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Archive for April, 2008

The pictures below are of a tree in an community orchard in Harston, Cambridgeshire.

The bark has been shed completely on all of the main boughs, which have died as a result. There are extensive beetle larvae galleries on the affected areas.

Has anyone else experienced this sort of damage? Does anyone know what has caused it?

Bob Lever

Damaged tree

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Wiltshire Apples?

I am researching the feasibility of planting a community orchard in North Wiltshire.

Orchards are not a typical landscape feature within the region which until quite recently was used primarily for dairy farming. Anecdotal evidence is that most farms had an orchard and that many of these have been grubbed up.

Does anyone know about this? I am also interested in fruit varieties which would do well in our area and if anyone can help I do have quite precise details about the site-micro-climate, aspect, soil and geology.

Are there any varieties which are typical for the region?

Brita von Schoenaich

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Can anyone help with recommended pruning for closely planted Gisela 5 rootstock cherries. Distance is approx 2m and we are considering between bush (are our spacings too close) and pyramid.

Liz Dentith

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Blossom Time

Tai Haku cherry Any expectation that it was going to be an early year for fruit blossom has almost been reversed. As Howard Stringer predicted, our fickle climate has brought snow, frosts and hail in April. The damage to commercial crops of plums in Kent is reported to be serious in some areas and pears may also have suffered. As we move towards the end of April and usually less risk of frost, hopefully, the cherry and apple orchards, which are just beginning to flower, will escape unscathed.

Ornamental cherries, such as Tai Haku, the Great White Cherry, and Ukon with its creamy white flowers and bronzed foliage are already out in sheltered spots. Looking at the massed flowers of a majestic lofty cherry tree it is easy to understand why cherry blossom signifies the onset of spring and is cause for a nation wide celebration – Hanami – in Japan, when everyone takes a break from their work to party under the trees. The origin of Hanami, which means ‘flower viewing’, goes back over a thousand years and symbolises not only rebirth but the essence of life – beautiful but brief – like the cherry blossom.

These snippets of information I learnt from a splendid travelogue entitled Chasing the Cherry Blossom by Lowell Sheppard, published in 2001. The author recounts his journey on a bicycle from the southern most tip of Japan to its most northerly island. A trip that began in March when the blossom first opens in the south, it lasted the six weeks that it takes for the blossom to reach the north, a distance of 2,000 miles. His cycling speed kept pace with the wave of blossom and despite his tired aching limbs he was continually encourage to press on by news of the blossom front’s progress in the media and the preparations for the Hanami festivities, which begin well in advance of the crucial time when the flowers unfold. Ornamental cherries, not edible ones, are the subject of Hanami. According to an ancient anonymous writer the ‘Japanese cherry does not need to produce a market crop because it is a born aristocrat and its single mission is to be beautiful.’

The trees often live to a great age – Sheppard found one reputed to be 1,200 years old. Another celebrity, around which television cameras had been mounted on scaffolding ready to catch the moment the blossom unfolded, was called the ‘Rock Splitting Cherry Tree’ because it began as a seedling that germinated in a crevice in a huge bolder and eventually split the rock! Maybe one of our readers can tell us more about Hanami, the festivities and the cherry trees themselves.

In the meantime, we have our own celebrations in England, which begin this weekend with Damson Day in Westmorland on Saturday 19 April, followed by the Open Day at Bradbourne House, East Malling on Sunday 27 April when the walled garden and its collection of trained fruit trees will be open to the public and on the weekend of 3 – 4 May, orchard walks are being organised in the Herefordshire parishes of the Much Marcle Ridge. Fruit blossom viewing has, of course, been going for some weeks at RHS Gardens, Wisley in Surrey and at the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale near Faversham – currently plums, pears and some ornamental cherries and apples are in flower with the cherries and apples just opening. Details of all these blossom events on the Fruit Diary: http://www.fruitforum.net and there are no doubt many more going on all over the country.

On Sunday afternoon May 4 the Friends of the National Fruit Collections of Brogdale will be staging their own special ‘Blossom Walk’ designed to catch at their best some of the most spectacular varieties, particularly of apples.

You can join the Friends of the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale on line at: http://www.fruitforum.net/friends-of-the-national-fruit-collections-at-brogdale.htm

Joan Morgan

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The origin of the dwarfing Gisela rootstocks for cherries, recounted by Howard Stringer on the Fruit Forum main web-site, has drawn the following comment from Malcolm Withnall.

May I compliment Howard on his informative essay on the origins of the Gisela series of cherry rootstocks. Milestones are rare in fruit culture, but Dr Gruppe’s inspired work (and legacy) is to leave the planet, and us aspiring fruit growers, with a world-class dwarfing rootstock with a capacity to ‘induce’ cropping. This uplifting piece of information is to be sadly put alongside the devastating news that Ken Tobutt, renowned cherry breeder at East Malling Research, is now redundant – what a short-sighted act! His programme of late, black, English bred cherries is world-class; the variety Penny is one of his. Ken’s work is now to be linked to that of Dr Kate Evans, an extremely able apple breeder, who, with good fortune, will release to us some of Ken’s seedling selections still under review as new, improved late black cherries.

The combination of Dr Gruppes stocks and Ken’s cultivars offers a renaissance in both home and commercial cherry production (as indicated by Don Vaughan). With ever-increasing concerns about the large ‘carbon footprints’ of imported Turkish and US cherries, it is exciting that we now have the tools to deliver a truly sensational home grown product on to our meal tables. I remain firmly convinced that English cherries are the most ‘moorish’ fruits to come out of the fruit garden in Paradise, and almost worth being cast out for!

Malcolm Withnall

To read Howard Stringer’s article: ‘The Origins of the Gisela Rootstock’ go to: http://www.fruitforum.net/the-origins-of-the-gisela-rootstocks.htm

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I am trying to find any information on the Copmanthorpe Crab, an apple named after a village outside York. Although Hogg and others record it as a synonym for Dutch Mignonne, Lindley questioned how a local apple grown outside York could be mixed up with a well known continental variety and called for closer comparison. I noticed that the Copmanthorpe Crab is also listed in the 1903 Apples of New York report of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, N.Y.

These are the most recent references I can find on the net, so I would be grateful if anyone could shed any light on a very well travelled local Yorkshire variety! Was it the same apple as the Dutch Mignonne and what is its history as a Yorkshire apple?

It would also be interesting to know if the variety is still maintained at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, now part of Cornell University. Sadly, it is doubtful that it could still be found in Copmanthorpe itself.

Nick Burrows

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Taynton Squash perry pear

Taynton Squash perry pear blossom in the National Fruit Collections

The new arrangements for the management of the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale came into operation today. On 1 April the curatorship of the National Fruit Collections under the Defra contract passed to the University of Reading and responsibility for their day to day husbandry to FAST (Farm Advisory Services Team) who are now based at Brogdale. Public access to the Collections is in the hands of Brogdale Collections, the social enterprise company set up by Tony Hillier, director of Hillreed Land which owns Brogdale Farm, and Tom La Dell, a Kent based landscape architect.

Previously and for the past 18 years the curator of the Collections was Wye College which latterly became part of Imperial College, while the Brogdale Horticultural Trust undertook the maintenance of the Collections and was responsible for public access and facilities. The role of maintenance is now taken over by FAST and the public side by Brogdale Collections.

Guided walks of the National Fruit Collections began at Easter and, if we have some good weather, this will be magical experience as one fruit after another comes into flower. Myrobalans (cherry plums) and apricots have been blossoming for some time, plums are opening, cherries and pears will follow and finally apples. The next month or so is a perfect time to visit the Collections: Brogdale is near Faversham in Kent, only five minutes away from Junction 6 on the M2.

Fruit Forum

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