Pruning a variety, but which one? (Juliet’s Orchard Blog January 2024 #2)

Shepperdine Silt

Come the first agreeable afternoon this month I intend to start pruning the apple trees. Pruning is not difficult and whatever you do you are not likely to kill the tree, but good pruning results in higher production and better quality fruit. The mantra is start with dead, damaged, diseased, and crossing but I would prefix that with “why am I going to the effort of pruning it at all”. In my experimental orchard of about 100 varieties I’ve had them long enough to know that there are some I can hardly be bothered with. Result – they don’t get touched until they are overcrowding a variety I like and then they get a severe chop for firewood – Shepperdine Silt was the first to get this honour, a highly vigorous tree with large quantities of disgusting little fruit going rotten before they dropped. Cut at about knee height three years ago it has resprouted vigorously. Remember, I said I cut it off at knee height. Had I done it at ankle height it would still probably have regrown, but it would be from the rootstock below the graft union so it would no-longer be a Shepperdine Silt.

I don’t want to lose any variety in my collection. It is entirely possible that I haven’t discovered the best use for this variety yet. It took me years to discover that Green Two Year Old becomes edible after Christmas and currently is a nice crisp tart green eater, and will go on well for several months eventually becoming yellow. It is fine for cooking too.

All the varieties I planted were thought to be Gloucestershire varieties at the time. Thanks to DNA analysis, where GOT is sending off “our varieties” for testing, we now know that Green Two Year Old matches the variety held in the National Fruit Collection as French Crab, and Shepperdine Silt is Lord Lambourne. All credit to the pioneers of varietal conservation in Gloucestershire, Charles Martell, Richard Fawcett and Alan Watson; without their work more than 20 years ago we wouldn’t have the luxury of testing the varieties which they secured against possible extinction to find out how unique each one really is. Though my Green Two Year Old matches the description of French Crab fine, my Shepperdine Silt can’t be the same high-quality dessert fruit as Lord Lambourne. Summat wrong somewhere

An RHS Award for Jim!

Many congratulations to Jim Chapman, our (actually the) Perry Pear expert, who has been presented with the RHS 2023 George Lockie Award for his perry pear work.

The award is given by the Royal Horticultural Society in recognition of “significant personal achievement relating to fruit, vegetables or culinary herbs.”

The presentation took place on 16th September at the Hartpury Orchard Centre open afternoon. The award was presented by RHS fruit root and herb committee chairman Tony Girard.

Picture by Martin Hayes.

First Plum Day report from Hartpury

Jim Chapman writes, about the Plum Day held at Hartpury at the end of August:

“We eventually had about 35 plums in the plum display, with others discarded having gone over – I realise now why nobody does one, would have been far better a week earlier. Next year, if I try again, I will let the plums dictate the date and then announce it on facebook, not try to advertise a date ahead ! However we had visitors from Evesham and Pershore saying that even the Pershore Plum Festival didn’t display many.

60 people turned up, so not bad for a first attempt (if I am honest I think many were attracted by the tap bar!). Visitors particularly enjoyed tasting some Victoria alternatives – Jimmy Moore, Cox’s Emperor (Denbigh), and of course, Bristol. Still waiting to verify the Jacob, when it fruits.”

(and, for all those interested in Gloucestershire’s Plum varieties, why not buy a copy of Charles Martell’s 2018 book about them? The paperback edition of Native Plums of Gloucestershire is available to buy on our Bookshop page here)

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BBC feature on local orchards

The BBC news website featured traditional orchards last week, timed to coincide with Apple Day.

It highlighted the work being carried out to conserve orchards, and traditional varieties, locally and regionally in Somerset and Gloucestershire  The article also highlighted the work of PTES and the Orchard Network nationally.

For Gloucestershire both GOT and the Wildlife Trust were mentioned, discussing local sites and the work being done to find and conserve local varieties.

For the full article click here:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-63298873

Preparing for Apple Day at Days Cottage

Helen and Dave at Days Cottage have been busy setting up the displays for their Apple Day next Sunday (16th October, 1-4pm).  Helen has sent these pictures and notes:

This is part of the Gloucestershire collection – there will 90 varieties altogether of which 45 are Gloucestershire ones from the Days Cottage Museum Orchard.

Here are a few of the Gloucestershire varieties, starting with the delightfully named Hen’s Turds, followed by Gloucester Royal and then Ben Lans. Such beautiful fruit this year:

the next picture shows the genetic instability of Siddington Russet…you can see 2 heavily russeted apples and 2 smooth green ones all on the same branch!

And lastly Cambridge Queening…a gorgeous apple from Cambridge, the village south of Gloucester on the A38. It is the best variety for making Tarte Tatin. Helen writes that they had a chef at one of their Apple Days who made lots of Tarte Tatins with different varieties and Cambridge Queening won the taste test hands down! Also known as Cambridge Quoining…thought to be from the angled shape reflecting quoin stones used on the corners of buildings.

Rockness Orchard/Stan’s Patch Apple Day, 9th October

Apple Day at our Rockness Orchard  near Nailsworth, will be on Sunday 9th October in the afternoon. There is a wonderful amount of fruit.

The orchard has now been scythed and cleared. Particular summer profusion on the banks of betony, field scabious, St

Johns wort and wild marjoram. We also have newts in our little pond.

 

Great excitement, as where the huge ash was felled, plums have shot up bearing wonderful delicious fruit. What a gift.

If anyone can identify from a photograph, we would be thrilled.

Early fruit (in profusion) has gone to the Long Table in Stroud to be redistributed and shared.

 

More information from Fiona Valentine fionav@phonecoop.coop

Malvern Autumn Show 23-25th September

National Perry Pear Centre perry pear display at the Malvern Autumn Show by Jim Chapman from Hartpury Orchard Centre. Jim offers a unique perry pear identification service.

 

Jim Chapman will be at the Malvern Autumn Show as usual with his perry pear display.

 

Friday-Sunday 23-25 September 2022 at Three Counties Showground, Malvern.