Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

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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King's Acre Pippin apple

King’s Acre Pippin apple

We will track the progress of fruit blossom during the coming weeks through its development in the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, near Faversham, Kent. Our guide is Lorinda Jewsbury, who is going to give us information on a number of varieties in the Collection: dates when 10% of the buds are open, the tree is in full flower and when 90% of the petals have fallen. The varieties that Lorinda records are listed below with the dates observed so far. Updates will follow as we advance through blossom time.

The year’s season held off from 2014’s early show of flowers, with the apricots, plums, cherries and pears opening their blooms a good 2-3 weeks later than last year. In mid-April we had a few unusually warm and sunny days, which really set the blooms in motion. One moment there was barely a pear tree in blossom, the next saw the orchard awash with white flowers.

For the plums, a cluster of warm days gave a boost to the flowering times, with just 1-2 days between ‘10% of blossom open’ and ‘full flower’ for a number of varieties. It also gave a boost to the bees, butterflies and numerous other insects that appeared to be enjoying the sea of open flowers in the orchard. Hopefully they will have done a good job at pollinating the flowers for us and, weather permitting, a good crop will follow.

Lorinda Jewsbury



Cambridge Gage: 15th April (10% open); 16th April (full flower)

Czar: 7th April (10% open); 11th April (full flower)

Denniston’s Superb (Imperial Gage): 11th April (10% open); 14th April (full flower)

Farleigh Damson: 13th April (10% open); 15th April (full flower)

Marjorie’s Seedling: 15th April (10% open); 16th April (full flower)

Oullins Gage: 14th April (10% open); 15th April (full flower)

Pershore Yellow Egg: 14th April (10% open); 15th April (full flower)

Victoria: 13th April (10% open); 15th April (full flower)


Concorde: 21st April (10% open)

Conference: 20th April (10% open)

Doyenne du Comice: 21st April (10% open)

Louise Bonne of Jersey: 15th April (10% open); 19th April (full flower)


Early Rivers: 16th April (10% open); 20th April (full flower)

Hertford: 18th April (10% open); 22nd April (full flower)

Lapins: 15th April (10% open); 18th April (full flower)

Merchant: 20th April (10% open)

Stella: 20th April (10% open)

Sunburst: 21st April (10% open)


Blenheim Orange:

Bramley’s Seedling:

Cox’s Orange Pippin:

Crawley Beauty:


Egremont Russet:



Fiesta/Red Pippin:


James Grieve:



Red Astrachan: 16th April (10% open); 21st April (full flower)

St. Edmund’s Pippin:

Worcester Pearmain:


See below, in first comment,  for a course on pollination 26-28 June 2015 in Cambridge UK


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Codling moth damage

Codling moth damage

I have a plague of codling moths on a biblical scale. Does anyone else have the same problem?

I think the reason is that in my orchard I did not put out the pheromone traps until early July – a month or more later than usual – and this coupled with the early season has meant they were ineffective. Although in a normal year there may be only two or three male moths in each trap all season.

So where have all these moths come from, bearing in mind that there was little damage last year. During this summer the prevailing winds have been in the south east or east south east, this is very unusual; the prevailing winds are normally in the south west. My theory is they have come over from the continent on the prevailing winds.

The espalier apples have come off the worst, the fruit being more exposed, in particular Mère de Ménage and A. W. Barnes. Over half the crop has been lost already and there are still more to drop off.

The season is a strange one, which has affected the pears as well. Yet it was pretty similar to last year, in that little happened before July, a blistering July then again little happened. I noted last year that Conference and Concorde stopped growing in very early September, while normally they would keep on growing to about the end of September, especially last year as the season was very late. This year Beth, Clapp’s Favorite and Marguerite Marillat stopped growing at the very beginning of August despite watering, in fact the watering was a waste of money. Beth just sat there for a month getting nice and golden and the Clapps’ got more colorful – were they responding to just one real month of pear growing weather. July 2013 and July 2014 were only good for the sun worshippers in my opinion and very little help to gardeners.

Adrian Baggaley

Margueriete Marillat pears

Marguerite Marillat pears

Photographs kindly supplied by Adrian Baggaley

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Coating cherries with chocolate

Coating cherries with chocolate

Cherries dipped in chocolate are a wonderful way to impress your dinner guests or give as a present to someone: they are simply delicious. To make these pretty dainties you will need: large, dark cherries with the stalks intact, washed and dried. I used the variety Hertford, home grown of course. This is a richly flavoured cherry, large and meaty with plenty of flesh making it ideally suited for this purpose. Kordia would be another good cherry to try.

The other ingredient is dark chocolate, melted in a small basin over a saucepan of hot water. A 200 gms bar will yield sufficient for well over 40 chocolate coated cherries. In my experience ‘cooking’ chocolate does not work, you need the best eating quality.

To successfully coat the cherries, you must devise a means of suspending each cherry by its stalk whilst the chocolate sets. I used my oval plastic hanger with pegs that usually holds socks, etc., on washday! Perhaps, a taunt string stretched between kitchen unit handles might work or a wire coat hanger and clothes pegs. But before you begin, remember to lay some greaseproof paper underneath to catch any drips.

The next step is to suspend the cherries, that is, attach them to the clothes pegs, then partially immerse each cherry, one by one, in the liquid chocolate by lifting the bowl of liquid chocolate up to the fruit and allow them to set. When they are ready, take great care dismantling them from their drying device and unpegging the cherries. Finally store in a box, or display and enjoy them! They will keep well in the fridge and are best served straight from the fridge.

Christine Baggaley

Photograph kindly supplied by Christine and Adrian Baggaley

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A young almond fruit in the centre, on the branch above the oleander bush

A young almond fruit, just visible in the centre, on the branch above the oleander bush

In March we were on a tour of the ancient Greek sites of Western Turkey and looking forward to seeing Ephesus, Troy, Pergamon and Assos. Aristotle was living there when he got the call from Philip of Macedon to tutor his son Alexander. It started in the unpromising, but comfortable, surroundings of a concrete block of a hotel at Kusadasi, one of the fishing villages that has become a package tour resort.

It was a wonderful time of year with the peach orchards a froth of candy floss pink blossom, early apricot flowers and many pale lilac paulownias.

The walk to the supermarket to buy a couple of bottles of local wine (highly recommended) was down a winding road and on a bend in the distance I could see the branches of a large shrub in full leaf swaying around. It looked like an oleander but then I could see another shrub behind and three boys scampering around it. I stopped and laughed as they were eating the green oval fruits they were picking; they promptly handed a few to me to try.

The fruits were young almonds and I had no idea that they are considered a delicacy. The boys, having stripped the bush of all but the fruits at the top moved on: in the picture above, one whole young almond fruit is just visible on the branch behind and above the oleander bush.

When I tried them, the green flesh, soft shell and softer nut were pleasantly crunchy and refreshing. Then at the supermarket the first thing in the greengrocery at the entrance was a basket of young almond fruits, so they are clearly a popular snack.

This is an area rich in fruit and nuts and also dried fruits, which are often stuffed with whole nuts and on sale everywhere. One popular sort was a kind of coarse fig paste with nuts, cocoanut flakes or dried fruit.

On returning home a foraging friend told me he had enjoyed some young almonds from street trees in London. I have a recollection that ornamental almonds have fruits that are not good to eat. Does anyone have more information on this?

Tom La Dell

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Seedling apple tree now named Julia's Late Golden

Seedling apple tree now named Julia’s Late Golden

New varieties of fruit are named for all shorts of reasons and, for instance, after places, events and people. Charles Ross honours the head gardener who bred this handsome apple at Newbury in Berkshire. Annie Elizabeth, the long keeping culinary apple with especially beautiful deep pink blossom commemorates a nurseryman’s baby daughter who died in infancy. Now we have Julia’s Late Golden named by Mary Hember after her daughter who died far too young in her early thirties from leukaemia. The apple is a chance seedling that sprang up in a rough patch of ground at the bottom of Mary’s garden in Codford, Wiltshire and introduced by the Triscombe Nurseries of Somerset.

In September 2002 the Hember family first noticed a rather tall and slender tree growing behind a large willow. ‘Why did you plant an apple tree there’ asked Julia. But it was not planted and in Mary’s words ’it had arrived unbidden, the product of a core thrown into the shrubbery which had grown unnoticed for two or three years.’ The tree, although overshadowed by the willow, was laden with golden fruit. These proved good to eat, excellent for ‘Tart Tatin’ – as the slices of apple kept their shape when cooked – and it made a flavoursome juice.

In the following years the tree cropped heavily and regularly and it flowered late giving the blossom a good chance of escaping any late spring frosts. The fruits ripened to deep yellow, often blushed with colour, and stored well. This chance seedling had produced a multi-purpose apple with a number of points of recommendation.

Mary decided to bring the apple to wider notice and at the same time raise funds for research into leukeamia, the disease that had so cruelly taken Julia’s life away in 2003. Triscombe Nurseries agreed to propagate trees, a bundle of scion wood went off from Wiltshire to Somerset and the Nurseries introduced ‘Julia’s Late Golden’ in their 2007 catalogue. For every tree sold a donation is made to Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, where Julia was treated.

Wiltshire has adopted Julia’s Late Golden as one of the county’s own indigenous apples. Wiltshire Wild Life Trust is planting it in their community orchards and it has even found a place in a royal garden. When the Queen visited Wiltshire in 2012, she was presented with a tree, which is now growing at Windsor Castle.

Fruit Forum



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Myrobalan Blossom

Myrobalan, cherry plum

Myrobalan, cherry plum

I always look forward to the myrobalan blossom (cherry plum) as the herald of spring and a promise of warmer days soon to come.  However, despite the mild weather and high temperatures for this time of year, the first myrobalan blossom in local gardens this year only appeared on 26 February.  This is relatively late for us here on the North Kent coast; the earliest I have known it was in 2008, when the myrobalans opened on 28 January.

Last week the blossom was suddenly buzzing with insects (mainly honey bees, bumble bees and flies but also a solitary butterfly – small tortoiseshell?) feeding in the sunshine.

Heather Hooper

blossom 003

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I am a final year student at Sheffield Hallam University. I am requiring assistance with research for my project: ‘A feasibility study of South Yorkshire’s orchards as a visitor destination’. I am looking at an inventory, which lists 207 traditional orchards in South Yorkshire; it will help immensely if I could get the name of the owners and location of the orchards due to the fact that I have surveys to give out and a few sample interviews to conduct. The inventory is part of the Natural England Commissioned Report Traditional Orchard Project in England – the creation of an inventory to support the UK Habitat Action Plan.

I plan a survey and questionnaires to gain information and any suggestions as how could I do it successfully, would be very welcome. These are:

South Yorkshire’s orchards as a visitor destination – Public Survey

 South Yorkshire’s orchards as a visitor destination – Researchers Questionnaire

South Yorkshire’s orchards as a visitor destination – Owner’s Questionnaire

 I would like to thank for any given help and information.

Daniela Fatt

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