Archive for August, 2008

Chester Thornless Blackberry

Chester Thornless blackberry

Chester Thornless blackberry

Derek Jenning’s mention in his interesting article on the evolution of thornless blackberries brought back to mind my early cultivation of Thornfree and later of Chester Thornless. It was a great relief to harvest the crops on Thornfree because those vicious spines on thorny varieties always left me seeking the packet of plasters. Later, having read the praises in Dutch magazines of Chester Thornless (where it was regarded as slightly tender and hence the branches wrapped over winter in bracken), I chanced upon a plant for sale at Brogdale and have never regretted planting it.

It is hardly a variety for small gardens, producing shoots some 12ft. long, but is a heavy cropper of good-sized fruit, though not as large as some varieties  now coming from New Zealand.

I find the fruits very sweet and juicy, though they must be left until they come easily off the calyx to attain that delicious sweetness and flavour that characterises it. They ripen normally from September to October, although this year our quirky climate has made then ready some 3 weeks earlier. Late ripening suits me perfectly, as  I regard July and August as the raspberry season.

I have now had it some 10 years; I find it perfectly hardy and it keeps its vigour, though no doubt readers in Scotland would be wiser to plants varieties bred in that country. It produces the occasional seedling, which is interesting because so far they have all been thornless and produce fruit almost identical with their parent.

There is a good collection of Rubus species and varieties in a section of the Fruit Field at RHS Gardens, Wisley, near the Fruit Mount. Of course the staff do not appreciate you sampling them, but they are very helpful and will always assist you in your enquiries.

Howard Stringer

To read Derek Jenning’s article ‘Redesigning our Blackberries’ go to: http://www.fruitforum.net/redesigning-our-blackberries.htm

Read Full Post »

How are your Apples?

It has been an awful August and in general a bad year for most of us so far. There are no plums and few pears, yet the apple trees are cropping heavily, their skin colour has developed weeks early and some look ripe long before their time. Yet how are they going to taste? My first to ripen, Bakers’ Delicious, has only now – around 20 August – developed its flavour, when in my plot it is normally ready to eat at the end of July – early August.

Discovery, my next, developed a strong red flush some weeks’ ago, but the fruit still is extremely firm and has poor flavour. The tree looks quite spectacular with its mass of crimson fruits, yet the birds haven’t touched it, which is highly unusual.

I attribute the vivid skin colours to the cool nights of the past few weeks and the lack of flavour to the few hours of sun, which builds up the sugar. If this happens to early varieties, what will be the effect on the late ones like Ashmead’s Kernel, so desirable for its superb flavour?

I hope that our autumn months have hours of glorious sunshine to make up for the lack of sweetness!

How are your apples?

Howard Stringer

Discovery from National Fruit Collections, Brogdale, Kent

Discovery from National Fruit Collections, Brogdale, Kent

Read Full Post »

Spanish Bramleys

Bramley's Seedling

Bramley's Seedling

Bramley’s Seedling, our most celebrated culinary apple, is grown in the most surprising places – California and Japan – and now we learn of Bramleys cropping in Andalucia in southern Spain in the garden of Cobina-Jane Cumming.

We have no access to cooking apples here in the south of Spain as Spanish people like most Europeans have no love or use for very sharp apples. I asked someone to get me a Bramley’s Seedling tree and they brought out a lovely little sapling of about one and a half metres from Woolworth’s. I planted it in my garden in Gaucin in Andalucia at an altitude of 629 metres. The garden faces south so I planted the tree to the west near a two metre high wall, where it gets some shade during the worst of the heat. I was concerned that pollination might be a problem as there seem to be very few other apples around. However the clever bees had the tree fruiting in its first year and it was heart-breaking, removing all those little fruitlets.

I am afraid my pruning has not been very clever, but I managed to bend some branches down, which I support when in fruit. I guess that I have had the tree for seven years. I never spray and find in the spring that the young leaves do get curled and covered with a greyish mess on the underside; I just squash it with my fingers, that is those I can reach. I am concerned as to how high it will grow, although I have cut back the central, main stem.

My garden is tiny, only big enough for the one tree, yet I picked and sold 3.5 kilos of apples from it on 2 August. There have been windfalls and sparrow damaged fruits which I have already cooked. Is this early for Bramleys?

In past the fruit has seemed less tart than I expected, but this year’s crop is good and sharp; I just stew them up to almost a purée and bottle it.

Cobina-Jane Cumming

Californian BramleyCalifornian Bramley grown by Kevin Hauser

To read about Bramley’s Seedling and other apples growing in California go to Kevin Hauser’s article ,’Apples in a Warm Climate’ at: http://www.fruitforum.net/apples-in-a-warm-climate.htm

Read Full Post »

Monster blackberries from the Rhine in Bonn market

Monster blackberries from the Rhine on sale in Bonn fruit market

On a recent trip to Germany I visited the Bonn food market and found a wonderful array of fruit on sale that even included locally grown gooseberries, red currants, blackberries and wild cranberries, as well as strawberries and blueberries. The blackberries were strikingly large and so, I suppose, one of the redesigned modern varieties described on your web-site, rather than a wild blackberry. Would the variety have been LochNess, which seems to be the blackberry of choice for UK commercial growers, or perhaps a different continental version?

Morgan Clarke

To read ‘Redesigning our Blackberries’ go to:


Read Full Post »