Archive for the ‘National Fruit Collections’ Category

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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Tomorrow – Sunday 26 October – a thousand different varieties of apples will be on display in London’s Borough Market marking a millennium of trading on this site. Apples are the one food that exists in a thousand different varieties and so perfect for this historic anniversary. It all happens tomorrow when the market stages its Apple Day Festival.

The apples come from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent where over two thousand different varieties are grown. For more information see: Borough Market

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National Fruit Collection - Apple Collection

National Fruit Collection – Apple Collection

The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm in Kent is the largest collection of temperate fruit varieties growing on one site in the world. It is also the oldest fruit collection in the world, for which collecting has been on-going since 1922 – for more than 90 years.

The Collection is owned by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Defra funds the curation and maintenance of the Collection. The present holders of this contract are the University of Reading and FAST Ltd ((Farm Advisory Services Team), with Brogdale Collections responsible for public access to the Collection.

The tender for the Defra National Fruit Collection contract for the next five years (or longer) was published yesterday. To see the tender document visit the  Defra web-site and click on ‘view current opportunities’, then see item 10.

Fruit Forum


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Two lost Southern apples of the greatest historical importance in America are the Taliaferro (or Robinson) and the Gloucester White (or White Gloucester), which were planted and held in the highest esteem, respectively, by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, both for cider and for other purposes. Quite a few people in the States have looked for these apples, so far to no avail. In the case of the Taliaferro, the search is additionally hampered by conflicting descriptions.

I have found listings for both the Taliaferro apple and the Gloucester White in the Royal Horticultural Society’s list of trees in its collection at Chiswick in 1864, but these are not among the varieties now in the National Fruit Collection. From the  history of the NFC, it appears most likely that these varieties no longer exist in England. Nevertheless, it would be helpful to know more historical details, such as when and from whom they came into the collection at Chiswick, when and how they may have disappeared, whether there is a chance that anyone in England might still have them, and whether any drawings, descriptions, or other records might still exist relating in any way to these particular apples.

I would be most grateful for any assistance or suggestions that anyone would be willing to provide.

Susan Walker

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On our main web-site we have a review of ‘Orchard Archive: the National Fruit Collection’ by Joan Morgan published in Occasion Papers from The RHS Lindley Library, volume 7. Sixty years ago the Collection was established at Brogdale Farm near Faversham Kent, a Diamond Jubilee now highlighted by Tom La Dell, joint director of Brogdale Collections, the organisation responsible for public access to the Collection. The Collection is owned by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which funds its curation and maintenance, undertaken by the University of Reading and FAST (Farm Advisory Services Team). 

The Diamond Jubilee of the National Fruit Collection is, indeed, a great landmark for the best fruit collection in the world. ‘Best’ because it is the most comprehensive across the range of temperate fruits and is international in the origins of the varieties. There are 3500 of these on the one site at Brogdale, near Faversham in Kent. Here it truly has a home as the climate and soils are suited to a wide range of fruits, modern fruit growing started nearby in early Tudor times and Kent is the main fruit growing county of Britain. The collection is unique as the apples, pears, plums, cherries, hazelnuts, grapes, quinces, currants, gooseberries, medlars, cider apples and perry pears are maintained on fruiting trees and the fruit is available to the public at Brogdale.

Joan Morgan’s article in Occasional Papers is about the origins of the National Fruit Collection. Walking in the orchards it is good to bear in mind its remarkable history led by a mixture of determined individuals with great knowledge and dedication. It is somehow a truly British story with its beginnings in the Royal Horticultural Society collection 200 years ago and the mixture of amateurs and professionals who put it all together driven by their love for fruit. All the ups and downs until it was gathered together at the National Fruit Trials at Brogdale 60 years ago are extraordinary as is the story of its purpose for correct identification of the varieties  – the English Williams’ Bon Chrétien pear became Bartlett in America and there are many more examples. Verified trees became important for breeding new varieties and the Collection is now part of the international community of The International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Joan herself is one of our contemporary pomologists (many people think she must be related to the goddess Pomona) who has brought to life the fruit in the National Fruit Collection by tasting the fruits and telling their stories. This has been possible because the origins of the collections needed fruit on the trees to identify them. Genetic conservation, in theory, does not now need this as DNA testing can verify the varieties. However, at the end of the day people who buy fruit do so for the taste, texture, juiciness and seasonality, so a collection that bears fruit and that the public can try it is an important part of developing new varieties. The New Book of Apples does all this and we are waiting for Joan’s equally revealing book of pears.

Occasional Papers, published several times a year, highlights the Royal Horticultural Society’s world renowned library and is edited by its archivist, Brent Elliott, who also contributes to this volume. It is good to see in his paper how the beautiful early fruit illustrations were so important in  appreciating the qualities of fruit varieties.

Public access to the Defra owned National Fruit Collection is managed by Brogdale Collections (at no cost to Defra) and we are expanding what we offer in everything about fruit from the history of the varieties and  the way fruit was grown (mostly in gardens) to the future, the development of new varieties and why people would be wise to eat more fruit for their own health, especially in Britain.

The booklet will be available online on the RHS website and it would be great if readers put their views on Fruit Forum so that there is an even greater buzz about fruit and the National Fruit Collection in its Diamond Jubilee year. The fruit from the National Fruit Collection will be available at Brogdale all year with dozens of varieties to taste at the Festivals.

Tom La Dell

Occasional Papers from The RHS Lindley Library, volume 7, March 2012 (published May 2012); many colour, black & white illustrations; pp.72.
Copies of this volume of Occasion Papers from The RHS Lindley Library can be bought by visiting Lindley Library Wisley or Lindley Library London ( re-opens on 2 July), or by post from Lindley Library Wisley, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB. Copies cost £7.50 each, (plus £1.50 p&p).

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Lapins cherry

Fruit blossom is on the move and we will follow its advance through the National Fruit Collections, Brogdale, Kent, courtesy of Mary Pennell who has kindly agreed once again to give us a weekly update, but first her overview of the past few weeks.

So far, everything seems to be at least two weeks earlier than last year and even 2 -3 days earlier than 2009.The apricots flowered during March and have now all gone over. Alfred was the earliest with its flowering starting on 13th March. Royale was the last to reach 90% petal fall on 30th March. The others obviously fell between these two dates.

Most of the ornamental Prunus are in flower now and looking very attractive.

The early plums have just started flowering and most others are at white bud. Cherries are also coming up to white bud.

Most pears are at late green cluster compared to bud burst at this time last year.
Apples are at mouse ear – green cluster compared to most only being at the bud burst stage this time last year.

The cooler weather of last week has definitely slowed things down.

Mary Pennell

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

For blossom records at the National Fruit Collections Brogdale, Kent for 2010:  see this Blog

For blossom records at the National Fruit Collections, Kent for 2009 and around the country: see this Blog

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I listened with interest to the BBC Food Programme yesterday, Sunday 3 May, that again explored Brogdale in Kent, home of the National Fruit Collections. In essence the BBC was updating the story of the National Fruit Collections covered by the programme in the early 1990s and in 2007. I was pleased to hear that the position at Brogdale is significantly better than in 2007, but as the presenter Shelia Dillon pointed out the future for the Collections is still uncertain since the National Fruit Collections contract is due for renewal within the next 5 years. I would urge anyone interested in fruit or the Brogdale story to form their own view by either listening to Radio 4 today, Monday 4 May, at 16.00 when the programme is re-broadcast or to use the internet listen again facility .  I can only reiterate the view expressed on the programme that in order to ensure the future of the Collections people join the Friends of the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale.

Robert White

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