Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Denniston's (un) Superb

 Yet again this plum has failed to live up to it's name. Despite flowering freely and appearing to set a fair quantity of fruit, I can barely find a handful that have survived the June drop. A shame, as it is a superb gage-like plum with a very rich, sweet flavour.

I think the problem may lie partly with the soil type, as even wild sloes find it difficult to produce fruit here on the thin layer of soil that sits on waterlogged gravel. Interestingly someone from the village once wrote in to GQT to say their plums rarely fruited, and was fobbed off with the usual load of inaccurate nonsense that passes for advice on my least favourite radio problem.

Mulberry: King James

The first fruitlets are appearing on mulberry King James. I cut it back quite brutally last year, as it was so difficult to harvest fruit on the top branches. I had worried whether growing as a bush would inhibit fruit development. 

I planted a plain Morus nigra in my in-law's garden nearly 20 years ago. It eventually cropped well, but the fruit size and quality is not good (small, pale and pithy), and it took many years before cropping adequately. In contrast, the King James mulberry produced large, good-quality, dark, juicy fruit within a couple of years of planting.

March of the toadlets

The annual plague of tiny toadlets has arrived, much to the joy of various predators. Some years they have been so numerous it has been impossible to pick a route down the path or road without squashing them, however carefully you tread.

Pear: Winter Nellis: crop

The somewhat diminutive fruit of Winter Nellis are sparsely distributed over the cordon. I'm not sure it offers the best value for money if space is short, but the quality of the small fruit is excellent and keeps well, maturing over quite a long period in mid-winter.

Cordons: summer

The pear cordons are heavy with fruit, and beginning to lose their shape with an excess of long shoots. Although next years fruiting spurs have formed, I will wait until at least August before doing any summer pruning, although I will remove shoots/leaves where fruit is being unduly shaded. Using fruit to divide vegetable plots has worked very well so far, with neither type of crop appearing unduly compromised by competition with the other.

Medlar: Nottingham

I have two medlar trees, both appear to be 'Nottingham', which is probably the least good cultivar in terms of fruit size, quality and value as a decorative tree. The second one was home grafted, from wood I believed to be Large Dutch (which I hoped would have more attractive foliage, as well as larger fruit). Now it has matured it's clear that the two cultivars are identical.

I never actually intended to eat the fruit fresh, and it is more than adequate for medlar cheese, so I will keep the more mature tree (and very kindly donate the other as a timely present to an unsuspecting relative). But yet again I have been sold a wrong variety from a specialist supplier that should value their reputation.

Quince: Vranja

I've been debating whether to take out my half-standard quince Vranja, as it had never produced any fruit until this year. However, I had been treating it fairly brutally, as the extension growth obscures our view of the lake. This is the first year I've given it it's head, and there is now a good quantity of fruit that looks like it will survive, mostly set on tips.

I still have the dilemma of whether to take it out. I have two others; Meeches Prolific, which is adequate, if untidy, as a cordon, and Sobu as a half-standard which I hope will produce better-quality fruit which will be less woody around the core. There is a limit to the quantity of quinces even the most enthusiastic of us can cope with!

Apple: Pixie

Cordon Pixie is showing a reasonable number of fruit, despite having a very heavy crop last year.

Pear: Conference

The Conference crop looks promising. 

Pear: Dr Jules Guyot

Having been away for a week, I was surprised to see that most of the pears had doubled in size in that time. 

Asian pear: Shinsui

Quite a lot of the fruitlets were damaged by caterpillars, but the grazed surfaces have mostly healed over and should be edible, showing just a bit of coarse russeting. It will be interesting to see if the good weather so far this year has any effect on the flavour, as I've found this variety very variable in the past. 

more squirrel damage

Having had to spend so much time in Wales as my father is so ill, I haven't got round to removing any squirrels yet, and they are beginning to be a nuisance again. Quite a lot of fruit has been ruined on this Worcester Pearmain. Rot has already set in, and all damaged fruit will be useless.

Friday, 26 June 2009


The wrens that nested by the back door fledged last week. They headed straight for the dense scrub beyond the fence. I see them only occasionally now, hopefully the family is still intact.

Lots of noise from the Kestrel nest in the poplar this afternoon, but no sign of the birds themselves. The owls in the neighbouring poplar started hooting in response.

On a more worrying note, the baby bunnies are still getting into the garden. I'm at a loss to see where they are getting in, even the dogs couldn't find the hole. I'm very worried, as the previous rabbit visitor ruined two young trees in just a few hours.

Woolly aphid

A bad attack of woolly aphid on Orlean's Reinette. In past years they have occasionally congregated on rootstock burrs, but this attack is more extensive. I'll prune the affected new growth off completely and discard, and treat the rest with a cloth soaked in meths.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Cherry ripe: a mystery?

This cherry was sold to me as 'Sunburst'. It is a very weak grower, so in the 10 or so years it's been in, we have had few opportunities to assess it, but I'm now absolutely certain that it is NOT Sunburst. It rarely goes a full red at optimum ripeness, though it is a very nice fruit.

Most of the trees I haven't home grafted came from a well-known nursey on the Isle of Wight. So far, 4 trees have turned out to be not the varieties ordered. This is very annoying, as my plantings are very carefully chosen with pollination and growth habit in mind for a particular site or purpose. If you have any idea which variety this may be, please let me know! (I'm inclined to think Merton Glory, as the colour and season look right).

Front Garden colour

Not really relevant to the technicalities of fruit growing, but I am rather pleased with my potager-style front garden, with red-coloured flowers and foliage mixing with standard and step-over pears. The rose, Scarlet Fire, looks attractive growing into the pear, but I will prune it back hard after flowering to let in some light and air for all the plants around.

Beth: crop

A good crop on Beth this year, having been very light for the last couple of years, rather inexplicably. Lots of healthy looking spurs like this one.

Devoe: crop

A happier sight, a good crop on Devoe now colouring nicely after recent sunny weather.

Conference: crop

In spite of the early scab infection, the Conference cordon looks like it should have a good crop. The scab has only resulted in coarse russeting on the majority of fruitlets, though a few do have deeper cracks.

Pear Scab: Santa Claus

One venture that looks like it may not be a success is my planting of a previously vigourous Santa Claus maiden as one half of an arch in the front garden. Unfortunately it really does not like the situation and has been virtually defoliated by scab for the second year running, with die-back of the growing tip and no new growth to tie in to form the shape. The infection is much worse than suffered by it's partner grown as a cordon in the back garden, in a much more sheltered and humid space. 

The soil is decidedly less good in this situation, barely better than subsoil, even with extra top soil and compost added. Most of the pears don't seem to mind but variety obviously isn't thriving.

Pear rust

Yet another disease that seems to increase in degree with time. I remove all leaves with orange well before they develop their horny fruiting bodies on the underside of the leaves. According to the RHS it has increased in frequency and severity in recent years, and juniper species also play a part in the disease life-cycle (interesting as the neighbours have a a couple of juniper-like dwarf trees).

Red Ellison's Orange: deleafing

It's worth just inspecting fruit to check that they are not too over-shaded by new extension growth, as fruit in full sun will be better coloured, better-ripened and ultimately nicer in flavour. I've removed the extension shoots and the leaves from the fruiting spur too. Hopefully Red Ellison's will live up to it's name and be well-coloured with full exposure to the sun.