely apple when home-grown).

Another difficulty is that there are only so many words you can use to describe an apple and most have already been used.

Despite this, naming an apple after its characteristics is still occasionally used, a recent example being the popular American variety Honeycrisp - it is certainly very crisp, and in a good example does perhaps have some honeyed overtones.

The name as a story

This naming strategy is quite rare, but very effective and memorable. Perhaps the best example is Bloody Ploughman, named - apparently - after a ploughman who was shot by the local gamekeeper for scrumping apples.

For those intending to create many varieties

If you intend to breed many apple varieties it is useful to develop a common theme so that each new variety enhances your brand.

The cooperative breeding programme setup by three US universities - Purdue, Rutgers, and Illinois - uses a clever naming convention. Many (but not all) of their different apple varieties have the letters 'PRI' somewhere in the name, e.g. Enterprise, Pristine, Priscilla.

Similarly varieties developed at the Summerland Research Station in Canada often start with 'S', e.g. Spartan. Most of their cherry varieties also start with 'S' (e.g. Stella, Sweetheart).


Some useful words to incorporate when naming your apple

A number of traditional words often crop up in the names of apples. If you want to give your new apple name an aura of heritage and gravitas it is useful to try to incorporate some of them. However treat with caution because many of these attractive old words can be confusing to the modern target audience for your new apple variety.

Seedling, Pippin

These words both mean a variety grown from a pip or seedling. They are ideal words to use if you grew your apple from a pip but can't remember what the parent varieties were, and sound good to a modern audience.

The old word "kernel" also means a seedling tree, but is perhaps a bit too obscure.

Black

In apple terminology "black" actually means the apple is a very dark red colour, e.g. Arkansas Black or Black Dabinet. This useful if your new apple has this colour tendency.

Orange

This can be used for any apple that has a flushed orange skin, and lends a strong traditional feel e.g. Blenheim Orange. However it could also unfortunately make it sound like a citrus fruit.

Reinette

This old term is used to describe a loose collection of varieties, often high quality dessert apples. Orleans Reinette is perhaps the most well-known. The potential pitfall here is that the spelling and pronounciation could be off-putting.

Boeuf or Beef or Beefing

This is another lovely old term, and very useful if your new variety appears to be a large cooking apple. Again though it could be confusing for modern customers, who may think you have created a new product for the delicatessen.

Beauty, Delight

Whilst beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, it is an excellent term to use when naming your new apple and adds a nice positive yet traditional feel. Beauty of Bath is a good example.

Delight is used in a similar way, e.g. Chivers' Delight, and also sounds very good to modern ears.

Pine

In apple terms 'pine' tends to mean any variety that has a fruity or pineapple-like flavour. Pitmaston Pine Apple is perhaps the most well-known example. However this is probably too obscure to be successful today.

Royal

Use this if you think yours is a particularly good apple, e.g. Royal Gala or Norfolk Royal Russet. It lends a nice touch of class to your new apple variety.

Russet

This term is well worth adding if your new variety appears to have a good covering of sandpaper-like russet to its skin. Whilst this is a niche market, people who like russet apples are often keen consumers and will certainly seek out your new variety. A recently introduced russet variety is Herefordshire Russet.

Wonder

This invariably means it is a big apple, e.g. Howgate Wonder. It has a quaint Victorian feel which could work well, even if your new apple seedling was raised on a roof terrace in Docklands!

Nonpareil / Sanspareil / Nonsuch

These are all old words which mean 'unsurpassed', e.g. Braddick's Nonpareil or Peasgood's Nonsuch.

Unfortunately whilst they sound quaint and traditional, they could also be somewhat confusing or contradictory to modern consumers not versed in apple lore.

Sweet

Implies (rightly or wrongly) that the flavour will be sweet and appealing. e.g. Morgan Sweet - which is relatively sweet for a cider variety.

Pearmain, Codlin

Pearmain is an old word used to describe apples which have (to a greater or possibly lesser extent) a bell-shaped appearance. Adams Pearmain is perhaps the most well-known. However this is perhaps not a good choice for modern ears, as it sounds confusingly like a 'pear' - a different fruit altogether.

Codlin works in a similar way, although this time it describes a style of old cooking apple. As with pearmain, the disadvantage is that it is perhaps a bit too obscure for modern usage.

Early or Late

Including the season of eating in the name is an excellent idea as it lends a traditional feel and also tells the potential customer when it will be at its best., e.g. Tydeman's Late Orange or Christmas Pippin, Winter Gem.