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.