Archive for November, 2008

Rivers orchard restored

Rivers Nursery orchard restored

During the nineteenth century the Thomas Rivers Nursery had an extent of more than 300 acres in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, and was the largest employer in the area, second only to the Malting industry. The horticultural beds, mainly fruit trees and roses, mingled with farmland and market crops of soft fruit. After the tax on glass was removed in 1846, other more exotic, tender fruits were grown: grapes in the extensive glass vinery and oranges in the orange house while peaches, nectarines, apricots and the like were listed in the early catalogues. Sales numbered in the thousands each year and plant material was sent all over the world.

Most notably, the third Thomas Rivers, 1798 -1877, had a genius for developing new strains of fruit – such as the still popular Early Rivers plum – and for examining and improving their cultivation. He had a ready pen and an appealing style of writing. Over the years he published three books including The Orchard House which ran to many reprintings, as well as many articles in the great horticultural journals of the day. In these his recommendations for improving root stocks, for providing shelter for tender species, for growing fruit trees in pots in an Orchard house, and more were offered not only for the great gardeners of landed gentry but for people with small gardens needing to grow their own fruit. His reputation was great and not only did Robert Hogg dedicate his comprehensive Fruit Manual of 1884 to him but a commemorative portrait was hung in the Royal Horticultural Society headquarters in Vincent Square. His son, Thomas Francis Rivers, carried on the successful business developing the Conference pear, while May Rivers at this time did watercolours to aid fruit identification published in The Fruit Grower’s Guide of 1892.

What is left now of that legacy is the Rivers Nursery Orchard, a living piece of history as well as a valuable green space. This significant five acre area is what remains of the show ground where Rivers’ customers could see growing those trees they might like to order from the catalogues. It has been restored from a bramble and hawthorn wilderness to a community orchard by volunteers working over more than ten years since the land was sold by the Rivers family to developers in the late 1980s. The Rivers Hospital was built on much of the land but East Herts District Council took on a twenty year stewardship for the remainder. With the help of organisations such as the East of England Apple and Orchards Project and fruit identification experts, the surviving trees have been identified and spaces filled with old Rivers varieties.

The stewardship period ends in 2009! What will happen to this living monument, this community green space? The Rivers Nursery Site and Orchard Group have been pressing the council to find a way to save this space, part of the existing green belt land. We are looking for ideas, partners with the authoritative knowledge to press the importance of the Rivers horticultural heritage, general support.

Can you help us?

Elizabeth Waugh, Archivist for the Rivers Nursery Site and Orchard Group

email:  riversnurserysiteandorchardgroup@hotmail.co.uk

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I live on the lower portion of the Banning Bench,California, at approximately 3200 feet. We have a dozen or so peach trees, a few cherries, and several 35 year old Gravensteins, and a single Fuji that are doing quite well in this climate.  After tasting a Honey Crisp recently, we are having thoughts of planting this wonderful variety.  We are even having thoughts of possibly planting a dozen or so trees on an unused half  acre portion of our property. It would probably be more sensible to try a couple of trees first, but that would take five or more years to get an answer.

Perhaps you might have some knowledge about the Honey Crisp, and how it might fare in this region.  If it is a viable variety, where would you recommend that I buy them?

Gary Crowl

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Cobnuts for Lancashire?

Can anyone suggest a source of cobnut trees that will do well up here on the skirts of the Pennines, in the Trough of Bowland, Lancashire? I would also like to hear of the chances of crossing thornless blackberries successfully with our vigorous native plants.

Iris Woodford

Kentish cobnut

Kentish Cob

Kentish Cob is recommended by Meg Game of the Kentish Cobnuts Association – see comment below.

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I am seriously considering buying some land near Wisbech in Cambridgeshire and as part of a diverse range of produce I would like to develop an extensive cherry orchard. In the past were cherries grown commercially in this area? Could there be any problem with growing cherry commercially in this environment? The soil is classified as grade 2 agricultural land and I think the pH is around 6 to 6.5. I intend to reduce the exposure of the site to wind by planting native specie hedging etc.

Kevin Pressland

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Does anyone know of a runnerless strawberry called Franny? I have one plant and wish to obtain more as the fruit is diminishing on this plant as it is 6/7 yrs old. The fruit are the sweetest I have ever tasted and can be quite large. I still have the label but only the registered name of Franny is printed with  no other information. I have scoured all the main fruit grower’s catalogues but to no avail. I hope someone can help.

Debbie Crouzieres

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