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Beth pear April 2018

I can report masses of pear blossom on virtually all of my sixty odd varieties of pear growing in Nottingham. It is without doubt the best for years. Following a bonus of four hot days to get pollinating going, now I ask myself – will the limited amount of bees cope? Fingers crossed no radiation frosts or the return of the ‘Beast from the East’.

Are pears doing well everywhere?

Adrian Baggaley

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Blossom Time 2018

Early Rivers Cherry

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.

20th April

The slow start to the spring weather held the blossom back this year but the mini-heatwave over the past few days has certainly got the trees up and running. The plums are a good 3 weeks later than last year and the pears are a couple of weeks behind 2017 but open blossom can now be seen in all orchards of the Collection – even a few apples have started to open.

Last year, though, was a particularly early one for the blossom and not the best year to gauge flowering times by. With the late snow and cool start to April this year, 2018 looked set to be a late one. However, it reached 25.8˚C at Brogdale yesterday and the current high temperatures have brought the blossom back on track, certainly for the cherries and pears which are more or less in line with their average flowering dates.

More high temperatures are forecast for the weekend before it cools down next week. I expect a few more apples will open over the weekend and Monday will be another busy day checking the blossom at Brogdale.

Lorinda Jewsbury

 

2018

PLUM

Cambridge Gage: 17th April (10% open); 19th April (full flower);

Czar: 16th April (10% open); 17th April (full flower);

Denniston’s Superb (Imperial Gage): 12th April (10% open); 14th April (full flower); 20th April (90% petal fall)

Farleigh Damson: 11th April (10% open); 14th April (full flower);

Marjorie’s Seedling: 17th April (10% open); 18th April (full flower);

Oullins Gage: 15th April (10% open); 17th April (full flower);

Pershore Yellow Egg: 16th April (10% open); 17th April (full flower);

Victoria: 17th April (10% open); 18th April (full flower);

 

PEAR

Concorde: 20th April (10% open);

Conference: 20th April (10% open);

Doyenne du Comice:

Louise Bonne of Jersey: 17th April (10% open); 19th April (full flower);

 

CHERRY

Early Rivers: 18th April (10% open); 19th April (full flower);

Hertford: 18th April (10% open); 20th April (full flower);

Lapins: 18th April (10% open); 19th April (full flower);

Merchant: 18th April (10% open); 20th April (full flower);

Stella: 19th April (10% open);

Sunburst: 19th April (10% open);

 

APPLE

Blenheim Orange:

Bramley’s Seedling:

Cox’s Orange Pippin:

Crawley Beauty:

Discovery:

Egremont Russet:

Falstaff:

Feuillemorte:

Fiesta/Red Pippin:

Gala:

James Grieve:

Jonagold:

Meridian:

Red Astrachan: 19th April (10% open);

St. Edmund’s Pippin:

Worcester Pearmain:

 

 

 

Louise Bonne of Jersey pear used to be planted all over Britain. It arose before 1780 in Normandy and came to England via Jersey in 1820.

We have a very large pear tree on an allotment site in York. It is similar in size to the one on your blog and looks fantastic when in flower. We are wondering how to age it and find out what variety it is. The allotment site dates from 1917 and the pear tree is next to a footpath, which is shown on maps from 1850s but could be present much earlier. The allotment tenant is not very keen on the tree as a lot of the fruit falls from such a great height and is wasted. We hope to find out if the tree has historical significance and plan to help with picking the fruit too. Can you give us any advice?

Sara Robin

 

 

Hessle pear, which arose in the village of Hessle near Hull, Yorks; first recorded 1827.

 

Fruit identification sessions for apples and pears are held all over the country during September and October.

You can turn to the fruit books for descriptions of varieties and submit samples of leaves for DNA fingerprinting.

In Yorkshire, Royal Horticultural Society Garden Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, has fruit identification days and the Northern Fruit Group holds sessions and gives advice.

Brogdale Collections at Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection, identifies fruit by post.

There are a number of reference books you could use:

The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan (2015), illustrated by Elisabeth Dowle and the companion website with photographs of nearly 500 varieties in the Directory section https://www.thebookofpears.fruitforum.net

Pears by Jim Arbury (1997), illustrations by Sally Pinhey

Handbook of Hardy Fruits (1920) vol. I, by Edward Bunyard

The Fruit Manual by Robert Hogg, 1884, reprinted 2002

Apple and pear varieties can also be identified by DNA fingerprinting using the leaves, see Fruit ID website

Fruit Forum

Worcesterberry

Some of our cuttings got mixed up. Does anyone know how to tell the difference between Gooseberry (Invicta) and Worcesterberry, before fruiting?

organiclea

 

Invicta gooseberry

 

For another post on the Worcesterberry see: https://fruitforum.wordpress.com/2008/07/23/worcesterberry-is-it-widely-grown/

Muscat of Alexandria taking First Prize at the Royal Horticultural Society Show, Westminster, October 2009

I have a muscat grape, now three years in a greenhouse. Last year, even with my inexpert pruning in April, we got several bunches of exquisite grapes. I finally hauled out my Alan Rowe book on grape growing and I find that in fact I should have pruned it in December. Is it okay to (once again!) prune it late, or should I leave the thing wandering all over the greenhouse?

Joanna Sheldon

Successful Grape Growing for Eating and Wine-making by Alan Rowe, 3rd edition 2006, published by Groundnut Publishing.

Pear Woodhall in October 2007

A noble pear tree, it reached a height of 22m and a girth of 2.7m when measured in October 2007. It was felled in September 2017 when in full leaf and crop because its main trunk was deemed unsafe. By the time I saw the sawn up timber it was too late to make any good estimate of age. Centre rotted trunks are difficult anyway, especially the seemingly common star shaped brown rot pattern of Rosaceous trees. There were readable sequences of annual rings exceeding 120 years to the red rot centre; some outer-most rings were very close, perhaps another 50 or so years should be added.

I had known the tree for 40 years (we arrived as neighbours in 1979), and it never seemed to change. For me its interest was initially in its size, then, what was it doing in this garden, why was it planted, by whom, how was this vast crop used? Some of these questions were answered in time, by visiting the Suffolk County Council archives, by eating the pears and talking to local people.

The house is a listed farmhouse built around 1500 (flanked by two later and grander farms, Rectory and Abbey Farms), no more than 20 acres and a few rights to graze cattle on the adjacent Great Green; a small farmstead, one of 8 or 9 round the common. A tough unpredictable living, made worse after 1856 when the common was enclosed, and all that the house received was a few extra acres. Some land was sold, probably to survive, until just 4 acres remained. The farm became a smithy, the land worked intensively as a market garden selling produce taken by trap to two nearby market towns: asparagus, soft fruit, pears, apples, damsons, cobnuts and cherries … were documented in the Diss market archive in 1900. Right up to the 1960’s, a sequence of market gardening families made their living here. Its only recorded name other than Smithy was Rayners, the name of its tenant in the 1890’s.

When I first investigated the house was called Woodhall. Still present then were 26 fruit and nut trees, in a great range of ages; a few apples on post WW2 semi-dwarf rootstocks, large cherry trees and apples, an unidentified fig, several cobnut stools, a clump of Shepherd’s bullace. A huge moribund Blenheim Orange, a centuries-old cobnut stool, a multi-stemmed damson, and two old baking pears, one broken down wreck identified as Uvedale St Germain, the other was our 22m giant. The newest family arrived in 1985, the old pear was hung with a tyre on a rope for the children, the entire area gardenified into mown grass below the scatter of trees. The old pear was tied up with wires to support its highest branches by professional arborists. I spent hours trying to identify the fruit and nuts. The large pear tree defied identification. Clearly it was not a melting fleshed buttery pear, but delicious poached in red wine and, even by December, also eaten fresh sliced into a salad! It too was brought into the modern age; I propagated it so that I could have one too.

Woodhall pear

The fruit of pear Woodhall is best harvested late October/November and keeps until early December/early January. This is not a soft sweet beurré pear, but firm fleshed. It can be eaten raw, juicy but crunchy, and is good in salads, excellent cooked in wine, very good roasted with vegetables or meat, or fried as slices and as fritters. It has a thin layer of stone cells near core, but these are easily removed. Most of the crop from the old tree was picked off the ground, but as these pears were still hard when collected, they were rarely badly bruised. Centuries ago a firm fleshed pear like this could have been called a warden or warden pear because it kept a long time and so resembled the Medieval Warden baking pear.

By 2000 it had become clear that big old pear trees were a feature of Suffolk and Norfolk clay-land farmsteads, and that, while these big trees had diverse fruit this same clone was present elsewhere. Propagations of the Woodhall tree increased and new trees proved to be very productive, but pear identification is always difficult due to the lack of well-documented varietal descriptions, so the name Woodhall was considered temporary. By 2016 DNA fingerprinting of the National Fruit Collection’s  (NFC) 350 varieties made possible testing to see if this pear matched any of these. In 2016 the test was carried out via the Fruitid DNA scheme and Woodhall did not match any NFC variety.

Then comes September 2017. The tree was felled as being unsafe; branches always fall from old trees; the trunk was hollow. The owner asked an arborist for an opinion, and as we all know arborists come in different flavours. This one recommended felling it to the ground and grinding out the stump. Another might have said – it’s an ancient and spectacular tree with years of life, make it safe by removing the branches that may split away, reduce to it to a condition that is safe, retaining the main body of tree; hollow trees do not need to be destroyed to be safe. It was after all in full leaf and fruit and only the non-live heart-wood was affected. Its loss removed a small world of dependent wildlife. Its owner felt the loss too!

In the end I asked that the cut stump be left so there is the possibility of a shoot from the base to continue the tree and to save from maceration the aconites and ghost flowers (Ornithogalum nutans), the Suffolk orchard speciality that had been planted around its base. And if no new shoot does arise we have recently grafted trees and can return this same clone to Woodhall.

 

Paul Read

 

All that remains of the ancient pear tree in October 2017

 

This article was originally published in the ‘Orchards East’ Newsletter, Spring 2018′; reproduced here with permission.

The picture of the pear tree in fruit at the top of this piece appears also and as an example of a very old tree, nearly 200 years old, yet regularly fruiting, in The Book of Pears (2015).

Mulberry orchard at Tiptree Farm, Wilkins & Son, makers of Tiptree preserves, Essex. (Photographs by kind permission of Adrian Baggaley and Wilkins & Sons).

 

 

Has anyone any experience in growing mulberries that they can share with us?

Conor McGovern

 

 

Mulberries stain the skin very easily

There has been a mulberry orchard on the farm at Tiptree for over 100 years and many of the original trees have branches that appear to have collapsed to the ground but still produce fruit.  New mulberry trees have been added to the orchard, which in 2017 yielded sufficient to make a limited edition of Tipree Mulberry Jelly.