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Archive for October, 2008

I am planning to plant a quince tree, mainly for its fruit but also for ornamental value (blossom, leaves and fruit).  I wonder whether anyone would be able to offer advice on which variety to choose.

The situation I have in mind is fairly sheltered on three sides but facing an open field on the fourth side, and on clay soil which can sometimes be waterlogged after heavy rainfall in winter.  I understand quinces can thrive in such situations and will withstand short periods with their roots in water, having been found growing in these conditions in creeks.

I would like fruit that turns pink/red on cooking.  Although most varieties do change colour in this way, apparently there is at least one which remains white when cooked.  I would also like large, pear- (rather than apple-)shaped, well-flavoured (rather than delicate) fruit – so this probably rules out Portugal, Maliformis, Le Bourgeat, Orange and Champion – with the individual specimens large rather than small.

I would prefer a tree that is compact or, if on the more vigorous side, then relatively slow-growing and probably one of the hardier varieties.

Although quince are normally hard and gritty when harvested in this country, when grown in warmer climes and left to ripen on the tree they can become soft and juicy.  I have heard that Ivan ripens early in Britain and, in a good summer, can be picked and eaten direct from the tree.  Does anyone know what such a fruit straight from the tree tastes like?  Does early ripening mean early flowering and greater susceptibility to frosts?

Perhaps the above demands are incompatible and too numerous to be realistic.  I would welcome others’ advice and views.

Heather Hooper

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Great Autumn Show competition

Great Autumn Show competition

Major prize-winner at today’s Royal Horticultural Society Great Autumn Show was our own, Adrian Baggaley. Adrian is well known to visitors to this web-site for his down to earth practical advice on fruit growing and today we saw the results with a clean sweep of the prizes. Adrian won 22 firsts and all the special awards for fruit with 31 entries and 300 fruits on display. Well done Adrian!  Fruit exhibiting is still flourishing. And all this despite an atrocious year with almost no sunshine and never ending rain.

The Show continues tomorrow, 8 October,  at RHS VIncent Square, London, but for those who will not get a chance to see the exhibits here are a few of Adrian’s prize-winners.

Fruit Forum

Meridian apple - a magnificent first

Meridian apple - a magnificent first

Peasgood Nonsuch - best plate of apples in the Show

Peasgood Nonsuch - best plate of apples in the Show

Doyenné du Comice - best plate of pears in the Show

Doyenné du Comice - best plate of pears in the Show

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An Apple at the Sea Side!

Aldburough beach apple

Gerald Fayers and Roger Deakin's apple 'tree' on Aldeburgh beach

Look at the Suffolk Biological Records Centre’s map of the orchards once present in the county and you might think that the sandy Suffolk coast was a desert, but in fact very close to the sea are a number of almost certainly self-sown fruit trees – if we can call them trees.

On the top of the cliff at Dunwich, just a 100 metres from the edge, on heathland, is an old apple tree, just a couple of metres high with a heavy ancient trunk, whose highest branches are annually pruned by winter gales and sea spray as soon as they grow above the brambles and gorse. It does not fit any obvious cultivar, but it is quite well known; regular dog walkers pick the large elongate pearmain-shaped apples and eat them in autumn, so you have to be quick to get one. So well known is it that I have just discovered that someone has been taking graft wood for propagation – well, that makes two of us!

The Dunwich Pearmain is not the only apple. All round Walberswick and Southwold are many hedge apples close to the sea; one totters on the cliff edge near Cove Hythe, to be consumed by the sea any day now. Of course many of these are small green, yellow or red ‘wild’ apples, descendants of two millennia of ploughman’s lunches. Others are recent, bought and planted as Malus sylvestris, our native crab, as part of a new hedge; actually the result of a sharp British nurseryman importing hedging from a Dutch grower who grew seeds which are a by-product of the Hungarian apple juice industry – and who labelled them ‘crab apple’.

In this respect the Suffolk sandlings are no different from other areas of the county. I live in High Suffolk, and on thirty acres of our land, in 5 km of old hedges round tiny fields, we have 18 large wild apples (and two Dutchman’s crab apples), and not a single true Malus sylvestris, one of our rarer trees.

But stranger seaside ‘trees’, if we can call them that, are at Aldeburgh. There is at least one apple, and a pear, and maybe others. These ‘trees’ are certainly tough, resistant to salt spray, and probably to the occasional watering with salt water. They grow in the lea of the shingle bank near the bed of a now dry mere a few yards from the sea, north of the town at Thorpeness. The oldest, and most well known, an apple, has been scrumped for many years by locals, and made both famous and literary by inclusion in Roger Deakin’s last book Wildwood, where his evocative writing describes this ten metre across, half metre high tangle of sticks half buried by the shingle.  It seems that apart from growing quite nice August apples (if prone to bitter pit but nice enough for me to propagate – so now it needs a name!) its origin has been the source of speculation for many years, perhaps from its extent, even centuries.

Aldburough apple

Aldeburgh beach apple

Recently Gerald Fayers, an apple enthusiast, and specialist apple identifier from Gorleston, galvanized by Roger’s book, has taken up the challenge to find out why it is there. It would be nice to say that it is the last remaining apple tree from an orchard now drowned by sea gravel, just the top of the last tree remaining, prevented from growing above the lea of the shingle by the sweeping winds off the sea ……. but despite the research, Gerald’s old maps seem to suggest that this time the ploughman may have been a fisherman, and his lunch that day was not just fish.

Paul Read

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