Archive for March, 2007

Blossom Time

apple blossom

Apple and May are blossom time in England. A beautiful couple of months, but this year the fruit blossom is much advanced following our exceptionally mild winter. By the end of February the sloes were in flower in the hedgerows and an apricot in my garden, followed by an almond. Cold weather, some frost and even snow in March did not seem to cause any harm but checked the buds. Yet by the end of the month the peaches were beginning to open. Plums and cherries come next in the sequence followed by pears and finally apples, perhaps the prettiest of all fruit blossom. While a cherry orchard is a breathtaking vision of sparkling white, a mass of apple trees in flower always seems more vibrant. The contrast of the deep pink buds and paler pink open flowers makes apple blossom especially lively and full of interest. The colour is on the underside of the petals and so the effect is most marked before all the flowers on the tree are fully open. And there is a spectrum from the almost white, muslin-like flowers of Gravenstein and apricot pink of Worcester Pearmain to the velvet maroon buds of Sandringham.

Arthur Turner is another one to look out for and so arresting in blossom that this is often its main sales recommendation, although it is also a useful apple. This year it seems likely that Arthur Turner and the majority of apples will be in flower before early May, but apple blossom time lasts for a month or more, unless the weather turns very warm. Among the latest to flower is the ancient Court Pendu Plat, also known as the Wise Apple because it escapes the frosts. Edward VII is another late flowering variety as is Annie Elizabeth and consequently always recommended for frost pockets, but both have exquisite deep pink blossom.

Before the introduction of numerous ornamental cherries and crab apples, the Victorians created arbours of spring colour by planting well known apple varieties. Keswick Codlin was a favourite. Its blossom is attractive, although not remarkable, but profuse and reliable, just what you want in a permanent garden feature; its fruits also make excellent baked apples.

Send us your views on what you think is the most attractive fruit blossom and keep your fingers crossed for no more frosts.

Joan Morgan


Alison Lean has sent us some pictures that illustrate the point very well:

Sandringham Sandringham blossom




Arthur Turner Arthur Turner blossom (more…)

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Vintage Fruits

Many of the classic works on old fruit varieties are very expensive collector’s items. The Herefordshire Pomona of 1877-85 illustrated with water colour plates and descriptions of the apples and pears by the redoubtable Dr Robert Hogg, for instance, sells for thousands of pounds. The CD of its fruits produced by the Marcher Apple Network (MAN) a few years ago was therefore extremely useful to all apple and pear enthusiasts. This was part of MAN’s ‘Pomona Project’ which aims to make available as many of the reference works as possible relating to the identification of apples and pears. Now they are issuing a second CD entitled ‘Vintage Fruits’. This is a compilation of descriptions and colour plates from the classic sources of information on cider apples and perry pears.

‘Vintage Fruits’ has been put together by Richard Wheeler and rather than merely concentrating on one of the old fruit books, he has drawn his material from five rare or inaccessible publications – Pomona Herefordiensis (1811) by Thomas Andrew Knight, illustrated with water colour plates; The Apple and Pear as Vintage Fruits (1886) by Robert Hogg and Henry Graves Bull, illustrated with line drawings; Perry Pears (1963) edited by L.C. Luckwill and A. Pollard, illustrated with colour photographs; ‘Cider Apples and their Characters’, papers by Ray Williams, published in the annual reports of Long Ashton Research Station, illustrated with line drawings; Bulmer’s Pomona, 1987, illustrated with water colour plates.

Joan Morgan

The CD will be available in May 2007. To reserve a copy contact: The Membership Secretary, Brook House, Hopesay, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY7 8HD. The cost will be £16 per copy including post and packing in the UK.

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The charitable organisation, Common Ground, launched ‘Apple Day’ in 1990 to mark local distinctiveness by linking the fruit we eat with the people who grow it and the places they make in the process. It was a spectacular success and an energising and inspirational experience for those who took part in that first Apple Day held in London’s Covent Garden.

Apple Day is now a national event and Common Ground’s most triumphant achievement in their defence of diversity and promotion of the importance of local identity. Its founders, Sue Clifford and Angela King have also been highly influential in regional planning, environmental issues, tourism and heritage projects to name but a few. England is not only rich in apples but also landscapes, buildings and people, in which the Common Ground perspective sees value and meaning. These have been gathered into this splendid directory – ‘England in Particular’. It commences with an alphabetic list of rules for distinctiveness, that applies to orchards as much as to villages, structures and concepts. Here is a small sample – ‘Fight for AUTHENTICITY and integrity. Keep places lived in, worked in and real.’ ‘EATING should be a creative act. Buy local and in season.’ ‘The LAND is sacred in many cultures … All of our surroundings are important to someone.’

Fruits, of course, feature in this weighty volume along with, for example, cheese rolling, corn dollies, cricket and crinkle crankle walls. Turn to any page and you are immediately among an extraordinary juxtaposition of foods, customs and events – ‘Eccles Cakes’ and ‘Eels’; ‘Glow Worms’ and ‘Gooseberries’; and ‘Wells’ and ‘Wem Sweet Pea Show’. The Westmorland damson is mentioned, as are Taymar cherries and Black Worcester pear, but I was disappointed that the National Fruit Collections itself did not merit an entry. The Collections, at Brogdale in Kent, have been at the heart of the revival of interest in local fruits, providing samples and graft wood to inspire and create the new orchards. They are such a uniquely English phenomenon. Nowhere else in the world has as diverse and fully documented collection of fruits growing one site, it deserves a place surely in any celebration of the distinctive. This aside the book is packed with facts and charm and illustrated with numerous and different styles of line drawings contributed by many artists. Strongly recommended, this will long be a guide to the multiplicity of things that make up the individual character of our regions and localities.

Joan Morgan

Book details: England in Particular; A celebration of the Commonplace, the Local, the Vernacular and the Distinctive by Sue Clifford and Angela King with Gail Vines, Darren Giddings and Kate O’Farrell for Common Ground; published by Hodder & Stoughton, 2006; £30; 512 pp; numerous black & white line drawings.

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