Dunkeld Community Orchard

It’s a good idea to know what fruit is doing well locally before committing yourself to buying fruit trees.  One good local orchard for me is at Blair Castle, where a good number of plums and damsons, and many apple varieties can be seen. It is also nice to wander through the sheltered orchard just before the bridge in Dunkeld. At this time of year it’s great to see what that fabulous spring blossom has delivered for the community. And it is a good example of what can be achieved with the dedication of some keen volunteers.

Dunkeld orchard

Dunkeld Orchard

The orchard must be 5 or 6 years old or more now and should be coming to its maximum productivity. It is a rather too well sheltered spot, right by the Tay, but fortuitously on very good soil. It used to be a market garden. That early sunshine this year has started reddening up the apples.

George Cave

George Cave

The variety of trees planted was based on what was available from a nursery in England, and it has been good to see which trees have been worthwhile. In the initial years, the whole orchard suffered very badly from deer browsing, and probably rabbits, so many of the trees have a congested centre where shoots initially struggled to get away.

Mostly apples, with a few plums and pears, plus a productive soft fruit patch.

All the trees are nicely labeled, and mostly correctly so.

This year I have noticed Edward vii, a late cooker doing well, and Scots Dumpling, one of the few horizontally trained trees doing very well. It is a very early cooker as is Reverend W Wilkes near the houses. More horizontal branches would mean more productivity overall is the lesson i think.

Red Devil, and Herefordshire Russet seem to be doing well, with Tydeman’s Late Orange and Red Windsor not far behind. Pixie lives up to its name, and is not worth growing. Red Falstaff and related James Grieves are doing well but slightly prone to scab as is Scrumptious, which rules it out of many damp areas of Scotland.

The Bramley’s seem to be doing ok, but should have been on a dwarfing stock as they are very vigorous. Discovery doesn’t seem to be so good this year, maybe a result of poor pruning, but my favourite, George Cave is exceptional as in most years.

One of the most productive appears to be Ellison’s Orange and Winston, a Cox relation. Sunsets and Charles Ross justify their inclusion in my top 10, and Worcester Pearmain, but some other very good varieties for Scottish conditons are missing such as Howgate and Newton Wonder, Jupiter and Scots Bridget.

Of the plums, as usual Opal near the river is doing nicely, but several others must have had poor pollination this year. Some Victorias have had broken branches in the past here, so do thin your plums! Of the pears, Beth does well, and this year Concorde seems to be doing ok.

This is a fantastic orchard to visit if you are planning to plant a tree yourself an want to get the measure of things, or to get involved…there are regular work days.  The trees are now rather vigorous and tall, and would have benefited on being on a more dwarfing stock such as m26 or m27.  Easy with hindsight!

Edward Vll

Edward Vll

Berber Artisans and City Life

My trip from mountain to City was very eventful, but that’s for another day….I love to see people who can make things! I watched a leather worker in Chefchaouan make me a wallet, but in the maze of Marrakesh you can see gates being welded, chickens gutted, bed heads being carved, banjos being stretched, fabrics being woven and all within a few hundred yards of each other….well I did get lost and spent a happy 2 hours or so looking for the exit! If you have been there you will understand!  What a rich den of skilled people, they are highly inventive and recycle lots of odds and ends as part of their craft. The very narrow alleyways are surprisingly cool in the 34 degrees of last week. But watch out for the caleches, donkey carts, motorbikes and the sort of one way system of people!

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In contrast I visited the Yves Saint Laurent Jardin Majorel. I was told it was a major tourist attraction…I was there at daybreak so saw no-one else, but wow what a place! I’m not surprised it’s popular. It is the most perfectly manicured garden I have ever seen and very stunning in design and colour. And there’s a very good Berber Museum within.

Majorelle

Majorelle

Cacti Forest

Cacti Forest

So my intention to see horticulture here was more or less achieved, at least in the North, seeing the contrast of home vegetable gardening, small farms and large commercial farmers. It is a rich productive land wherever water allows in the mostly dry and rocky landscape.  Some dusty French hikers told of rich valleys in the High Atlas and Walnut groves, and where are these Argon trees…….mmmm next time…..oh and did i tell you about the air display at the airport, and the Romans at Larache, and the El Djemma Fna Concert show?

Djemma Fna

Djemma Fna

A Berber Way Of Life

Peaches

Peaches

Well where to start! I experienced a week or so of life with a berber family at  Ribat El Kheir in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco. On route I passed a large commercial Apple Orchard, apparently 200 hectares or so of very closely spaced dwarf trees, all for export.  They have many deep wells to support the parched terrain and the workers are paid bonuses, so work very hard I was told.

The peaches were in flower in one of the smaller orchards around me. All the trees in this plot were headed back at about 30cm to make an upright open framework.

My week was very relaxed, looking after a few cows, many types of poultry, rabbits,  doves and pigs. And a lot of time relaxing and drinking tea with neighbours….and of course delicious tagines! All food is shared, there are no separate plates, and it is most often scooped up with bread with your right hand. The bread is flat and unleavened in Morocco and made fresh each day. We ate it a lot.The mint tea is very sweet and refreshing in the heat.

Tagine Dindons!

Tagine Dindons!

We also ate omelettes and dipped bread in olive oil, as well as a semolina in a sour milk, butter milk maybe? The daughter made it in a plastic bottle, rolling it on the floor for an hour or so. Also side dishes of sweet broad beans and a fennel paste from the buds of the wild fennel around us.

Fennel

Fennel

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The Berbers lived simply, and ate what they grew or farmed mostly. They had a bottled gas cooker and oven, but no electricity, though new pylons at the end of the farm lane forewarn of a change to come. It was very amusing to see Berber shepherds using mobile phones to communicate with each other across the hill! Samsungs are ubiquitous!

Berber Brebis

Berber Brebis

A stunning landscape was my daily view, often with these Berber sheep which are kept on the move all day to eek out the few weeds. This field will not be sown because it is too dry this year….incomes are so precarious here! The puit ( well ) is a vital element in life here; the French Colonialists in the 1920’s chose these areas to create commercial farms as they had a reliable source.

Le Source

Le Source

I saw these wooden ploughs being used behind mules and oxen in many areas. Such is the contrasting extremes easily seen in this country twixt the traditional ways and modern city life. And so to the city….

Wooden Plough

Wooden Plough

Olives and more in Chefchaouan

Chefchaouan

Chefchaouan

Yeah, its the blue town and full of tourists. And hash punters. My wee hostel was run by some  permanently stoned guys, what a waste! But what a pretty little souk of narrow blue painted alleyways, lovely at night. A wee boy put the finishing touch to a wallet I had made for me.

Leatherwork

Leatherwork

The market day drew in rows of Rifian men and women, here to sell a few cabbages and onions and buy their own shopping before returning. It’s a very hard and simple life for these people…other larger traders had oranges and apples, olives or spices. These palm shoots intrigued me.

Palm Shoots

Palm Shoots

One of the wee squares was piled up with firewood for the Hammam Public Baths, a pleasure I didn’t find time for on this occasion.

Market Day

Market Day

Hammam Baths

Hammam Baths

Heading down from Chef to Fez, I was struck by the oranges,  and beans and others cereals sown underneath the Olive groves. At lower altitudes, there were larger fields of cereals and co-operatives with a more commercial layout of large fields. Almost no hedges or fences exist in Morocco. The sheep are constantly herded to prevent straying; even the motorway verges are grazed between Fez and Rabat!

Espagnol in Morocco

I have just spent a few weeks in Morocco on a farm and travelling around and thought i would record some of the events here. Those of you who have visited this fascinating country will be familiar with much of what is to follow!

English Breakfast

English Breakfast

I failed to secure a hostel in any of the Spanish enclaves so plumped for the longer ferry from Algeciras in Spain to Tangiers Med port.A lovely way to enter Africa, but not without a last breakfast of Eggs and bacon on the ferry.

Then refusal to pay 200 dirham for a grand taxi toute seule, ( thanks Lonely Planet my trusty companion ), and eventually got crammed into one with 4 others for a mad dash to Tangier bus station for 30 dirham. And there I enjoyed my first chaotic experience of the bus stations in Morocco, albeit with a few exceptions like the lovely CTM one at Tetouan. Anyway, I now knew to look for shared lifts, and waited patiently for a cheap shared grand taxi to Assilah. There’s always a headman ready to guide you …its actually quite a good system. But good to get away from that busy place and arrive at the wee town of Assilah by the sea ( though crammed in with 6 others this time! ) .Miles of beaches along the coast en route.

Mint Tea

Mint Tea

My memories of this place are of children moving to and from school at all times of the day, great mint teas, Spanish being spoken, prayers called at 5am, and the one shop with beer for sale!

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Farm Shops of Scotland

Intensive Apple Orchard at Craigie Farm

Intensive Apple Orchard at Craigie Farm

I love the fact that you can enjoy a cup of good coffee, buy a delicious local artisan oatcake or black pudding, and pick a few fruits for your pudding in one short trip. These are things you cannot do in style in the crowds and hassle of a supermarket.

My most recent trip was to Craigie Farm Shop near Kirkliston, a pyo farm, much of which was open to the public.On a Sunday afternoon it was very busy, but there are lots of seating in and outside the cafe, and I like the idea of the canine cafe! However poor Jed was banned from the fruit growing areas, the impressive polytunnels with table tops groaning with strawberries and pots of raspberries.

After viewing the grunting pigs, and the friendly Shelties, we followed the nature trail along the lines of open grown heavily laden gooseberries, and surprise surprise came upon a fabulous modern orchard. (There’s always an ulterior motive with Appletreeman! )

I have seen this square block of trees developing over the last year from the dual carriageway into Edinburgh, and was determined to check it out. It is as I thought, a very exciting new development in top fruit growing in Scotland. There are about 15 lines of very closely spaced trees, at one meter, on very dwarfing stocks of M9. It all looks very well managed, and very productive with sunset, worcesters, katy etc. all yielding fruit in this rather mixed year.

Very good to see that lines of Italian Alder have been planted as shelter belts also, a necessity for this easterly plot way down the bank, whereas some cherries further up near the cafe seem to be more exposed. Back at the shop we picked up a few punnets of fabulous rasps and gooseberries and set off home very pleased!

The farm is not organic, but allows the public to see into the tunnels so common in Perthshire, with real commercial horticulture in action, weeds and all! We will certainly be back, hopefully at a less busy time to speak to the ‘patron’ and of course for the harvest of apples!

Culzean Castle

Those of you who havn’t visited Culzean before are going to be impressed with the Castle’s clifftop view over the Forth of Clyde towards the Isle of Arran. But for me its the tropical feel to the Fountain Garden, the miles of easy paths in the woods to the Swan Pond and beyond, but especially the trees and garden plants in Happy Valley and the Walled Garden that are of interest. Its open 9.30 to sunset each day (well, except the walled garden on New Year’s Day!)

There are Parrotias, Sciadipitys and Myrtles with their beautiful bark to delight in Happy Valley, and a beautiful arch of old Scottish Apples at the back of the walled garden. If you want to see a good selection of Scottish fruit, visit in early autumn.

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You will find Oslin, Stirling Castle, Bloody Ploughman and East Lothian Pippin here which I planted in about 1992. They have been kept beautifully as cordons, some making strong growth and thick stems, though all were on dwarfing rootstocks.

There are also many fruit trees within the walled garden, including a unique Scottish variety, Culzean Seedling. Also of great interest to fruittreemen (& women) in the walled garden is the enormous Fig tree in the south east facing corner of the wall, which has layered itself along the ground to a large extent. It produces lots of fruit and has to be rigorously controlled each year, such is the advantage of a good wall to plant against. Do visit this gem in West Scotland and enjoy!

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchards

I have just visited a very important and very well maintained fruit garden in East Lothian and thought a wee report was needed! It opens under the Scottish Gardens Scheme twice a year.

There is evidence that, by the 12th century, Tyninghame was a Monastery served by Lindisfarne, but also that St Baldred was there in the 8th century. As in many areas of Scotland, fruit and medicinal plants would have been grown by the monks, and the tradition continues here today. The Bishop’s of St Andrews used the site also.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman. www.plantsandapples.co.uk

In 1628, the !st Earl of Haddington acquired the property, which remained in the family until 1987. He and his wife planted many trees and tamed what was an open wild landscape.

The lovely red sandstone of the house was added by William Burn in 1828.

The walled garden dates from 1750, and had heated walls originally. It is some distance from the big house and there are restored glasshouses with figs, peaches and vines.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman. www.plantsandapples.co.uk

The 12th Earl and Lady Sarah formed much of what we can see today – post war they started to remodel the walled garden from one employing 8 gardeners by changing it to an ornamental one. He died in 1986.

The last 50 years saw low maintenance as the order of the day, with an arboretum planted, and annuals replaced by roses in the secret garden, and many borders grassed over, but luckily some old apples remain in the walled garden. These old ones are ow standards and several are propped to keep them up; a fine younger orchard in the north west corner has some exciting old Victorian varieties. Here can be found dessert fruit of King of the Pippins, a golden pippin / cox cross, Cellini,
Laxton’s epicure and exquisite, a Cellini / Cox hybrid. Epicure is a wealthy / cox cross – I think someone liked their Cox apples! These are set in long grass with patches of bluebells. Devonshire Quarrenden, an early flat crisp apple, can be found within a boundary of old espaliered trees, nicely set within the gravel.

At the north end of the walled garden is apparently what used to be an apple store.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman. www.plantsandapples.co.uk

A very productive Louise Bon De Jersey pear lines the west facing wall, with golf ball sized fruits in May, and some Victoria plums form the centre of an ornamental display. Two small medlars on quince rootstocks stand near the gate to the Apple Walk. This is outside the south wall and is of cordons over a substantial post and wire arch. Many varieties here, but indiscernible except for labelled Discovery and Allington Pippin. Many appear to have been grafted in situ, with lots of
woolly aphid and canker. This may be a result of the considerable shading of nearby trees.

The apple walk in the secret garden, originally under-planted with pheasant eye narcissisi, blue grape hyacinths and geraniums, has almost gone, only a few standards remaining. A fine big Malus floribunda overhangs this area. These old trees may have been the apples trees that supplied the scions for the collection of Scottish varieties sent to the National Fruit Collection in 1949 by a Mr Brotherston, the head gardener.

Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman. www.plantsandapples.co.uk

The following varieties were saved for posterity by Mr Brotherston in 1949:

  • Leathercoat Russet
  • Yorkshire Aromatic
  • Small’s Admirable
  • Love Beauty
  • Liddell’s Seedling
  • Lass o’ Gowrie
  • Lady of the Wemyss
  • Green Kilpandy Pippin
  • East Lothian Pippin
Tyninghame Gardens and Orchard. Photo by Appletreeman. www.plantsandapples.co.uk

Many thanks to Chas and Albert, current and retired head gardeners who have done a fantastic job of maintaining this lovely garden.