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