Posts Tagged ‘Conference pear’

Now reprinted 2018

Rivers Nursery of Sawbridgeworth: the Art of Practical Pomology by Elizabeth Waugh was first published in 2009. The book went out of print for a while, but we are delighted to tell you that it has been reprinted and is available once again. When first published, in 2009, we reviewed it on our main website under the title ‘The Rivers Nursery of Sawbridgeworth‘. There was also an article about the conservation of a remaining orchard on the site of the Nursery on this Blog: – ‘The Rescued Orchard and the Rivers Heritage’ by Paul Read. For more information on the Rivers Heritage Site and Orchard go to: www.rhso.co.uk

In brief this is a book of 200 pages illustrated with old photographs and maps. It is the story of an outstanding contributor to the history of fruit growing in Britain. A long-established family firm (1725 – 1987), the Thomas Rivers directors and the many local men and women who worked on the land and in the greenhouses developed the Conference pear and Early Rivers plum as well as apple varieties and oranges. The agricultural history of East Hertfordshire is entwined with the rise and fall of the business.

To purchase this book for £15 plus p&p, email www.rhso.co.uk

Fruit Forum


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Summer Beurré d'Arenberg

Summer Beurré d’Arenberg


I live in Hamburg, North Germany, and I am planting a heritage English orchard. I am looking for two varieties of pear which were bred by Thomas Rivers, but not Conference. Ideally, I would like one to eat ‘off the tree’ and one that would keep for a short while.
My soil is on the sandy side with woodland on the North and East side, but with a high water table (4 meters below ground level). In the very worst of the winters we can get below -12c. Spring arrives at a similar time to the UK Midlands and is as variable!

Bill Boulton

Thomas Rivers (1798 -1877) did not breed many pears, as far as one knows, and, indeed, it seems only one. He raised a great many more varieties of stone fruit – plums, cherries, peaches and nectarines. It was his son T. Francis Rivers (1831-1899) who raised the Conference pear and also Fertility and Beacon.

Summer Beurré d’Arenberg was probably raised by Thomas Rivers; it first fruited in 1863, a decade and more before his death. This ripens during September in southern England, so not really as early as the name suggests. A juicy, melting fleshed pear with a lively, sweet-sharp taste, it crops heavily, although this can result in rather small fruit.

For another pear from the Rivers Nursery, you will need to turn to those raised by his son. Beacon ripens during August, keeps only for a short time and crops heavily. Fertility is a September to early October pear, with melting flesh, sweet and lemony; it can be on the sharp side, but lives up to its name producing prolific crops. (For pictures see www.thebookofpears.fruitforum.net) They all flower around the same time as Conference, or just a little later, and in the mid-period of pear blossom time.

All these varieties of pear are growing and conserved in the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent. Scion wood – graft wood and bud wood – for propagating your own trees can be obtained from the National Fruit Collection: click here. This is probably the best way for you to get these pears, although they could be worked for you by a nurseryman in England and then sent on to Germany.

Joan Morgan



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'Belgian Fence'

‘Belgian Fence’

I would like to get some feedback on my plans for a ‘Belgian Fence’ (interwoven double cordon) of apples. I want to create small single intersecting diamond forms as shown in my diagram.

My shortlist for varieties (with pollination groups shown in brackets) is:
Red Windsor (2)
Scrumptious (3)
Egremont Russet (2)
Herefordshire Russet (3)

After a lot of tastings – I attended three different apple days this year – and getting very interested in some other older varieties that have wonderful flavour – Ashmead’s Kernel, Blenheim Orange, Orleans Reinette – I am close to settling on the varieties above. Three of which are newer improved varieties, and seem like they might be a bit more productive. My space is very limited so I want to maximise productivity (without sacrificing flavour). However I have not managed to taste Scrumptious or Herefordshire Russet – can anyone report on flavour? And productivity or suitability for such restricted training?

Situation is a small garden in central London, very sheltered indeed, but probably slightly sub-optimum levels of direct sunlight. Garden is SSE facing with the cordon to run along the left hand fence (running NNW – SSE). The fence is a picket fence around 120cm high so allows some of the early morning direct sunlight through. Then as the sun moves around the row will get direct sunlight from mid-morning to mid-late afternoon. So not full sun all day, but my tomatoes did OK in that position this year, not the best crop I have had, but acceptable. Existing soil is about 18″ to 2ft of clay over building rubble. It is not heavy clay – bit loamy, but has been under paving for many years. I plan to double dig in the next few weeks and add about 25% Veoila soil improver, which I can get from our local tip and seems like good dark stuff – hopefully giving that a month before planting..

I plan to concrete in some angle iron about 8” from the existing fence. Posts to be spaced 2.4m (8ft) apart with galvanised wire and tensioners for support, with canes and ties as generally recommended. Tree spacing 60cm (2ft). Eventual tree height 180cm (6ft). The larger tree on the right in the diagram is to be a Spindle Bush Conference Pear. I am looking at bare-root M9 rootstock from Keeper’s nursery. Apparently due to the warm October the trees are still growing so it is likely to be the New Year before most are lifted.

Any experience anyone could bring to bear on any of this would be much appreciated.

Richard Galpin

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