Fruit blossom in East Kent is perhaps a little behind Ian Harrison’s experience in Sussex which he documents on our main web-site. At the National Fruit Collections on 1 April about a dozen or so varieties of plums were in full flower out of the 300 plus growing at Brogdale: the very early myrobalans were already going over and Bittern and Mallard were in flower along with the German culinary plum, Zimmers Frühzwetsche in the above picture, but not Denniston’s Superb, which was coming into blossom with Ian.
Using fruit blossom to map the advance of spring could be an exciting project for fruit enthusiasts, Ian suggests. Wild flowers are already employed to construct isophenes – lines joining up data points that map the progress of spring across the country. Primroses, for example, flower a month earlier on the Devon coast than in the Cairngorms and using data based on the average first dates at which a number of common and widespread plants come into flower it has proved possible to calculate that spring advances at about two miles an hour across Britain. Roughly close to a strolling pace writes Richard Mabey in an article ‘Spring’ (1994), reminiscing ‘I used to toy with the fantasy of following the spring on foot, like a guest behind an unrolling carpet.’
Fruit blossom, too, can be used to track the progress of spring and the internet seems an ideal way of gathering in the data.
Readers could you help? Simply let us known when well known fruit varieties come into flower in your garden or area – that is ‘full flower’ when about 90% of the flowers on the tree are open.
Our suggestions for varieties to track are listed below, but do not restrict yourself to these, please send us any data that you have and let us see if we can gather in some information from around Britain. To have ‘real’ value it will need to be carried out over a number of years on the same varieties, but for 2009 can we explore the possibilities?
- Plums: myrobalan or cherry plums are the first to flower; damsons are later and Victoria could be our main variety; but let us know the flowering time of any variety.
- Pears: we suggest Conference, but again whatever you have growing.
- Cherries: the choice of a widely planted variety is more difficult and the cherry is not much grown outside southern England; just send us any data that you have.
- Apples: there are many possible varieties. We suggest from early to late flowering – Discovery, Worcester Pearmain, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Bramley’s Seedling, but any information is welcome.
- Please also include a few details on the tree – age, form (free standing or trained) and site (exposed, sheltered, walls).
‘I think Gilbert White, Erasmus and Charles Darwin would have loved the idea’ Ian comments. ‘It makes a change from folks writing into newspapers and recording the first hearing of a cuckoo or absence of as is now the case. It could be something to look forward to each year adding a new dimension to the fruit growing community, whether people have one tree or many.’
Please join in and let us know the date your fruit trees comes into full flower and of course what part of the country they grow in. It will be fascinating to see by how much they vary.