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!)

Berberis_thunbergii_Japanese_Barberry_1000

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 3: Fruit for the Permaculture Garden

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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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

 

Walnuts in Scotland

walnuts

The nice thing about Catriona’s walnuts is how easy they are to crack open. Christmas childhood walnut memories for me are of battles against wee brown rocks, broken nutcrackers, bruised fingers and mashed nuts I could never pick out of the remains of the shell.

Maybe in Scotland the shells don’t get quite so granitic. Anyway, Catriona’s walnuts break neatly and easily along the centre line and come out whole. Little wrinkled ovals of russety-brown, rustling with the papery bit that divides the cotyledons. Not the biggest walnuts in the world, but they taste fantastic. Any thoughts of making another nut roast (like the Christmas one I made to offset the goose) dissipate because they just go straight in the mouth like sweeties.

The variety is ‘Buccaneer’, and it’s about 10 years old, certainly not much more. It started bearing nuts the year after planting. Contrary to everything I believed about planting walnuts for your grandchildren! We once saw a massive walnut tree in a square in one of the east Sutherland towns – maybe Dornoch – and assumed it was very old. Since then we’ve found quite a few around the country (Scotland, that is) – all thriving, but I doubt many are as prolific as Catriona’s ‘Buccaneer’. There’s another variety called ‘Broadview’ which is said to best for the UK. I wonder?

At a Hogmanay party, we tried Ann’s pickled walnuts. Never realised it is the whole immature fruit (nut and its embryo shell and its thick green seed case) that gets pickled – or that several steepings in brine are needed before the actual pickling. Wow – amazing flavour and texture. Catriona’s walnut tree needs to be raided next year before the nuts start to ripen!

Andrew’s sowing some wild walnut seed, with a view to grafting with ‘Buccaneer’ scions….one day. How long for the straight Walnut tree-lets to germinate and grow? How long for my very own, pickled and unpickled, walnuts?

It isn’t Spring. Really it isn’t.

The clouds hang low across Birnam Hill in the sulky twilight and the air is turgid and heavy. Patches of pinkish light to the north, but the grey, oozy mist soon covers them. The oak and the sycamore on the lane stand out indignantly, black and convoluted against the gloaming.

I’ve been cleaning the wee greenhouse ready for seed sowing, unsurprised by the enthusiasm of shamrock spreading greenly in the gravel, but ecstatic to note that my Caucasian Climbing Spinach – the one in a pot – is already shooting. Alive! No sign of the outdoor ones yet, though they were more vigorous last summer.

In the garden. the rhubarb is up, leaves unfurling. Including the Lochgelly Miners’ Rhubarb. Little weeds everywhere I spread the compost rampage like they’ve never heard of frost. ice, snow, winter…. When I clear a border of overgrown perennials for replanting in spring, marching armies of daffodil shoots stand to attention.

Darkness deepens, I come in, the television news blares an icy message, not the latest pish from Trump this time, but of snow in Greek islands, temperatures of -30 degrees and freezing blasts and storms from Turkey across to Georgia, USA.

I wonder  if it is coming this way, any time soon.

Spotting the first Hazel flowers

I realised the other day that I now need my reading glasses if I’m going to be the first in the family to spot the 2016 female hazel flowers. I have to be a certain distance away from the tree to be able to focus on the bulging, pink-flushed flower buds. But, at that distance, I don’t stand a prayer of spotting the flowers, on account on them being so minute – not much more than pin-head sized. In their favour, they’re bright red, and very pretty, like tiny wee starfish.

corylus contorta

Hazels are monoecious (male and female flowers are separate, but borne on the same tree), and the male catkins have been there since before Christmas. Up to now, they have been tightly furled, but are showing signs of opening. Wind will blow clouds of ripe pollen onto the female flowers, and nuts will follow! Wild hazels are self-incompatible, so you need more than one bush to get a harvest and generally the more the merrier. Our local hazel copse – which we don’t own but just act as though we do – has a hundred or so, and many seedlings coming along. I planted a single wild hazel in my garden 12 years ago, and have never seen a nut on it – not surprisingly!

Named hazelnut or filbert cultivars like ‘Cosford’, ‘Hall’s Giant’ and ‘Nottingham’ are often claimed to be self-fertile, and we’ve now added a couple of these to the vicinity of my first, barren attempt at nut growing, so things should change! But the one variety in my garden that’s started producing nuts is the one I least expected to – my Contorted Hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’). I know “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick”, as it’s also known, is a bit of a Marmite shrub – but I love it for the sheer weirdness of the twisty branches seen from the kitchen window in winter – and its precocity in producing real, home-grown hazelnuts!

Meantime, must remember the specs on the next walk round the hazel copse….

The Tree Nursery in Winter

Appletreeman rarely has a day off in winter! We are still lifting trees for delivery as bare root trees, and this can continue as long as the soil is not frozen solid and when all the trees are sold and delivered of course.  We are also in the process of cutting back 4,000 rootstocks, which are about 1.8m high, to the bottom bud. So there is quite a sizable bonfire to deal with at some stage! This job is done come rain or snow, though a half day is allowed in bad weather.

Appletreeman's Nursery In Winter

Appletreeman’s Nursery In Winter

These stocks were budded (a form of grafting) in August, so we have also been taking the polythene off which has been protecting the bud from drying out. These stocks will then sit as little 10cm high stumps until the bud opens up (hopefully) in May, and forms a new shoot and hence your named apple tree variety.

Budded Tree In January

Budded Tree In January

If only the ground would dry up, we would also be ploughing a new patch of field (we move every year) and be planting our next batch of rootstocks for grafting and budding heritage varieties for 2015. So no winter hibernation here!

Birdseed Bonanza

Goldfinches came to the garden this morning and dithered for ages in front of the window industriously gathering seed from the dead heads of meadowsweet. I was so glad I had not cut them back yet. Nature does not share our compulsion to order and tidiness, so seed-eaters such as finches, buntings and sparrows thrive in neglected gardens like mine. They really appreciate it when we are slow to tidy up and good seed-bearing plants tower gaunt and brown into the winter!

Apart from meadowsweet, I have found goldfinches to be particularly fond of the dead but still fragrant heads of wild oregano, and the copious, fluffy seeds on Hemp Agrimony. This is a tall, stately native plant with big, brush-like heads of purple flowers in late summer and autumn. It likes to grow in damp places but does well in most garden soils. The flowers are much visited by bees and butterflies, making it excellent value for wildlife gardening.

Milk Thistle

Most of the thistle family provide good birdseed once the flowers have faded. Here you will note a conflict of interests – the last thing a gardener needs is weed thistles running to seed in the hope the birds will enjoy them, because for every fattened bird there will be a hundred new thistles choking up your border next spring! However, there are several attractive, non-invasive thistles you can happily allow to run their course – the low growing Carline Thistle, the towering Scots or Cotton Thistle (Onopordon acanthium), or the variegated Milk Thistle for example. Spectacular Cardoons or Globe Artichokes have massive thistly heads which look great even when gone over and will bring in goldfinches and chaffinches. Of course, you might have eaten the globe artichokes yourself, but it’s worth leaving some to feed the birds as well as enjoy the sight of the lovely purple flowers! Globe Thistles are related, but bear spherical heads in blue or white that bees and hoverflies love, and provide substantial seeds when they ripen.

Sparrows, linnets and yellowhammers all enjoy seeds from grasses and cereals, and there are many attractive varieties, from the delicate Golden Millet to the chunky Pampas Grass, which will meet their needs. Seeds from the edible members of the goosefoot, or spinach family are always appreciated – such as Good King Henry, Red Orache and spinach beet that has bolted.

Finally, if you have ever bought wild bird seed you will know that sunflower seed is a big favourite. As the big flowers bend over and the petals fade, don’t bin them! Let the seed gradually ripen for the birds to find. I must admit that I kept banging my head on mine, though, as they keeled over at 45 degrees – a neat and tidy answer was to cut off the heads and hang them to dry from the shed roof, where I expect the Bankfoot Sparrow Gang will eventually decimate them!

© Margaret Lear, Bankfoot. Originally published in Comment, October 2009.

Of Coltsfoot and Liquorice

Yesterday I found the first scaly-stemmed flower of Coltsfoot pushing itself up through the disturbed ground of a plantation in Bankfoot. The plant, also called “Son-afore-the-Father” due to the fact that the flowers appear many weeks before the hoof-shaped, hairy leaves, is a spring herald. It’s particularly welcomed here because by mid-February I have always been caught by one of those coughs that cling to the tail of a winter cold and threaten to sit on your chest for months. This year is no exception.

Coltsfoot leaves and the sunny, dandelion-like flowers are equally useful for treating coughs, though personally I can’t bear to pick the brave flowers and collect and dry leaves all summer instead to see me through. They can be made into a tea, or a decoction. Of old, they have been used in herbal tobacco, too, but it beats me how smoking anything can cure a cough, so I’ll stick to tea. It doesn’t have much flavour, so I add evergreen thyme (also good for coughs!) in winter, and in summer a few leaves of mint, lemon balm or meadowsweet. Fresh coltsfoot leaves can also be used as a vegetable and even yield a yellow-green dye.

This winter, thanks to an excellent evening class in herbal medicine I have discovered another cough-soothing delight – liquorice.  I have never liked liquorice allsorts, and for all I respect the monks of Pontefract, their “cakes” and the long tradition of growing and processing liquorice in that district, NOTHING would have persuaded me to chew liquorice root if I’d known what it was. But the unprepossessing and rock-hard root is something else entirely. The flavour is sweet and delicate; I’ve been boiling chopped root for ten minutes, then adding coltsfoot leaves. On Bad Throat Days, in goes a spoonful of honey from my bees too. Liquorice has been used medicinally for over three thousand years, for constipation and stomach ulcers as well as bronchial complaints. It’s a substance called glycyrrhizin in the roots, sweeter by far than sugar, which accounts for its use in confectionery. I don’t know which bit makes foam, but it’s also used in fire extinguishers!

Coltsfoot is best gathered in the wild unless you have a large garden – it spreads most obligingly. Liquorice, a native of south-eastern Europe, is slow to germinate, the seeds are expensive, and it will take a while to produce worthwhile roots. But it has pretty foliage and pea-like flowers to enjoy while you are waiting, so is well worth growing.

Today, five inches of snow covered 2005’s first coltsfoot, and I’m still coughing, so spring had better get a move on. The hedgerow pharmacy is in demand!

© Margaret Lear, Bankfoot. Originally published in Comment, March 2005