Wednesday, 25 January 2012

3rd National Scionwood swap day - Stowe nr Buckingham

3rd National Scionwood swap day 2pm- 5pm where you will be able to swap your scion wood or buy pieces for only a £1
to help cover the events expenses. Trees can be grafted to order on m27,M9,M116 M106 or M111. scion wood already promised to arrive includes Bramley, SturmerPippin, D'Arcy Spice, Brownlees' Russet, James Grieve, Queen Cox, Egremont Russet, Ashmead's Kernel, Chivers Delight, Lord Lambourne, St. Edmund's Pippin, Worcester Pearmain, Norfolk Royal, Margil and Costard. Lord Derby, Charles Ross, Court pendu plat.........and many many more.

Both events take place at The Estate Office, Home Farm, (1st left down the hill past the Green Security PortaKabin) at National Trust Stowe Landscape Gardens., nr Buckingham. Tel 01295 810516 /0795000 6813 or email

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Expensive morning

Finally got round to ordering this year's rootstocks and fruit. Frank Matthews had sold out, apparently they had full orders before Christmas so, note to self, remember to order early. Have ordered them from Blackmoor, a nursery I haven't tried before. I had intended to buy a couple of plums on the new VVA-1 dwarfing plum stock, but within the last week they had sold out. I decided to buy them from Keepers as I don't want to waste any more time as it takes so long for any tree to come into cropping, and I've not actually grafted or bought any new trees for quite a few years now, so am really just catching up. All in all, a rather expensive morning.

Pruning - Josephine de Malines

This is an example of what not to do. I'd rather forgotten about my Josephine de Malines. It in a slightly out the way place, behind my polytunnel, and was initially a very weak grower which I left to its own devices for too long. When it eventually started to produce, the weight of the fruit bend and distorted some of the main branches, which then started to produce water shoots where the branches had bent, and the result is a complete mess.

The first thing to do was take out any misplaced or crossing branches and try to re-establish a better framework for the tree. I'd would have liked to maintain a Y shape but the right fork was unfortunately sticking out at almost a right angle so had to come off. I left the bottom of the branch with one of last years shoots which I'll stake into a position to re-establish the Y shape; if it doesn't develop properly, I'll take it off where it joins the main stem and grow as a small, if slightly curvy, half-standard. The weak growth means this variety tends to form a 'weeping' shape naturally, so I hope it won't get too tall, but the tendency to bend under fruit weight does mean that we need to monitor it and support branches with heavy fruit if necessary.

Pruning - cordons

Pruning time again, starting with the cordons. Each year I mean to do a proper 'before and after', but usually end up doing it on the spur of a spare moment, and forget. Not great photos, but enough to show the principles of spur pruning. Basically the aim is to take off virtually all the extension growth of the previous year, by which I mean all long shoots. Most of these will need taking off either where they spring from the main stem, or just above the nearest fruiting/flowering bud (which are always a little plumper than those destined to go on to make just leaves.

The photos and details show just how much growth needs removing. If you look carefully at the second closeup, you will see that I have only left two short, stubby, knobbly little branches (spurs), one each on the right and the left. These are fruiting spurs, which will hopefully flower and produce fruit. All other growth is removed cleanly, flush to the stem with a saw (a fairly fine ordinary one, much to the annoyance of my husband).

The only time I leave any extension growth is where it springs from a 'knobbly' wood that looks like it will produce buds directly in the future, even if it currently only has a current shoot with a leaf bud. I usual prune to 2-3 buds beyond the thickened, wrinkled bit. Hopefully next year fruit buds will appear directly from the base, and the new spur can be pruned to a fruiting bud as usual. Cutting directly into this basal proto-spur before it has produced a fruit bud tends to make it produce more vegetative growth.

Friday, 20 January 2012

New variety promotion - some further information

I posted a query about this on Joan Morgan's excellent Fruit Forum, the answers were pretty much in line with what I'd thought, that sponsorship from a commercial nursery is probably the only way forward. Also link a useful precedent, Christmas Pippin.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Roast Quinces with Mallard

Tried out the afore-mentioned roast quince recipe as an accompaniment to a roast, rather than as a desert. I was pleasantly surprised, the combination was far more successful than when we tried it as a desert dish. Having stewed the fruit to the red stage, we roasted it around a mallard (stuffed with pieces of cassia and the odd shallot and garlic clove, glazing the bird of medlar jelly. The roast quince absorbed the flavour of the duck and the somewhat grainy, gritty texture that slightly spoils its desert qualities gave the quince segments a satisfyingly meaty texture. I would certainly do it again, it would go particularly well with Barbary Duck (except that we don't eat them as I never bring myself to eat Muscovies!).

Good reference book - The American Fruit culturist by John Thomas

Just found this while googling the qualities of obscure pear varieties. Only available as print-on-demand by Amazon, but much of the useful information available on the sample

The American Fruit Culturist - Select List of Fruits

Sunday, 15 January 2012

New Year - January fruit and some resolutions

A happy new year, if anyone ever reads this blog. The new year has started well, with a reasonable amount of stored fruit still left in good condition. We have just finished the last of the Glou Morceau, half way through our box of Josephine de Malines and had the first Santa Claus, good flavour but still fairly hard/crisp on the bottom half, no not quite ready yet. None of the stored pears has shrivelled, despite being stored in open boxes (many recommend wrapping in paper individually, or covering boxes with straw, but I haven't found the need for this so far with late cultivars). We have finished the Rosemary Russet (mainly due to running out as they keep until March), and still have a few Golden Russet left, still vastly superior in flavour to supermarket russets we have bought recently. We finished the last of our own Wolvercote variety on New Year's day and found it fairly soft but still sweet and highly edible, so it's good to know it has quite a long storage life for this kind of apple.

One new year's resolution was to find out about registering plant breeders' rights for what seems to be a promising and fairly unusual garden cultivar. Plant Breeders' rights are controlled by DEFRA, and the information is presented in a typically labyrinthine manner. Having found the application form, it was then impossible to work out the fees. Fortunately DEFRA was swift to answer my email query personally, but the news was not good. There is no amateur category for fruit growers, which mean that the full annual DUS testing fees (a mere £1700 pa) apply, making it virtually impossible to register rights to a variety as an amateur without sponsorship. However, I'm not going to give up. I'll continue trialling it, on a range of rootstocks, and try to build a local market for the fruit, once I have built up sufficient stocks. If it fulfils expectations on yield, health and habit then I'll try looking for sponsorship/partnership with a commercial nursery. But a long way to go before that point.

The second new year's resolution is to find more land to grow build up stock and grow more half-standards and plums. Having contacted or looked at the rules of local allotments, again the news is not good. Most allotments have strict rules about fruit trees. Only the most dwarfing stocks can be used, fruit area must not exceed 33% of the allotment area (even half plots) and you can be asked to remove trees if your neighbour complains. Worst still, many have communal 'orchards', usually with a higgledy, piggledy assortment of donated stuff, and so can't see why anyone would want to have their own carefully chosen and managed trees when they could share a load of surplus rubbish. So, very difficult for the serious fruit enthusiast to make headway in terms of finding land to trial stock, grow on grafted whips to maiden stage or grow enough of a surplus to sell at the local farmers' market. Maddeningly we missed out on the chance to buy a nice, sheltered half-acre of land, partially walled, in the next village which would have been just about affordable. My lupus-like skin condition was just too distractingly painful at the time to focus on anything else. A shame as it would have been ideal, and the west-facing wall would have been ideal for peaches and the more frail continental pear cultivars.

Third resolution is to get an order for graftwood into Brogdale before the end of January deadline, something didn't get round to in 2011 or 2010. The aim is to try to extend the pear season by a month at each end (into July and March-May). Also to try more late-season apples as we really appreciate having our own late varieties at what is quite a bleak time for nice fruit, the empty months between winter and late spring. Hopefully this at least will work out.

For anyone wanting to acquire graftwood from the National Fruit Collection, here are the contact details:
Farm Advisory Services Team Ltd
Crop Technology Centre
Brogdale Farm, Brogdale Road
Faversham, Kent ME13 8XZ

t: 01795 533225 f: 01795 532422


Have also found a new supplier of rootstocks, Blackmoor Nurseries based in Hampshire. I emailed Frank Matthews (who would probably do a rather better deal with trade prices for a large order) but they haven't replied.