Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Planting gooseberry bush in a wire netting basket to protect against root damage by voles

Gooseberry bush planted in a wire netting basket to protect against root damage by voles

The subject of voles and the damage that they can cause to fruit trees and bushes has arisen from time to time on the blog. Voles will gnaw away at the roots and can kill a tree.  I recently planted some gooseberries and not wanting to have problems with moles and voles I planted them in chicken wire baskets to deter both. Where moles go voles and mice are sure to follow; they all use the same tunnels. During the winter I trapped seven voles and two mice using a mole run in the greenhouse; the strawberries were disappearing just as they were nearly ripe. Has anyone else had problems with voles this year?

Adrian Baggaley

2017-mid-feb-010Basket filled with soil; wire netting will be buried under final layer of soil

Photographs kindly supplied by Adrian Baggaley

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'Best in Show', RHS Tatton Park Show July 2016; Hertford cherries

‘Best in Show’: Hertford cherries at RHS Tatton Park Show July 2016

For the first time, cherries captured the ‘Best in Show’ prize for Adrian Baggaley; he also took many other prizes at the recent Royal Horticultural Society Tatton Park Show and gained a total of 16 firsts. Congratulation Adrian!

That exhibitors managed to stage cherries at all is remarkable in a year that has been difficult for English market growers, who are experiencing a poor harvest, at least in Kent. Rain and low temperatures, with one very cold night, at blossom time gave a poor fruit set and hence a low yield.

The prize winning, large and perfectly matching Hertford cherries were grown in Nottinghamshire, not a county where market cherries are grown and where Adrian says a north easterly wind has been blowing since February. Only recently has there been some respite from its chilly effects. He grows his Hertford cherries under permanent protection in a huge ‘box’ with a polythene cover across the top and fine mesh on the sides to keep off rain and birds. This covering at blossom time, he believes, ensured his good crop of cherries. Commercial fruit growers producing cherries in covered tunnels tend to put on the covers after blossom time. In their set-up, if these are erected before the flowers appear, a sunny day can send the temperatures soaring and there is the danger that it can get too high for effective pollination.

Fruit Forum

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Merryweather Damson

Merryweather Damson

As we have done for a number of years, we publish the blossom records for the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, undertaken and kindly supplied by Lorinda Jewsbury. These are records for a selection of varieties (standards and any new accessions) from all the tree fruit collections at Brogdale.

The flowering season is once more under way in the orchards at Brogdale. Many of the plums have reached full flower and the remaining varieties should not be too far behind. The warm, sunny weather a week or so back saw a good number of pears opening their blossom and some of the cherries began to follow. However, the weekend was a different story weather-wise and the chilly weather that came in has certainly put the brakes on the flowering for now. As for the effect of the chill on the open flowers and fertilisation process, we shall just have to wait and see.

Lorinda Jewsbury




Cambridge Gage:

Czar: 5th April (10% open); 10th April (full flower)

Denniston’s Superb (Imperial Gage): 7th April (10% open); 10th April (full flower); 20th April (90% petal fall)

Farleigh Damson: 11th April (10% open); 13th April (full flower)

Marjorie’s Seedling: 18th April (10% open); 21st April (full flower)

Oullins Gage: 11th April (10% open); 12th April (full flower)

Pershore Yellow Egg: 6th April (10% open); 8th April (full flower); 25th April (90% petal fall)

Victoria: 10th April (10% open); 14th April (full flower)





Doyenne du Comice:

Louise Bonne of Jersey: 12th April (10% open); 15th April (full flower)



Early Rivers: 23rd April (10% open)


Lapins: 20th April (10% open); 23rd April (full flower)






Blenheim Orange:

Bramley’s Seedling:

Cox’s Orange Pippin:

Crawley Beauty:


Egremont Russet:



Fiesta/Red Pippin:


James Grieve:



Red Astrachan:

St. Edmund’s Pippin:

Worcester Pearmain:


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Prunus mume Benichidori

Prunus mume ‘Benichidori’

This year Prunus mume ‘Benchidori’ is in full flower now, at the beginning of January in Kent. There were even sprigs in flower for me to bring inside for a Christmas Day posy! This is extraordinary early: in 2011, for example,  it came into blossom in about mid-March.  Prunus mume is a small tree, rather tender in the UK as it flowers so early and planted as an ornamental rather than fruiting tree. Its flowers are exquisite and in this variety deep pink and intensely scented. That it has flowered so early is proof indeed that we have had an exceptionally mild winter. If any proof was needed with primroses and winter Cyclamen coum in flower. Do any of our readers have Prunus mume in flower, or other examples of such early growth?

Hundreds of cultivated varieties of Prunus mume exist in its homeland in the Far East. It is the ‘plum’ blossom of Chinese paintings and cultivated in China and Japan for centuries, where it serves as the harbinger of spring often flowering when snow is still on the ground. Prunus mume is grown for its fruit, as well as blossom, and these are an important ingredient in Chinese and Japanese cuisine – made into a sauce, an alcoholic drink and pickled, as ‘umeboshi plums’ in Japan. For a little more about ‘Prunus mume – the first fruit blossom of the year’, see this past post.

Can anyone give us more information on Prunus mume and how it is grown in China and Japan or anywhere else that it may be cultivated?

Joan Morgan


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Around 1952 my brother and I were made welcome from London as poor kids through what was called The Country Holiday Fund at a farm near Devizes, Wiltshire, with a farmer named John. He had two sons and a wife, and they lived in a bungalow surrounded by apple trees. They had other fields of potatoes, with a large barn of chickens. If you came from the orchard bungalow and turned left onto the lane it took you past a large house on the right and on to a bog type wooded area. That’s the best I can manage in the way of a map. It was a dead end. He had an old black car, possibly a Ford. I wondered if any readers know of the family; although I expect John and his wife have now passed away. I just thought I would write and thank them. If anyone has any ideas who they were I would like to hear from you.

James Robertson

Fruit Forum will pass on any information to James.

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Tradescants' Orchard by Juniper and Grootenboer (2013)

The Tradescants’ Orchard by Juniper and Grootenboer (2013)

‘Tradescants’ Orchard’ is the name given to a leather bound volume of over 60 water-colours of varieties of different fruits painted in the 17th century and held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. These pictures, which are often seen reproduced on postcards, notelets and so on published by the Bodleian, were the subject of a book in 2013 by Dr. Barrie Juniper and Dr. Hanneke Grootenboer: Tradescants’ Orchard, the Mystery of a Seventeenth–Century Fruit Book (reviewed on our main website ). The authors explored many avenues of investigation in pursuit of the origin and purpose of the paintings, but the most intriguing question remained – who was responsible for painting the fruit pictures? Now, Dr. Juliet Ralph of the Bodleian and Dr. Juniper believe they have solved the mystery and their findings were published in a recent issue of Oxford Today (Vol 27, No 2, 2015).

First, let us go over a little of the background to this volume of paintings and the details published in Juniper and Grootenboer’s book: in about 1680 the water-colours were brought together and bound or rebound with a contents page written and inserted by Elias Ashmole, a scholar and wealthy collector. He owned the paintings in 1678. Earlier he had described them as ‘A Book of Fruit Trees with their Fruits, drawn in Colours about the year 1640. Fol. 1461’. Ashmole donated the bound volume of paintings to the University of Oxford and it was placed in the Ashmolean Museum, passing to the Bodleian Library in 1860, when it received the name ‘Tradescants’ Orchard’.

The watercolours may have belonged to the Tradescant family, but their origins are far from clear. John Tradescant and his son, also John, were gardeners to the aristocracy and plant collectors, who established a nursery at Lambeth in South London. They also built up a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, a collection of natural history objects, coins and other items, which Ashmole acquired and gave to Oxford University; in many ways it founded the Museum that bears Ashmole’s name.

In the Oxford Today article, Ralph and Juniper suggest that the artist responsible for the water-colours was Hester Pooks or Pookes, who became the second wife of John Tradescant junior in 1638. The evidence is circumstantial, though nonetheless persuasive. Hester was part Dutch by birth, related to distinguished Dutch artists, the De Critz and De Neve families; a member of the former was a royal portrait painter. Indeed, Hester’s Dutch relations made several portraits of the Tradescant family, although only after her arrival.

The arguments in favour of Hester as the artist are that she was brought up in a world of painters, could have watched them at work, even received some lessons. When she moved to London, she was in a position to persuade her relatives to bring across the good quality paper that was used, as well as brushes and paints. The water-colours that she may have painted, however, were naïve, simple drawings and child-like in their execution compared with the work of contemporaries abroad and of artists in England.

Hester’s water-colours, if she was the artist, include pictures of birds, butterflies and animals. This combination of fruit with its leaves and insects and other creatures often featured in still-life paintings and she may have painted them for her own pleasure or to decorate her home. But the paintings show signs of a good deal of handling, which led Juniper and Grootenboer to propose that they functioned as an illustrated catalogue, which the Tradescants showed to customers to tempt them to buy fruit trees. Yet, as the authors point out,  if this was their purpose the present collection of water colours must surely be incomplete, since it has very few paintings of the most popular tree fruits of the time – only one variety of apple and merely four of the pear. Furthermore, these paintings were made some time before, as far as I am aware, the first known example of an illustrated fruit list – the famous Furber’s Fruits published in 1732 by this Kensington Nurseryman to promote his stocks.

The nature and style of the paintings, Ralph and Juniper find, resembles another form of domestic art, that of embroidery and, particularly, the uniquely English ‘stump-work’ or embossed, raised work made by padding out the images. At this time, needlework was an appropriate occupation for girls and women in the home, who might create embroidered pictures, frames for mirrors and covers for boxes. To inspire and guide the embroiderer, pattern books were published and needlework kits sold. Flowers, fruits, leaves, tiny insects and animals, depicted with a simple almost folk-art quality, are among the motifs found in needlework of this period.

Perhaps, these fruit water-colours were designs and templates for Hester’s embroidery. She may have copied the outlines of the design and transferred these to her material, often satin in stumpwork, and then used the colours of the painting to select the right silks to create her embroidered composition. One can image a plump peach or a luscious bunch of grapes with a curious little lizard alongside lending itself to an embossed needlework picture. Hester could have shared or lent her paintings to other ladies to copy. This might account for the marks of handling seen on the original paintings.  All we need now is some matching embroidery! Was there anything resembling an embroidered picture or trinket box among the objects that Ashmole gave to the Museum?

Joan Morgan

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English/French orchard prompt

English/French orchard prompt

If you have ever wished that you knew what that French term porte–greffe meant, or, for those on the other side of the Channel, the English word for rootstock then now there is an English/French ‘little dictionary’, to help you with many other words associated with growing fruit trees. It is small booklet, available free for the price of a stamped addressed envelope. Charming designed and a handy size, it was made as part of the ‘Orchards Without Borders’ project, to use on the cross Channel visits between a group in Sussex and one in Normandy. (Orchards without Borders is a project run by the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership; see our main web-site for an account of one of the recent expeditions). They have extra copies of the ‘little dictionary’ to give away – send a stamped self-addressed envelope (A5 size) to Anne-Marie Bur, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD


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