Thursday, 26 November 2009

Beurré Gris d'Hiver Nouveau

Only one of these, but a large pear similar in size and shape to Comice. I wasn't able to eat any, but my husbands verdict was sweet, very juicy with a buttery quality, but also slightly coarse and gritty, especially near the core.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Foliage: Beurré Hardy

Beurré Hardy is well-known for good foliage colour, and doesn't disappoint. The older leaves are a rich burgundy, the younger ones a mixture of coral and orange. They haven't withstood the recent winds as well as the others, disappointingly. I think the autumn effect would be a lot greater as a half-standard, and Beurré Hardy is really far too vigourous to enjoy life as a step-over (only because I had to move it rapidly from the sheep-vandalised orchard, and had only a limited space for it). I will leave it for the present, but will propagate another if I have rootstocks and space to spare.

Foliage: Red Comice

Not as highly coloured as the spring foliage or it's neighbours Fondante d'Automne and Beurré Hardy, but still a nice, even mid-orange hue. There are quite a few Nerine Bowdenii growing nearby, obscured in this photograph. Not really sure whether the dark pink complements or clashes with the foliage colour!

Foliage: Fondante d' Automne

Really pleased with the colouring of Fondante d'Automne, almost rainbow-like with more orangey hues at the top and rich burgundy red at the bottom. Need to do something about finding a more robust frame for my spiral pyramid; either that or sort out the dangerous subsidence that seems to be affecting my house LOL!

Foliage colour: Dr Jules' sport

Another interesting instance of colour. The portion of the Dr Jules Guyot cordon that seems to be a bud sport is showing much greater and earlier Autumn colour than the parent.

Foliage Colour: Beth/Gorham

One of the many qualities of pears I prefer to those of apples is their ability to colour nicely in Autumn. Not all are as good as others, so I'll just pick out those that are better than average.

Beth goes a nice shade of buttery yellow, but this year has been out done by the scion of Gorham I grafted on, shown on the top photo. If you look at the other one, the limb of Gorham is the top right oblique limb; the next one along is a full cordon of Beth, which is a little behind on colouring (the shape is a sort of bent Y, as a full double V wasn't possible a the end of the line). The other cordons are Conference, Concorde and Comice, in that order, which haven't started to fall or colour at all yet.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


As the days draw in, thought turn to next years planting and in turn, what I'll graft it on to. Fingers crossed but it seems we may have extra ground to plant up soon, and it makes sense to carry on the theme of decorative trained forms with quite a high planting density.

I used to get my rootstocks from Deacon's but since I've found that they have supplied me with so many wrong varieties in past years, and won't answer my correspondence on this matter, I feel disinclined to give them any more of my custon. I contacted Frank Matthews, who will supply EMLA stocks in reasonably small quantities, a minimum of 10 per type. I've emailed a couple of other suppliers, but no reply so far. 

Most of what I'll need are Quince A. Although I started off with QC originally, I made a conscious decision to change as there isn't a lot of difference in vigour (of my original cordon of 4 pears, I now cannot tell the difference between the 3 on QC and the one on QA in size; the bark splitting on the former is a good indication however). I also now find that some QC stocks weren't virus free in the past.

Apples are more of a problem. I don't like M26 for reasons given earlier (lack of vigour, late onset of fruiting, breaking branches, rampant suckering and susceptibility to woolly aphid). However, it is marginally more damp tolerant than MM106, something I can vouch for having not having lost any trees when had 18" of standing flood water for 2 months in the summer of 2007. I'm impressed with the productivity and growth habit M27, and would certainly use this if planting apple cordons now, but I would like a couple more half-standard apples to include some tip-bearing varieties I haven't had room for before. 

The best apple stock for damp conditions appears to be M111 inter-scions. I will have to look into these further as it's a certainty that we are flooded at least once a year.

more on rootstocks/propagation:

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Cox's Orange Pippin

My in-law's half-standard cox appears to have a bumper crop this year and looks surprisingly healthy and well-ripened, considering the rather shady location (though my attempts to keep the habit nice and open may have contributed a little). It has been a little prone to scab and mildew in previous years.

Plum: Warwickshire Drooper

Photos of the various examples of Warwickshire Drooper in my in-laws' garden in Warwickshire, taken early in September, just before the fruit was ready.

This is a very common plum in the area, probably because it grows well on it's own roots thus suckers freely everywhere. Locally it is known as 'Magnum Bonum'.

A vigourous grower with obvious weeping habit. Crops are prolific and this, in combination with the habit, can result in frequent branch breaking and the need for numerous props to limbs (as shown). Height is self-limiting at around 12 feet.

Fruit quality is good; large, fairly sweet fruits with a slightly bitter skin. Flavour better where fruits are blushed slightly from being open to the sun. They also cook well and make a good quality plum jam. 

Bullace or Damson?

I'm having a lot of hits on all my various fruit sites for 'bullace' rather intriguingly. It seems there is some debate on what a bullace actually is, both botanically and in popular reference.

All plums are Prunux x domestica, a variable group of plants of hybrid parentage involving Prunus spinosa (native European blackthorn or Sloe) and Prunus cerasifera var. divaricata (cherry plum, myrobalan, native to eastern Europe and central Asia). Within this already variable group, three main subgroups are noted:  P. domestica ssp. domestical (plum); P. domestica ssp. interstitia (damsons, bullaces, mirabelles); and P. domestica ssp. italica (greengages).

Given that these are all closely related and can cross-pollinate freely, there are bound to be countless intermediate forms. So precise classification of any kind of un-named plum-like fruit is never going to be exact.

Bullace is the common term for a wild plum, and seems be used interchangeably with damson. My own interpretation of the difference is based on the difference in eating qualities between both, rather than size, shape etc. The unique quality of a damson is in the high levels of both tannin and acidity in the skin/flesh which renders the fresh fruit virtually inedible, but valuable for jam and winemaking, where high acidity and tannin levels are actually desirable qualities. Bullaces have a fairly bitter skin, but slightly sweeter, less acidic flesh but not to the degree that you'd actually ever  prefer them to a desert plum. 

What I call 'damsons' are those fruits which nearer to sloes in size, shape and flavour; 'bullaces' the type which are rounder, with a higher ratio of flesh to stone, and less tannic astringency. 

The wild plums that infest the borders of my own garden vigourous, spiny things, with round, serrated leaves and round blue/purple bloomed fruit (photo 2). My in-laws have a range of wild plums in their orchard in south Warwickshire; theirs are smaller in height and leaf size, more oval dark blue/purple fruits and leaves; are less spiny and are mouth puckeringly tart (photo 1). These are referred to as 'damsons' locally. I'm not sure the distinctions are really that important.

Other thoughts on the matter:

Keeper's Nursery describes Small Black Bullace as "Very small round fruit. Blue-black skin with a purple bloom. Firm juicy green flesh. Clinging stone. Acid favour. Recommended for jams."

In comparison, Shropshire Prune, ' a classic damson' : "Small, oval fruit. Blue-black with a dense bloom. Strong, rich, astringent damson flavour. Considered to be the best flavoured damson.

'Compact tree with dense twiggy branches. Fair and regular cropper but never producing very heavy crops like the Farleigh damson."

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Rosemary Russet

These have coloured fantastically well, will leave a little longer, at least until the amazing Indian Summer comes to an end (which must be fairly soon now?).

Apple: Ashmead's Kernel

The few left by the squirrel have coloured nicely, but I found a moth larvae burrowing beneath a leaf attached with silk.

Crop: Winter Nellis

Disappointing crop of only about a kilo.

Apple: King Russet?

Still very hard and firmly attached, will leave a while also. I am calling this 'King Russet' even though I'm not absolutely sure this is the actual variety.

Pear: Rogue Red

I hadn't looked at these for a while, but they've developed into enormous fruits, and eventually turned red too. Still quite firmly attached, and rock hard. Will leave a while longer.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Cox's Orange Pippin

I once swore I would never grow a cox. Having had a friend who had one in his Oxford garden, I decided it wasn't worth growing. The tree never set any fruit, was prone to powdery mildew and sat in the middle of the garden looking sad and unhealthy. I felt life was just too short to bother with such a sensitive grower.

I had a few spare rootstock cuttings, and just for the sake of it, pocketed a bit of grafting wood from my in-laws Cox. The graft took, I bunged it into a space last autumn, and now I have a Cox cordon. I would have taken this fruit off the maiden tree if I hadn't been distracted by the trauma of bereavement, but at last, I have my first, home-grown cox. Only about 18 inches tall, but growing strongly.

It will be an interesting experiment, as all of the other apples are healthy and virtually disease free under local conditions.

Evaluation:Meeches Prolific

Hugely disappointing again this year. I've come to the conclusion quinces simply aren't happy being trained.

This variety is way behind Vranja in readyness. The couple of fruits are still quite immature and covered with down, though they never attain the size of other quince varieties.

I've decided that this one is coming out next year, to be replanted elsewhere as a bush.

Crop: Sucrée de Montluçon

Decided to pick the remaining Sucree de Montluçon as they were falling quite rapidly. A very heavy crop from less than a metre length of step-over 3.4 kg, 7.5 lbs, as much as some full-sized cordons have produced. 

Although the flavour has been describe as: "fine, melting and juicy, gritty...very juicy and very sweet, winey, tart, flavour with a delicate perfume* " I have never found it this good. The flesh is quite coarse and 'marrowy', slightly gritty with a bland sweet flavour with little acidity. To be fair, the only summers that it has produced fruit have been terrible ones. Best cooked green. Next year I will thin ruthlessly and just keep 6-8 for exhibition, as they do attain a large size, and have nice smooth skins free from any disease or blemishes.

The Mystery Pear

Finally tasted the mystery pear today. I'm inclined to think it must be a sport of Dr Jules as it has a similar flavour. Sweet, juicy, somewhat coarse and granular but with a distinct flavour of pear drops. Possibly a more buttery quality than the original. Skin - slightly rough like other russeted pears, but reasonably thin with no trace of bitterness though a pleasant acidity. Difficult to make a direct comparison, as I picked my sole Dr Jules a little too early, and this a little too late. Ripened a good 6 weeks later than the parent.

Not sure how marketable it would be as a new variety, this part of the season is not short of nice cultivars, but I will graft it on and make enquiries.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Crop: Vranja

A modest crop of Vranja, 3.5 kgs, nearly 8lbs. Probably as many as we need for our own purposes, though miserly for size and age of tree.

These will be used for jelly.

Found several harlequin ladybirds nesting in the eyes of the fruit, reported to The Harlequin Survey

Crop: Comice

A decent innings for Comice this year; 5 kgs picked today, plus I missed a couple at the top of the tree and have eaten a couple, so total is probably about 6 kgs, 14 lbs. All good quality, of large-size, with no damage to any of them. So large, they will not fit in the compartments of my storage trays.

All three varieties are single trees, grown as double oblique cordons on QC rootstocks.

Re. storage, I find the fruit boxes from Lidl's excellent. They even have ones with trays specifically for large pears. I've even been known to BUY pears from Lidl's when we have run out, as the imported Abbé Fetel variety they sell out of season is one of the nicest commercial varieties; similar to Concorde, it is far superior to the ancient cold-stored conference or imported green Barletts sold by all the other supermarkets. Abbé Fetel does need quite careful storage otherwise it can 'go over' very quickly; I keep mine in the fridge. 

Crop: Concorde

The yield of Concorde a little dissapointing, as usual. 4.2kg today, probably 5kg (11lbs)  in total including those eaten/damaged. What Conference gives in quantity, Concorde makes up in quality. Probably one of my favourite mid-season ones, I prefer this one to Comice.

Crop: Conference

Decided to pick the remaining mid-season pears today, as the squirrel damage was getting out of hand.

I weighed today's picking of Conference which came to about 10.5 kgs. Including the ones that have been eaten already, or discarded because of damage, the whole crop from this double cordon was about 12 kg in total, about 26 lbs. Far more than we can eat, my husband will have to take some with him on his weekly egg round.

Friday, 25 September 2009

More squirrel damage

Several more apples and pears with single bites taken out and clearly visible tooth marks. All way to early to ripen before brown rot sets in. I wonder how often birds get blamed for pecking fruit when the real culprits are squirrels. The trap goes out first thing tomorrow!!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Cup is back again...

The Kirkley Trophy for outstanding fruit exhibit is back home with us again. Not sure how much we deserve it looking at this photo, but all classes were quite well subscribed this year. It is getting expensive having it engraved each time!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Flavour: Coe's Golden Drop

The reputation for being the best of plums is well-deserved. Like an apricot dipped in honey; rich, juicy, sweet. Small crop but then my other plums produce similarly small crops in this soil. Evenly ripened this time (sometimes a single patch can remain hard and unripe).

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Crop: Vranja

The quinces have started falling, so I decide to pick them slightly earlier than I'd have chosen. The windfalls all seem to have slight damage around the stem, probably wasps. Brown rot has then set in and caused them to fall. Plus I wanted some for the 'any other fruit variety' at the village show.

Quince jelly making isn't my favourite task, probably involves the hardest work of all jams but the result is highly worthwhile. I might poach them in my rose-petal wine, as though flavourful it's a little too odd as a desert wine in itself.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Doyenne de Comice

A heavy crop of Comice this year. Some of the fruit is beginning to yellow slightly on the tree, so I think now is the time to start picking. Also, time to select some for the village show on Sunday. There are a number of very large, flushed ones that have few blemishes, so perhaps they will be in with a chance of winning the cup again this year.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Evaluation: Gorham

Another first crop and another pleasant surprise. Gorham has some rather disparaging descriptions in catalogues, but I found it a good quality pear with a nice flavour. Very sweet, very juicy when fully ripe, slightly granular flesh with a trace of buttery quality. Skin quite thin, with no trace of bitterness.

Slightly more acid than some, it poached very nicely, with a distinct 'tinned pears' flavour, but with much better desert qualities than a Bartlett type.  I'm glad, as the crop is about 2.5 kgs. Follows on nicely from Fondante d'Automne, of which only the last few are left. Seems to keep quite well, unlike some early pears which ripen and go over very quickly. Excellent, duel-purpose, heavy-croping pear with good, compact growth habit and no disease problems.

So far, not a day without fresh pears since the Morettini crop started to ripen in early August.

Flavour: Devoe

Tried some of the later-ripening Devoes, and found they had ripened much more nicely than the earlier ones, left too long on the tree. These had a good flavour, crisp and very sweet. Skin was a little tough and papery, but with no trace of bitterness. On balance, very much like Conference but with a potential for greater sweetness if sufficiently ripened, but less 'richness'. Like other calebasse pears, needs to be picked under-ripe rather than left on the tree.

Flavour: Bishop's Thumb

I picked my first crop of these yesterday, and the result's are a little surprising. This pear has quite a distinct apple flavour. Sweet, juicy and a little granular, with the sort of 'pear drops' flavour usually described in apples, but rarely found in actual pears. Skin quite thin, a little tough, though with no bitterness. Flesh coarse, granular without being gritty. A pleasant surprise. Fruit ripened to yellow with an attractive red flush. Husband has peeled some of them without asking, so not as many to photograph.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Evaluation: Tydeman's Early Worcester

This is a bit harsh, but I think this is the worst apple variety I grow (after the one I suspect to be Sturmer pippin). I've given it quite a few years of grace now, but each crop has been disappointing.

Let's start off with flavour. The skins, though attractive and reasonably thin, are bitter. The flavour on first bite is not too bad, but soon the bitter, slightly tannic quality emerges. Even when peeled, the bitterness is still detectable and slightly astringent. The flesh has a soft, slight strawberry taste if well-ripened, but without sufficient sweetness or acidity to counter the bitter skin quality. Very occasionally a single fruit will ripen well (probably the king fruits), but the ones that don't can taste vile. 

Taking a bite from a tree-ripened Worcester Pearmain just after eating a Tydeman's Worcester, the fruit is much sweeter in comparison, with pleasantly fruity level of acid and a pleasantly fragrant pear-drops flavour; rather more aromatic than expected. The flesh is quite crisp, and I think probably keeps rather better than Tydeman's (though I never finish the latter in all honesty; most end up as chicken food).

TEW is also very susceptible to wasp damage, and the earliest, best-ripened fruits will probably be wasted. The tree habit isn't great either (mine is a small half-standard on M26), quite whippy and inclined to bend/break under the weight. Cropping is good, but then what is the point if the fruit isn't very nice? If you like early, fruity, soft-fleshed red apples, Devonshire Quarrenden has a better flavour.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Asian Pear: Shinsui

Just a postscript to previous comments about Shinsui. I left the remaining fruits on the tree for as long as possible (in fact too long, as most dropped off overnight a couple of days ago). Flavour was certainly improved for leaving as long as possible, with a definite fragrant, quite rich pineapple-like flavour (like one that is very over-ripe and has lost all acidity). 

Shinsui is a very decorative tree, free from disease and so far hardy and heavy cropping. The fruit keeps a very long time in storage, eventually going brown and soft from the middle. However, I'd only plant it if you like Asian pears or are a fruit variety 'completionist'; they can be something of an acquired taste, and are sometimes fairly insipid (much sweeter/richer than those available in Chinese supermarkets). My feelings are less mixed than they were though.

Two characterics of Shinsui mentioned in catalogues are it's light crops and self-sterility. I have had a heavy crop every year since the tree was a maiden, so much so that the branches can be inclined to break. My tree is fairly isolated from the other pears, and Shinsui is one of the first to flower and yet pollination is excellent. Either the bees are doing a wonderful job commuting between this tree and far-distant other early pears, or is it in fact partially self-fertile? I will experiment with covering/hand pollinating a section next year just as an experiment.

Pears: Summer pruning

Before and after pruning shots of Winter Nelis and Glou Morceau. Winter Nelis has a particularly effusive, weeping habit which tends to shade the fruit a lot, although this doesn't seem to affect fruit quality that much. However, it looks untidy and pruning the excess growth now also means fewer leaves to sweep up later on. It will also allow light in to help ripen the Glou Morceau fruits, which need all the warmth and light they can get. 

Pruning revealed rather more Winter Nelis fruits than I'd been expecting. This variety is inclined to produce a lot of spurs close together, and my usual approach is to prune back to just one rather than allow a cluster of spurs to develop.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Crop: Quince Vranja

At last, a heavy crop from my half-standard quince Vranja. I had attempted to keep it fairly compact in previous years, but this had an adverse effect on fruiting. The tree would flower and set fruit well, but the fruitlets would drop after about a month. All three fruits (plus a couple of others not in view) are on a single rather spindly branch. I'm not quite sure why attempting to spur prune should affect fruiting in such a way, but the difference since letting the tree have it's own way is staggering. Unfortunately it's obscuring part of my view of the lake.

Reinette Rouge Etoilée

The Reinette Rouge is finally 'étoilée' - the little russet stars have eventually developed, and the colour has turned a lovely raspberry red. I hope the flavour is equally raspberry like. This half-standard has been very slow to set fruit, having been planted about ten years ago.

The dark patches would appear to be scab infections, as some have now developed characteristic cracks.

Ended up eating this one slightly earlier than planned, thanks to a squirrel knocking it off and gouging lots of holes (Sept 10). Crisp texture, nice fruity flavour with plenty of acidity and sweetness to balance. Slightly fragrance and only a hint of raspberry, but not bad considering it was less ripe than I would have liked. No trace of bitterness under the skin. Definitely one of the nicest red varieties. Bunyard doesn't appear to be quite so keen.

REINETTE ROUGE ETOILEE. Fl. and Pom., 1884, 169. F., Reinette Rouge Etoilee ; G., Roter Stern Reinette. [Cal ville Rouge Pre*coce (error), Early Red Calville, Reinette Etoile'e.] Dessert, October to December, small, 2j by 2, flattened round, regular. Colour, rich yellow, almost covered with carmine red with broad broken stripes. Flesh, firm, juicy, pale yellow with suffused red below skin, sub-acid, of slight strawberry flavour. Eye, open, in a very even, regular basin. Stem, very short, in a narrow russet cavity. Growth, compact ; fertile. Leaf, rather dark, long oval, held flat, tip down curved, very finely curved serrate. Origin, it has been grown in Eastern Belgium for some 100 years or more. It was introduced to England probably about 1830. It is the Early Red Calville of Hogg. Of fair quality and most attractive in appearance.

Crop: Mother, or American Mother

Quite a good crop of over 1kg from a maiden stepover. Last year the flavour was very good, sweet and aromatic; this year I picked too early, as the fruit started blowing off in the gales and ones I've tried so far have been disappointing.

Bunyard's description: MOTHER. FL and Pom., 1883, 121. G., Mutter Apfel. (So many apples have the name " Mother " that Hogg distinguished this one by prefixing the country of its origin : American Mother.) Dessert. October to November, medium, 2j by 2j, oval conical, slightly ribbed. Colour, golden-yellow with dull brownish-red flush and faint stripes. Flesh, soft and, juicy, very sweet, yellow or slightly green of distinct flavour, resembling Peardrops. Eye, very small, closed, in a small fairly deep basin. Stem, rather short, slender in a moderate cavity which is compressed on one side. Growth, moderate ;" fertility rather irregular. Leaf, rather large, pale, nearly flat, down-hanging, sharply serrate. Origin, rather uncertain, but recorded in America before 1848. A very choice dessert fruit, which often keeps good till mid January.

Crop: Worcester Pearmain

I hesitate to call this a crop - one single apple! The rest of the crop was raided by squirrels earlier on.

However, it was one very good fruit. Very sweet with pleasantly fruity level of acid. Slightly and a fragrant pear-drops flavour, with an aromatic quality reminiscent of cox, but without the richness. The flesh is quite crisp is comparison, and I think probably keeps reasonably well. This fruit ripened very well on the tree in almost full shade, which is why the squirrels missed it. It's a shame commercial Worcesters are picked underipe, I hadn't appreciated how glorious this variety can be at it's best until today. It seems Bunyard agrees with me:

WORCESTER PEARMAIN. Her. Pom., P. 2.  Dessert, September to October, medium, 2j by 2j,  round conical, regular. Colour, bright crimson on  golden-yellow ground. Flesh, crisp, greenish, very  sweet, with a pleasant strawberry flavour. Eye,  closed, in a shallow ribbed basin. Stem, short, in a  rather narrow russeted cavity. Growth, moderate ;  very regularly fertile. Leaf, rather pale, oval, upfolded,  undulating, coarsely serrate. Originated at Swan Pool,  near Worcester, by a Mr. Hale, Introduced by Messrs.  Smith, of Worcester, in 1874. An esteemed market  variety, seldom failing to crop. The flavour of this  fruit is greatly underrated by many, as it is usually  gathered and eaten far before it is ripe. Makes a neat,  round-headed standard.

King's Russet?

Another slight mystery. This tree has never produced fruit since it was planted, and I'd actually forgotten all about it. Of course the original label is long gone too. I'm fairly sure I ordered King's Russet, a sport of King of the Pippins, to complete my row of russet cordons. Smaller-sized fruit than the other ones. The growth habit isn't good for cordon use; there is a lot of bare wood, and spurs are very sparse.