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

The Book Of Pears By Joan Morgan

The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan, Ebury Press 2015. Priced at £45 hardback.

This book has been long awaited by those of us in the fruit world….so here are my initial observations.

Grey Benvie

Its 304 pages long, and takes more or less the same format as her previous book on Apples. There are 182 pages of general information about pears, followed by a directory of pear varieties. This directory is much shorter thean the same section for apples. This reflects the fewer numbers of pear accessions at the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent, from where the information was gleaned. There are one or two varieties listed here however which are not currently held in the collection e.g. Achan om page 194.

The number of Scottish varieties and those varieties very much associated with Scotland are of most interest to me. This includes the aforementioned Achan, and also Ayrshire Lass, Craig’s Favourite, Crawford, Green Pear of Yair, Hessle, Jargonelle, Laird Lang, Maggie, Summer Bergamot, Winter Nelis. The last one was apparently recommended only for under glass in Scotland!

This leaves a big gap as no description of Grey Benvie, Seggieden and many more of the Carse of Gowrie pears receive no treatment here.

There is a brief mention on page 67 of Gold Knaps, and on page 119 a drawing of 5 different varieties grown in the Carse of Gowrie. Unfortunately I have never seen a description of the ‘’Busked Lady of Port Allan’’. It may well still exist!

The early chapters deal with the Monastic connections, and later French influence on our pear culture, equally relevant to the areas with surviving pear trees today in Scotland. I havn’t seen any reference to the Double Fleur, either in the first section or the descriptions., and I know of at least one of these surviving in the Carse of Gowrie.

The pear key at the back seems a bit too large,taking two pages, but is simple enough to comprehend. We do have to take ripening dates with a pinch of salt for Scotland.

Without doubt to my mind, the record of flowering dates and relative vigour of all the varieties is of immense value to me in determining pollination compatibility. The apple directory is a pretty accurate record of successional flowering here in Scotland, and I would expect the pear records to be equally so. This information is reinforced on page 191.

As before , the fruit paintings are superb and painstakingly accurate, it is very enjoyable just turning the pages to view these alone. Use a finger to blank out the names, and you can test yourself!

I have yet to read the whole book, but couldn’t help my excitement to comment here…

Grey Benvie Pears in Dr. Hulbert’s collection, Longforgan

So Joan, when are we going to see the definitive Plum book to complete the trilogy?

Heritage Pears

I have for several years now been propagating some of Scotland’s old pear varieties. Between Perth and Dundee there are still a few very old orchards with big productive old trees, perhaps 200 years old, many hollowed out, and each year more of them blow over. The race to save these varieties has never been more important. One way of doing this is to propagate by grafting. This involves taking a healthy twig off the tree and grafting it onto a specially grown pear rootstock.
I have been working with The Heritage Pear Project nationwide, a group of volunteers attempting to improve their pear dentification skills, and going out into orchards locating and propagating those unknown or rare varieties. Contrary to popular belief, these pear trees produce tonnes of fruit, unlike many of the dwarf modern varieties planted in our back gardens today.
In the Carse of Gowrie, I have been particularly interested to propagate those trees identified as unknown in a DNA survey carried out by the University of Reading for Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust. This survey pulled out some unusual varieties such as Windsor, Chaumontel, and Laxton’s Superb ( yes I thought this was an Apple only!). More predictable was the regular occurence of Hessle, Craig’s Favourite ( a Perth variety ), and Green Pear of Yair from the Borders. The well known Conference was found at Ballendean, together with Buerre D’Amanlis, plus Catillac, a large triploid cooking pear and Swan’s Egg at Megginch Catsle.
All very interesting, but equally so, around a quarter of those tested proved to have no matching trees at the National Collection in Kent. Which means they they could be seedlings bred by local fruit growers such as Patrick Mathew over hundred years ago, or perhaps simply a named variety from Belgium or France not represented in the Kent collection.
So, over the last few years I have been propagating a few of these un-named trees before they collapse and are lost for ever. Occassionally we have some spare to sell, they may not be named, but simply have a number! If you have a big garden and space for a big pear tree do please get in touch and help us save these varieties!

Heritage Pears

Heritage Pears

Anyone for Tea?

We have a small number of hardy Camelia sinensis for sale in 5 litre pots. They are growing away nicely and already yielding afew leaves for our daily brew! Tea is now being produced in Scotland, proving that they are perfectly hardy! They are calcifuge, so generally prefering a slightly acid soil, some shade or northern facing slopes may suffice, and tolerate a fair amount of rainfall, though a variety of loamy soils and areas of Scotland are proving to be acceptable. See the following information sheet for more details:Appletreeman’s Guide to Growing Tea in Scotland

Grafting – A Manual – my New Book

Books: The Manual of Plant Grafting By Peter T. Macdonald

ISBN 978-1-60469-463-5 Timber Press, London, Portland.

 

This is great addition to my library of practical horticultural books – no it is not a coffee table glossy, but 228 pages of really good advice on why, how and when to carry out grafting.

The author, Peter Macdonald, has travelled widely in his research for this book, and brought together 9 chapters covering the history of grafting, the biology of plant union processes, as well the more practical ways of carrying out grafting.

He has been able to cover both old techniques and current thinking and practises, as well as ideas where horticulturalists may go in the future. The photos used throughout are excellent, the diagrams well drawn.

As a producer of fruit trees I find almost every aspect of my operation is covered here, bar a few peculiarities which each propagator has. The relative benefits of different techniques are well recorded so no lack of information here for the aspiring student or amateur.

Of particular relevance to me is the techniques used in fruit production: whip and tongue and chip budding. On page 131 the whip graft is rightly recommended for new grafters, and a good starting point once competence with the knife is achieved. Whilst there is no substitute for seeing the techniques mentioned being carried out, on pages 133 to 136, Peter’s lengthy description, photos and diagrams of the whip and tongue are a great asset. The danger to fingers and hands is obvious in the top drawing on page 135….do get this demonstrated before you try it is my advice!

On Chip Budding, it is stated that the tapes need to be removed in 6 weeks after budding( page 153). In Scotland, I have found that no detriment occurs to the percentage bud-take even if they are left till late winter, and it fits into my work schedule to do this task later in the year.

The Appendix, ( appendices?), pages 179-203 are a very useful resource in a tabular form listing the methods of grafting for over 220 scion  / rootstock combinations plus top worked combinations and a list of current fruit tree rootstocks.

The 4 pages of references and 14 pages of index just finish off this book nicely.

The Grafter’s Handbook by RJ Garner has been the trusted grafter’s bible for 50 years, now this is a very well produced and edited additional resource for the keen horticultural students and amateurs of the future wanting to know more of the subject. I thoroughly recommend this book to these students!

 

Andrew Lear

2015.

Apple Scab Control

The Control of Apple and Pear scab by Sulphur Sprays

My James Grieve has for the past 3 years suffered some scab on the leaves. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that it can severely mark the fruit in due course and in wet seasons. By resorting to a regular spray of sulphur, I have managed to prevent it reaching and marking the fruit. Sulphur is a basic chemical, so relatively harmless to the environment. The weather conditions earlier this year in the east were very favourable for scab spores, but luckily this last week’s dryer conditions has improved the situation tremendously. In the west of Scotland it is a problem most years. Powdery mildew has also been prevalent on many apples this year also and sulphur will reduce this also. It attacks the new young leaves and slows down the growth of trees for many months.

I use 5.6 mls in 10 litres of litres water and spray the leaves every 10 to 14 days if I can. I start at the ‘pink bud’ stage and continue until the end of extension growth, around about mid- July. It is essential to achieve good coverage of all parts of the tree, especially the growing points – they will have the appearance of a smattering of snow after spraying!

Certain varieties of fruit trees and bushes may be damaged by sulphur sprays. In the old books they called this ‘sulphur shyness’. The following are reportedly susceptible to leaf damage: Beauty of Bath, Belle de Boskoop, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Lane’s Prince Albert, Lord Derby, Newton Wonder, Rival, Stirling Castle, and Doyenne du Comice.

My Hawthornden seems a touch damaged, and possibly my George Cave, but since the first few applications, I have restricted my sprays to Worcester Pearmain and James Grieve only, the only two in my garden showing any significant scab symptoms.The Boskoop seems to be ok in my garden, and none of the pears show any damage.

I have seen scab on Scrumptious this week, and many new so-called resistant varieties usually succomb after a few years in the field unfortunately. Knowing when spores are in the air is how the professional’s are able to time their spraying; we may rely on regular pruning and good open sunny sites as the best prevention!

 

Spindlebush Apple Trees

The Spindlebush Method of Growing Apple Trees

Some of the small apple and plum trees i left in the field after i moved my nursery two years ago ( I move to a new patch every year), started to fruit this year in earnest. At the moment they have central leaders and i have the option of letting them branch out with 5 or 6 framework branches, and later cut out the leader to form open centred trees. This is an easy method of formative shaping to understand for amateurs and semi-professionals.

However, with the advent of dwarfing rootstocks, in the early 1940’s in Germany, and later in Holland, the growing of high density spindlebushes was becoming of great interest to growers. We in the uk were still growing very large trees on M7 rootstocks at a very wide spacing, and it was only post – war visits to Germany which opened our eyes to developments there.

So here are a few jottings on the subject:

So what are spindlebushes?

Its similar to my cordon grown trees, in that it is all about having fruiting wood in abundance and basically nothing else! Those of you who have attended my workshops will be familiar with the need to identify fruiting wood.

 

Its advantages are as follows:

Very high rates of production per hectare.

Small trees, enabling pruning, spraying and harvesting from the ground.

Very efficient use of land and available sunshine.

 

They are normally grown on very good land, and M9 rootstocks, a very dwarfing one. Basically, there is a central stem and lots of wee laterals to carry the fruiting buds. A tall thin pyramid is required. Thicker pencil sized laterals are cut back to 4 buds, anything thinner to 2 or 3 buds. Cut to downward facing buds always. So horizontal wood is the aim, use spacers if necessary. Unlike some methods I teach, this one requires very severe pruning. The leader is pruned – that is the new growth to 4 or 2 buds on a weak tree.

The common mistakes are to not cutting back the leader hard enough and allowing too much fruit early on leading to stunting of shoots. The aim is to have lateral branches with lots of fruiting spurs and no gaps along the branches.

Red George Cave

Fruit from my 2 year spindlebush tree

In late July, the new growth from the stubs are tied down to form horizontal fruit wood. Be careful not to droop the ends below horizontal if possible. Prune back all sub-laterals in summer

(‘Lorette pruning’), or next winter if you forget! You can allow your laterals to branch to fill the space a little, such as if theres a gap in your tree you want to fill. Tie a higher one down to fill a space if necessary. Keep the pyramidal shape by pruning harder if necessary your top laterals. Each tree should yield 10 lbs of fruit by the 4th year. The original spacing recommended was 10 feet ( 3m) and 435 trees per acre. In you have an acre, you could be producing 4.3 tonnes of fruit by your 4th year! Using an m26 rootstock in most areas of Scotland, and tieing to stakes or wires in North-South lines is probably ideal. A modification is the Tall Spindle, which is allowed to grow to 3m and planted 1m x 3m spacings. It must have up to 10 short feathers ( branches) already from the nursery. Visit your nurseryman and select your trees personally!

If you want to know more about pruning workshops, please see our google calendar on the website http://www.plantsandapples.co.uk.

 

References:

Wertheim, S.J., The Training of the Slender Spindle of Four Apple Varieties. Nov. 1970

Golschmidt and Delap, The Spindle Bush Method of Growing Apple and Pear Trees, The RHS Fruit Yearbook, 1950, pages 54-66.

The RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening , ed C. Brickell, page 380.,1992.

http://fruitgrowersnews.com/index.php/magazine/article/The-Tall-Spindle-System-Apple-Orchard-Design-For-The-Future

Fruit trees and Frost

Frost protection of Fruit

All gardeners are aware of the dangers of frost on young opening leaves and flowers of many types of fruit in spring. An orchard owner in the Clyde valley told me the story of how his father used to light barrels of oil under his plum trees on frosty nights! And in the late 50’s wind pumps and heaters were being used in some countries. The 2012/13 winter in Scotland was very prolonged, but it turned out to be very beneficial.The apple blossom was almost a month later than usual, missing damaging frosts, and many varieties flowered at the same time. The effective pollination period was thus very short but very effective! The harvest of 2013 was superb! its the more usual erratic springs which cause us the problems.

Our main worry is the early frosts catching Oslins and Scots Dumplings, and the late frosts in mid-May which can destroy the later flowering Worcester and Cambusnethan trees chance of fruit.

 

How do professionals overcome this?

1-The best answer of course is not to plant your trees in risky areas such as frost hollows or the bottom of slopes.

2-Secondly, choose known hardy varieties for your area, i.e. not fruit that is grown widely in the warmest areas of France or the South of England. Hardy varieties have been bred and are grown in places like Poland, Norway and Canada, and some well known British varieties are very hardy: Keswick Codlin, Golden Spire, Emneth Early for example. We are actively propagating a few very hardy Swedish and Norwegian summer apples…so look out for them in our catalogue.

3-Thirdly, you may try to cover your trees on frosty nights with fleece or blankets. I tried this one winter, but realised that a lot of buds get damaged in the process of constant removal – you have to let pollinating insects in to do their work every day!

 

hanginggardens1

Some experiments in the 1950’s proved that covering is ineffective by and large. They tried using an electric heater and running a hose every 15 minutes over the branches. By far the most effective treatment was to provide a fine mist spray over the flowers as the temperatures dropped.  In essence, the water prevents the temperature of the flowers going below freezing by latent heat of evaporation.

These spraying experiments, by JH Jeffree ( RHS, 1950), resulted in achieving a good crop on adjacent sides of two apple trees that were receiving spray. The far sides of each were bare of fruit come the summer! The effectiveness of, and the spray coverage, was improved by using a rotating spray head on a long pole.

If you want to try this next spring, be aware that a lot of ice can form on the twigs and branches so watch they don’t break under the weight! A few props for the weaker branches may help. You may need to be doing a few night shifts from early April to mid May this year!

 

References

Jeffree,J.H., 1950, RHS FRuit Yearbook, 1950.pages 100 -104.

Some notes can also be found on : http://hos.ufl.edu/extension/stonefruit/frost-protection-orchards-0 and http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/repositoryfiles/ca1208p4-64660.pdf and also:

http://fruitgrowersnews.com/index.php/magazine/article/protecting-your-fruit-from-frost-and-freeze

Quinces in Scotland

We occasionally have available for sell the following Quinces: Vranja, Meech’s Prolific, Serbian Gold Smyrna and Portugal and are often asked how well they do in Scotland.Here are some notes gleaned from various articles and personal experience.

The quince, Cydonia oblonga,  famous for Cotignac and Marmalade, is a tree that can grow to 4 or 5m. It is probably native to Central Asia and the near East ( WJ Bean, 1970), but has been cultivated for many centuries. They were much esteemed in Italy, and Sanders suggests the Romans introduced them to Britain, and they reputedly grow wild in Sussex. Today they are still highly esteemed from southern Europe to as far as South America.In France they are called ‘Coins’.

Quinces

Quinces on a tree in North Fife Autumn 2013

It forms a rather scruffy bush or small tree, with a multitude of intertwining branches if not pruned. Autumn leaf colour can be very nice. They need a bit of cold in winter to promote flowering.

Hogg (1886) surprisingly only mentions apple shaped, pear shaped or Portugal types and no record of Victorian varieties. Bean names the Portugal variety as ‘Lusitanica’, Maliformis’ as the apple shaped and only two cultivars, Vranja and Bereczki.

Angers quince A , B and C are two selections used for producing dwarf pear trees.

Flowerdew lists the following:

The Portuguese: Pear shaped, vigorous, but slow to crop.

Vranja: ( Bereczki) From Serbia, large fruited, pear shaped erect growing tree.

Meech’s Prolific: Pear shaped, early to bear and late keeper. This comes from USA.

Champion: Round, mild flavoured.

Isaphan and Maliformis, are mentioned, and Orange, Pineapple and Smyrna occur in the US.

Importantly he mentions they are self-fertile though others suggest cross-pollination improves fertility. They flower in June in this country, a big open flower, white or pink. They are generally grown as a low standard / bush tree. I have rarely seen then pruned or trained in Scotland, but there is no reason why they cannot be trained to whatever shape you want. There is a garden in Church Stretton which has a wall topped with a pleached quince ‘’hedge’’. This proves that they can be trained! So ok to train them up a wall or fence.

 

Frequently quince bushes can  appear from the rootstock of a pear that has died – though i have not seen any fruit on these.

 

Quinces can be entirely left to their own devices, but ideally trees should regularly have some of the internal branches taken out to reduce the amount of congestion. Sunny, warm, and well-drained sites are preferred, avoid cold frost pockets.They are susceptible to leaf blight, especially any overgrown rootstocks, but larger specimens seem to be more resistant in Scotland.

 

40 years ago in South America school children were given Quinces for their packed lunch, which they ate raw with salt! However, in our climate they are generally used for jelly, jam or ‘cheese’.They are highly aromatic when ripe, and can be stored to ripen if necessary.

 

Other varieties available from UK Nurseries include Akvambari, Ekmek, Isofahan, Sobu, Seibosa, and Shams from Turkey and Iran.

 

Quinces are easy to grow, and looked beautiful when the fruits are ripening to a lovely lemon yellow on the tree. There are good examples around Scotland, notably St Andrews botanic gardens, and a private garden in North East Fife. A warm wall is likely to be beneficial to the ripening of fruit, or at least some shelter. When all the apples and pears have been picked, watch out for birds attacking them. Bordeaux mixture may be required if leaf blight takes hold

( Entomosporium maculatum).

The RHS suggest pruning all leaders on new tree to outward facing buds; this would promote a more open and wider bush. Allow at least 3 m between trees ideally.

The fruit is highly aromatic and can be used in small quantities to flavour apple pies etc.

 

The following varieties are listed in Wikipedia:

 

  • The ‘Bereczcki’
  • ‘Champion’
  • ‘Cooke’s Jumbo’ (syn. ‘Jumbo’)
  • ‘Dwarf Orange’
  • ‘Gamboa’
  • ‘Le Bourgeaut’
  • ‘Lescovacz’
  • ‘Ludovic’
  • ‘Maliformis’
  • ‘Meeches Prolific’
  • ‘Morava’
  • ‘Orange’ (syn. ‘Apple quince’)
  • ‘Perfume’
  • ‘Pineapple’
  • ‘Portugal’ (syn. ‘Lusitanica’)
  • ‘Siebosa’
  • ‘Smyrna’
  • ‘Van Deman’
  • ‘Vrajna’ (syn. ‘Bereczcki’)[6]

 

There are 16 entries in the RHS Hardy Plant Finder under Cydonia. Portugal is the probably the best quality but not so easy to grow here. Vranja and Meech’s Prolific, Smyrna and Serbian Gold are likely to be the more reliable here. They are easy to grow in any sheltered place in Scotland so why not give them a try?

 

Appletreeman would be very interested to learn of any unusual varieties you have successfully grown or your experiences with quinces in Scotland? email@plantsandapples.co.uk

refs:

Hogg’s Fruit Manual, 1886.

Flowerdew, Bob, Complete Fruit Book, 1997.

Bean WJ, revised 1970 ed. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in The British Isle.

Encyclopeadia of Gardening, RHS, 1992, Page 386.

Sanders, T.W., (1946?) Fruit and Its Cultivation, page 123. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quince_cheese

RHS Hardy Plant Finder 2004-2005.

 

Apple Trees and Flooding

Many of you will be planting new fruit trees this spring and will be wondering what effect all the rain will have on your trees. At present your trees are dormant and most likely you are planting them as ‘bare root’. It is well known that up to 90% of your trees roots may be killed when they are lifted out of the nursery and replanted, so it is very important you keep the roots moist and frost free to preserve what’s alive.

Tree roots need oxygen, and prolonged wet conditons will create anaerobic conditions and many more roots will suffocate. In spring, your trees will have a hard job growing new roots and getting the nutrients necessary to grow, flower and fruit.

Another worry is a fungus disease called Phytophora or collar rot which can attack your trees in the summer after a very wet winter.  So don’t exacerbate this situation avoid those wet hollows in your garden, don’t pile masses of compost around the roots,  and look forward to a nice dry spring and summer!

Also many beautiful productive fruit trees can blow over due to wet soil, so see to your drainage!

Windblown Tree