Archive for April, 2010

'Victorian Orchard'

We are a firm of Land Agents based in Wiltshire and have been given the opportunity to sell a ‘Victorian Fruit Orchard’ on the Wiltshire – NE Somerset border.

My knowledge of orchard tree varieties has been found wanting and before formally offering the orchard to the market, I would be interested in discovering exactly what we are offering in terms of fruit varieties.

If anybody has any contacts or is able to offer their services in tree/variety identification and lives in the vicinity I would be delighted to hear from you.

The orchard has maybe 20 different trees in total (although maybe not 20 different varieties) and some were in blossom last weekend.

Christopher  Rhodes

Blossom is of a plum and this is a good time to sort out what different kinds of fruit you have from the blossom. It will need the fruits themselves, however, to identify the varieties. Fruit Forum is happy to pass on details. J.M

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We have had the following question in from a reader.

I am growing Raspberry Brice (autumn fruiting) in a raised bed. I planted them last spring and in late summer they had a few fruits, which the grandchildren and the birds got before I had a look in!

This spring some of the canes have new leaf buds forming, some appear totally dead and there are numerous suckers coming up.

Help please – what should I do?

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Fruit Blossom 2010

Goldfinch plum

Fruit blossom is late this year in England and more than two weeks behind 2009. Last year the first of the plums, the myrobalan plum, Burrell’s Red, was in full flower on 20 March at the National Fruit Collections in Kent, but it did not come into maximum bloom until 6 April this year. We will follow the advance of fruit blossom through the National Fruit Collections courtesy of Mary Pennell who has kindly agreed to give us a weekly update, beginning on 24 March 2010.

24 March 2010: All I can say at this stage is that many of the pears, apricots and early plums are showing signs of activity but none are in flower as yet. One or two early apples are also beginning to move. Several pears are at bud burst and a few plums/apricots are showing signs of green cluster. The ornamental Prunus mume, Mume-beni-shi-don, is still holding at full flower.

1 April: It has turned very cold  – we had a ground frost last night! In light of this I have little to report with regard to flowering as most things have stood still. If it warms up over the weekend we might see the apricots in flower early next week. At the moment it looks as though generally everything is going to be ten days or so later than last year.

7 April: Things moved on a bit over the Easter weekend and with a sunny and dry outlook for the next few days flowering should be starting in earnest. I have been out this morning and certainly the apricots are either at or will be at full flower by the weekend. Also one or two early plums are now in flower  – Burrell’s Red Myrobalan reached full flower yesterday (6 April) and Beauty I estimate will be at full flower on Friday (9 April). Most of the pears will be at green cluster in the next day or two. Apart from the late varieties, many apples have reached bud burst/mouse ear. Cherry buds are also beginning to break.

19 April: As you will see from the dates below most things are at least two weeks later than last year. All the apricots have now gone over and many plums are in flower. The cherries and pears are hovering around the white bud stage and if the warm weather continues I would think they will be out sometime over the weekend/early next week.

Stages at 19 April 2010
Burrell’s Red Myrobalan: 4 April (10% flowers open); 6 April (full flower); 14 April (90% petal fall)
Cambridge Gage:
Czar: 17 April (10% flowers open)
Denniston’s Superb (syn Imperial Gage): 15 April (10% flowers open); 17 April (full flower)
Early Rivers: 14 April (10% flowers open); 18 April (full flower)
Farleigh Damson: 19 April (10% flowers open)
Marjorie’s Seedling:
Oullin’s Gage: 18 April (10% flowers open)
Pershore Yellow Egg: 17 April (10% flowers open); 20 April (full flower)
Victoria: 19 April (10% flowers open)

Early Rivers: 19 April ( 10% flowers open)

Mary Pennell

The Orange Pippin web-site is  recording blossom dates for apples around the country on its Apple Tree Register. J.M.

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Hugh Ermen, the English fruit breeder died just before Christmas 2009. An obituary is published on our main web-site which you can read here and we  have received the following tributes from friends and colleagues.

When I started at Brogdale in the Summer of 1965, fresh from school, it was Hugh that took me under his wing. Over the next few years he continually shared his already extensive knowledge of fruit growing with me. I accompanied him on walks through the fruit collections, helped him record the results from the variety trials and spent long hours at weekends in the Spring helping him carry out pollination compatibility tests on potted fruit trees in the Brogdale glasshouses. It is to him I owe my lifelong interest and career in fruit growing.

But Hugh was interested in many other things than growing apples! He was a great fan (and daily rider) of the Moulton folding bicycle, a great photographer (it is to him I owe my love of photography too) and he that introduced me to the arcane world of printed circuit boards and self- build miniature transistorised radios.

After seven years I left Brogdale to read Horticulture at Wye College before a career as a fruit adviser with ADAS. But I will always be grateful to Hugh for those early years of encouragement and gifts of knowledge that he so generously bestowed!

John Partis

Fruit Forum’s obituary for Hugh Ermen was much appreciated as one who knew Hugh over 45 years of ‘sparring’ on ‘fruiticultural’ matters. We shared a mutual passion for fruit trees, with Hugh and his dear friend John Bultitude fuelling my early stages of coming to know the subtleties of pomology when they both were at Brogdale (where my wife joined them as MAFF PVRO Officer in the late 1960s). I owe Hugh and John a huge debt of gratitude in giving time and trouble in preparing me for professional examinations (RHS MHort).

He was indeed one of the ‘special ones’, having original thought on traditional practices to widen the debate over getting better results from our trees. His knowledge of pollination from work on pollen compatibility was masterly, his propagation skills were unsurpassed, leading him to promote ‘trees on their own roots’. But his greatest skill, like that of a thoroughbred horse, dog or cattle breeder was recognising the parental attributes for potential improvement, whether better flavour, resistance to pathogens, or improved productivity. His living legacy is in our fruit gardens in the form of a stable of really good apple cultivars, all true thoroughbreds. Hugh was a unique ‘one-off’, and I doubt we will ever see a ‘reincarnation’ or another bearing such gifts. I can readily imagine him arguing it out with St Peter in Paradise as to whether the Tree of Knowledge should have been founded on its own roots or a new fangled East Malling rootstock! When The New Book of Apples is updated in 2050 or 2100 the name of Hugh Ermen is certain to still crop up. Meantime we will miss him sorely.

Malcolm Withnall

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Cripp's Pink


If ‘twitchers’ get excited about rare birds visiting the UK, what do ‘apple-spotters’ (perhaps called ‘pippers’) get excited about?  Apple varieties are near the top of the list. How exciting then for me to spot last November the most amazing crop of top quality Cripp’s Pink, a very rare visitor from Australia. Rare because normally our English summers simply do not carry enough ‘heat units’ to finish the maturation processes.Cripp’s Pink is the original name of the variety known globally as Pink Lady, planted and sold under strict licencing arrangements. In the UK market it is the premium priced apple variety, occupying an elite position of its own for crispness, firmness and good flavour.

Cripp’s Pink is pure ‘antipodal’ of origin with Australian pedigree, and is a Golden Delicious x Lady Williams (she herself a likely Granny Smith x Jonathan cross). It is no wonder with that pedigree the apple matures late, and is very firm fleshed and stores very late.  Alas it is not for us to grow, being far too fickle to get to maturity. I once grew a sizeable number of Granny Smith on the South Coast, and only got them close to edible in the summers of 1975 and ‘76 when we had Mediterranean conditions. The rest of the time they were turnips dressed up as green apples! It will be the same for Cripp’s, but maybe under a fleeced or polythene’d fruit cage or a covered south wall it would mature. But then there are plenty of other scrumptious UK bred apples to enjoy, let’s not worry about an ‘immigrant’ although with ‘global warming’ we may yet have our day with the Cripp’s Pink!

Malcolm Withnall

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