Blossoming Pears

Its that time of year again when we all get anxious about whether there will be a fruit crop this year. I love the pear flowers when they are just opening and the anthers are bright red, and wow what a quantity of them on Jargonelle, Beurre Hardy and Christie in my garden!  After a good number of frosts last week, we now have bright sunny bee flying days with warm nights so all is good?  What can go wrong? After all we only need a small quantity of these blossoms to get pollinated in order to get a good crop. Go on, count the flowers and imagine the weight of fruit if they all turned to a full crop. The trees would collapse!

I used to bank on April 23rd as the first apple flower day, but this year again it is early.. my Arbroath Oslin and James Grieve have opened a few flowers a few days early. No need to run around with a rabbit’s tail this year as i have seen many earnestly working bees today. Keep up the good work girls!

Pear Stamens

 

Orchard Offerings: New Year Bargains

Every couple of weeks until March we will release a new Orchard Offering. Each offer will be strictly limited, and available on a first-come-first-served basis. Be quick!


Offer 3 (only 3 available!)

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5 x JAPANESE BARBERRY (Berberis thunbergii) for £17.50
(normally £6 each, so a total saving of £12.50!)

With red edible fruits, this jaggy Barberry makes a great and attractive informal hedge, and the roots yield a yellow dye. Root bark can be used medicinally as an antibacterial. It grows in any soil except waterlogged and a sunny position will encourage fruiting and lovely colour in Autumn.

They come in 3 litre pots, and can be collected from the nursery or a market we’re attending.

Buy securely via Paypal:

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And then drop us a message (email@plantsandapples.com) to let us know when you’d like to collect!


Offer 2 (only 1 left!)

Saskatoon Berries

4 x Saskatoon ‘Smoky’ for £28 (normally £10 each)

To be collected from the nursery or a market we’re attending

Saskatoons are a large and tough Canadian deciduous shrub that suckers and produces delicious black fruits in June. Saskatoons berries look much like blueberries – though they are more closely related to the apple family – and they don’t need acid soil like blueberries. Saskatoon ‘Smoky’ are one of the most productive and widely used varieties and have large sweet berries with good yields. Ideal for your allotment, fruit cage, orchard or forest garden!

Buy securely via Paypal:

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And then drop us a message (email@plantsandapples.com) to let us know when you’d like to collect!


Offer 1 (sold out)

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10 x Belle de Boskoop Apple Trees on M26 rootstocks for £120
To be collected from the nursery

About Belle de Boskoop

Eater & cooker. Discovered in the nursery district of Boskoop near Gouda, Netherlands, in 1856. Widely grown in Holland, Germany and Belgium. Award of merit, RHS, in 1897. You can buy it in the markets of France and Belgium. My young cordon has given me a bucketful of delicious, large, firm, and juicy fruit every year so far. It’s a lovely apple, maybe it should be more widely grown?

About M26

M26 will produce a tree around 10 feet tall and in my garden with lots of fruit. Good for cordons or small espaliers. Will start to produce quantities of fruit in a couple of years.

Find out more about rootstocks here.


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Step-by-step Guide to Tree Planting

For those of you who are unsure how to plant one of our fruit trees, here is a step-by-step guide and a few tips…

1. Dig the hole deep enough for the tree roots and then knock in the post. keep your tree in its bag.

2. Spread the roots out without curling them around as in this photo. Dig the hole a bit wider if necessary.

3 . Tread down the soil firmly against the roots with your heel.
4   Put a proper tie  to go around the post and tree.
5. Water the tree roots.

6. Put on a mulch mat.

7. Guard the tree against Voles, Rabbits and Deer. (Well, get a tree guard, don’t stand there all day!)

Not ordered your trees yet? Take a look at our varieties and availability!

Become a Fruit Tree Expert in 2019

Fruit Tree Workshop Image 1 1000

This new year, we are running ‘Fruit Tree Expert 2019‘ at Blackhaugh Community Farm – a series of workshops for the new and improving fruit tree grower.

Workshops are led by Andrew Lear, who puts over 30 years of horticultural knowledge into practice by teaching and advising orchard groups and owners throughout Scotland, and propagating our heritage varieties of fruit.

Each workshop is £20 per person. Numbers will be limited for practical reasons. Please reserve your place below via Paypal, or enquire at email@plantsandapples.com.

Notes for participants: There will be lots of opportunities to ask questions during the workshop. We recommend bringing water and a packed lunch, or some snacks to keep you going. Facilities for making hot drinks will be available at the farm.


Workshop 1: Winter Pruning (SOLD OUT)

Date: Sunday 27 January, 10:00 – 15:00
Location: Blackhaugh Community Farm, Spittalfield, Perth PH1 4JZ
Description: In this workshop, we will look at the theory of winter pruning followed by a trip to a local orchard for hands-on practical experience. Bring your own secateurs and loppers if you have them.

Sorry, this workshop has now sold out. Why not join our mailing list to hear about our future courses?


Workshop 2: Grafting Fruit Trees (SOLD OUT)

Date: Sunday 24 February, 10:00 – 15:00
Location: Blackhaugh Community Farm, Spittalfield, Perth PH1 4JZ
Description: In this practical and theoretical workshop, you will be able to graft and take away your own tree at the end of the session. This workshop involves the use of very sharp knives so an element of competence with them will be a pre-requisite!

Sorry, this workshop has now sold out. Why not join our mailing list to hear about our future courses?


Workshop 2.5: Spring Foraging Day

Date: Saturday 11 May, 10:00 – 13:00
Location: Blackhaugh Community Farm, Spittalfield, Perth PH1 4JZ
Description:  Join us for a discussion of native edible plants, wild food and perennial vegetables, followed by a trip around the farm to forage our lunch!


Workshop 3: Fruit for the Permaculture Garden (Last few places!)

Date: Sunday 23 June, 10:00 – 15:00
Location: Blackhaugh Community Farm, Spittalfield, Perth PH1 4JZ
Description: We will learn about the wide range of fruit trees and shrubs that make up the structure of a Permaculture Garden in Scotland. We will demonstrate how to cultivate a diverse and fruitful forest garden, finishing with an exercise to design a garden at the farm with your newfound knowledge.

Reserve your place, via Paypal:

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Workshop 4: Summer Pruning and Training of Fruit trees

Date: Sunday 21 July, 10:00 – 15:00
Location: Blackhaugh Community Farm, Spittalfield, Perth PH1 4JZ
Description: We will discuss the theory of summer pruning and training in this workshop, and draw up plans for a garden of trained fruit at the farm in the afternoon. Various methods of training, tying and protecting will be demonstrated.

Reserve your place, via Paypal:

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Workshop 5: Budding of Fruit Trees

Date: Sunday 25 August, 10:00 – 15:00
Location: Blackhaugh Community Farm, Spittalfield, Perth PH1 4JZ
Description: In this workshop, we will cover the theory and practice of propagating fruit trees professionally. We will demonstrate good budding technique and you will have the opportunity to have a go yourself under field conditions at the farm.

Reserve your place, via Paypal:

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Is there a workshop missing? Let us know if there’s something else you’d like to learn from us by emailing: email@plantsandapples.com

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Cox Apples

An unusual occurrence this year! Well not the drought, but I am genuinely astonished to see little Cox Apples growing this year on an M26 open grown bush tree. In it’s 7 years this is by far the most productive season.

Cox Orange Pippins, to be correct, are a very well known late ripening sweet, with a hint of acid, apples familiar to us all in the supermarkets. We have been developing this fruit in Kent for a century, to the neglect of many more easily produced varieties. Because in fact it is notoriously difficult, even in good summers, needing a lot of spraying and watering. And for the commercial grower, it just isn’t as remunerative as other moderns.

But, hey, we like to munch this little apple in January don’t we? It is the “crisp’ that all my customers refer to in their choice of variety. It is thought to be derived from Ribston Pippin, which is altogether a much more vigorous tree though not that productive in Scotland either. Except for this year with a good number of fruits appearing on my trees. I look forward to tasting this highly esteemed Parent of Cox!

If you have a nice south facing wall, then yes go for a Cox, preferably the self-fertile clone. Otherwise, go for Sunset, the nearest option. Again quite small, but productive in my garden and elsewhere.

Charles Ross has some Cox parentage, but it is larger, and really a dual purpose apple. It has that characteristic russetting though.

Jupiter is the triploid version, its big, ribbed and very colourful. It makes for a spectacular sight in September.

Kidd’s Orange Red has many similarities, its larger too and a late ripener, and a lovely flavour.  Tydeman’s Late Orange is another Cox hybrid, being crossed with Laxton’s Superb it makes a nice late dessert.

Happy munching 2018!

Kidd's

Kidd’s Orange Red

Codlins and Pies

The Codlin apples are of  very great interest to us in Scotland as I come across them growing successfully in odd places.  They are remarkably hardy, albeit not the most attractive or the longest keeping of fruit, nor usually sufficiently large for a really good pie. Always yellow or green skinned, and rarely any coloured flush except for a bit of pinky-brown! They are always long and narrow.

The season with me starts with Early Julien, the most yellow skinned of my trees, and then Keswick Codlin, an early thin skinned cooker that saw its heyday when New Zealand apples stole the late apple market. It makes for one of your earliest pies, and is very pretty in flower. If you are able to cope with the rainfall of The lakes, then you must be of worth!

I have come across a hedgerow of Emneth Early trees in Falkirk, and only realised as the fruit was ripening! Again, a bit small, light yellow and well ribbed, but can make a wee snack too.

Another Codlin that I have happened across is Mank’s Codlin or Eve Apple of Scotland.  Oh my how many apples can you get on a small tree! These varieties are certainly precocious!  I can munch on these fruits when one falls off the tree in the orchard. The “Eve” probably refers to how many centuries these apples have been cultivated.

The neatest little almost weeping variety is Golden Spire, a good many that still survive of 80 to 100 years old in our village. Someone must have been grafting it and offering it around!

The bruiser of the group is our Tower of Glamis, a triploid and a giant! We have a little spindlebush on the pathway which produces a dozen or so massive apples. I constantly wonder how it manages to produce them from such a small tree.

Other contenders with Codlin parentage could be Liddel’s Seedling, and they are not so different to the Costards, such as Lord Derby and Catshead. Lord Derby is the deepest green of the group, medium sized and the one branch on my family tree is always strung with excellent mid-season cookers.

I also have a Burr Knot apple, one that roots from cuttings, which also has green ribbed little fruits. I suspect if we sowed the seeds of many of our apples, over time they would all revert to little Codlins!

Keswick Codlin

Cherries in Jerte Valley

On my travels in Spain in April I came across an amazing horticultural enterprise on the border between Castille y Leon and Extremadura.

I took a bus from Avila at !200m elevation, down to Plasencia at 400m, which takes you off the high plains and winds down between the heights of the Gredos Mountains.  And it is here that my eyes were astounded by the numbers of flowering cherry trees that line the valley for the next 40 km!  Lots of terraces well up the mountainside allow cherry planting almost to the summits on either side! Hundreds of thousands of trees! One website suggests there are 10,000 ha. and as many as 4,000 growers. The orchards spread east and west on terraced land.cherries jerte valley

Further investigation took me back up the valley to a Cherry Museum where I learnt that these trees are part of one big co-operative and make their way into a variety of products. I was very lucky to catch the end of the flowering season, the hot weather shortening this somewhat this year.

So i wonder, has anyone come across Jerte Valley cherries in this country? The variety grown is the Picota though judging by some late flowers, a few others are planted too. The co-op supplies Lidl so look out for the fruits later in the year. One of the production sheds processes 40,000kg per day!

This is horticulture on an industrial scale!  Maybe we can learn something here relevant to Scotland?  I am passionate about the loss of horticulture in the Glens of Scotland, a result of hundreds of years of depopulation, yet here in rural Spain it has survived and thrived despite a similar history of emigration to the Spanish colonies.

I often get cars stopping at the field to ask what I am growing in one of the Perthshire Glens and always get a surprised look when I say it is apple trees! Just imagine if it was a whole valley of apple trees from Pitlochry and Aberfeldy to Perth!

See: http://cerezadeljerte.org/en/jerte-valley/ for more information….you can even spend a few days picking fruit with the farmers if you want! A great place to see the real Spain, with many mountain biking and hiking trails too. And the Albergue Santa Anna in Plasencia is one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed in!

Andrew, 2017

 

Tonight’s the Night. For Wassailing.

We wassailed on Saturday at Gowanhill in Stirling, where Transition Stirling have created a community orchard. It was an icy, searing, brilliant, sun-soaked morning, with snow underfoot and the tracks of rabbits, deer, foxes mingling with the human and dog ones. Claire’s  mulled apple juice was zinging, and we all toasted the young trees (which had just been pruned under Andrew’s guidance), and bellowed our wassail to the ancient and productive apple tree, relic of an older orchard, at the centre.

By rights it should have been tonight, but there’s no tradition of wassailing in Scotland and therefore we can bend all the rules and make our own customs. Tonight is Twelfth Night in the “old” calendar, which had Christmas Day on January 6th.

Wassailing (making a lot of noise, singing to a load of fruit trees and drinking a lot of cider at its simplest) is steadily insinuating itself into the calendar of the Scottish winter party which begins on St. Andrew’s Day at the end of November, and continues through yule and the midwinter solstice, Christmas, Hogmanay and New Year’s Day, to stagger to a halt around Burns night – technically January 25th  but tends to stretch to incorporate the weekends before and after it. Aside from the obvious gap in excuses around mid-January, the growth of wassailing is largely thanks to the huge number of new community and private orchards planted in the last decade that are now blessing us with copious harvests.

The thing is, you have to keep wassailing to ensure the harvests continue. Grab a jug of cider and a slice of toast, choose your King Apple (or whatever) Tree in your garden or nearest orchard and get out there!

Wassail! Drink Hail! Sing!

(https://dochub.com/andrewlear/63bBXm/wassailing1  AND  https://dochub.com/andrewlear/8p3NL6/wassailing2  will take you to our favourite wassailing songs. You’re on your own finding the music!

cider

Morning sun gets the cider bubbling

 

Isle of Mull

I have just made a brief foray to Mull to give a lecture on apple growing, and have been so impressed with the horticulture I saw that I am tempted here to record some of it.

I stayed in Dervaig on the northwest of the island, which stands near an inlet not far from the sea. In several of the back gardens i could see some mature apple trees, two of which were codlins, probably Mank’s Codlin, and a rather russetty small conical apple. This was reminiscent of D’Arcy Spice or Duke of Devonshire. A hint of sweetness, i’m guessing it would make a good cider. Also came across a golden hop plant with ripening hops in abundance….now there’s a business idea?

Hops Mull

Hops on Mull

A visit to the private Quinish Estate walled garden revealed a collection of some 30 year old apples, many of them Scottish varieties. , unfortunately much overgrown by other trees and too poorly fruiting to identify with certainty. Simon, the gardener there, was well on his way to opening up the garden to its former glory again. I look forward to the day when this garden is open for visitors again.

One of the residents in Dervaig shared with me some photos of  their fruit trees in a polytunnel, a good option if wind and rainfall levels are just too restricting for top fruit.

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Heading north and east, I then stopped by at the Isle of Mull Cheese factory, and was very impressed with their wee garden. Nicely laid out. There is also a fine black grapevine in the cafe. On down the Glen is a large walled garden next to the Castle, where a young couple are producing a full range of vegetables outside and in tunnels for a local box scheme and the farmers markets. Its four miles down the Glen, but well worth seeing. They should be up and running with some walled trained fruit soon this winter too. Fab to see some young people getting into gardening in a big way, and i can see much potential in what they are doing.

Artichokes

Artichokes

On the way back up the glen I scrumped some Gaultheria fruits from the hedgerow! Surprisingly yummy.

Gaultheria Shallon

Gaultheria Shallon

 

 

My final visit was to the Isle of Mull tea plantation ( well i presume it’s the only one) in Lochdon, a few miles south of  the ferry terminal at Craignure. Surprising how small the plants are, yet deliver such a valuable crop. On the way out i stopped to marvel at the row of pear trees ( and an apple) in the front garden of the school, absolutely weighted down with fruit. They are Scottish pears, on pear rootstock, and very productive. Have a glance into the school next time you drive by! I have seen big apple trees on Colonsay this year too, and remember well the fruit at Achamore Gardens on Gigha where i once worked.

Pear Trees on Mull

Pear Trees on Mull

We can can grow very good crops in the islands and glens of Scotland so long as we use the available shelter and microclimates. Getting the varieties right is an important factor, and looking to what does well in Canada, the Baltic states and Scandinavia will help.

Many thanks to those who showed me around, and i hope to be back to see the rest of the island soon!

 

 

 

 

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