Burnett: Gellatly’s walnut tree advice remains true today

Gellatly Nut Farm Fall Harvest Fair takes place Saturday, Sept. 27 from 10 am to 3 pm

When I was in my early 20s, I joined up with my dad, mom and brother Al to run the family business which my grandfather had started in 1922.

Part of my job was to speak to groups about gardening which is still an activity of mine today.

On one such occasion, I was speaking to the Westbank Senior Citizens Association in their brand new facility on the Old Okanagan Highway.

I believe my topic  was just general spring gardening and the subject of pruning was dominant.

I was still relatively new to my career and was a long way from earning my certification in arboriculture, so these talks more often than not became learning sessions for me as much as they were for my audience.

One of the questions from the floor concerned the bleeding that happens when walnut trees are pruned in the spring: Is it harmful and is there something that can be done about it?

My answer came from personal experience as I often found certain species such as walnuts, cherries, grapes and others tended to drip profusely after a dormant spring pruning.

I replied this was a common occurrence and it didn’t seem to affect the health or productivity of the plant, which is the same answer I would give today.

But back then during a short coffee break, I was mingling about and a little elderly gentleman approached me. He said he had many years of experience working with walnuts and he agreed while there was little to worry about regarding the bleeding, he suggested I might offer a little hint to gardeners who just can’t stand the thought of their walnut tree bleeding like a wounded soldier.

That advice wa to wait until there is about three to four inches of new growth happening before pruning and there will be little if any bleeding.

I have always appreciated and respected the advice of people senior to me so I thanked him and politely asked him his name. He promptly answered Mr. Gellatly.

Now I’m not sure which Mr. Gellatly it was but I would guess it was Bill as his brother Jack had passed away in the late 1960s.

Regardless, I received this pruning tip from the authority because the Gellatly family, beginning with David Erskine Gellatly who purchased 320 acres now known as Gellatly Point in 1900, was instrumental in developing and producing hardy nut varieties known all over the world.

The remaining portion of the property is now a Heritage Park and every fall they organize a Harvest Festival.

This year, the festival takes place Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be 45 vendors, barbecue, bake sale and fallen nuts to pick up from the ground.

Rico Thorsen, an expert on budding and grafting, will be in attendance for two hours at the tree tent.

I will be there as well to answer gardening questions and you just never know; I may run into someone who throws me a garden tip new to me just like what happened 40 years ago at the Seniors Activity Centre.


Kelowna Capital News