Blossom time and fruit finishing (Juliet’s Blog, May)

Apple blossom

The first week in May has been peak blossom time in my orchard of Gloucestershire apple varieties. They started to bloom in the first week in April, and there are still several trees showing no pink as yet. I have been keeping a record this year, so will be able to put them into various pollination groups at the end of the season. However, some trees are having a year off with insufficient blossom to say where they will fit into the scheme.

At the same time, I am still eating last year’s fruit, which have been stored in a cool outhouse. I’ve only two varieties remaining. The Elmore Pippin are now rather shrivelled, but the Green 2Yr Old (aka French Crab ) are fine.

They are a useful size (up to 3 inches diameter) and make a good apple pie. They are not the most exciting dessert fruit but perfectly pleasant even if the skin is thick and coarse – probably why they keep so well.

Scything courses at Longney, 11th May, 15th June, 25th July, 16th August.

Keep fit. Cut grass in an environmentally friendly way. The Trust will be running two all-day scything courses at Longney in 2024, on Saturday 11th May, Saturday 15th June, Thursday 25th July and Friday 16th August..

The courses will be run by Nicole Clough, a dedicated environmentalist who has spent much of her working life in the wildlife and conservation movements. The course will introduce attendees on how to use and look after an Austrian scythe, is suitable for complete beginners and also for those who may already have some experience but feel that scything could be working better for them.

– Introduction and familiarisation
– Setting up an Austrian scythe
– Movement and technique
– Mowing practice (there is usually an abundance of grass and nettles at Longney!)
– Sharpening in the field
– Maintenance and peening the blade

Space is limited to 6 attendees per course. The cost – partially subsidised by the Trust and thanks to a donation from Martin Hayes – is £50 per person for members (and £65 for non-members – which includes 1 year’s membership).

If you’d like to attend then please get in touch with David Lindgren David.lindgren@glosorchards.org or Martin Hayes Martin.hayes@glosorchards.org

Orchard Tour 26th April 2024

We are arranging a tour of orchards in the northern reaches of Gloucestershire – we’ll cross the border into southern Herefordshire, so you’ll need to have your passport with you and had all the necessary jabs – and have set a date of Friday 26th April.

The date has been chosen in the hope and expectation that many of the fruit trees in the orchards we’ll visit will be in blossom, the likelihood of which is enhanced that the orchards we’ll be visiting contain both perry pear and apple trees … (but the presence or otherwise of blossom is, of course, determined by natural forces, well beyond the control of the Trustees).

Price per person: £20

Details of the itinerary will be confirmed in due course, but the current plan is as follows:

– Meet at Henley Bank, Brockworth, at 10:00.
– Tour of Henley Bank orchards
– Visit two orchards in an around Dymock and Bromesberrow
– Visit orchards in Putley and / or Preston Cross
– Tour of an orchard in Overbury
– Tour of an orchard in Winchcombe
– Return to Henley Bank, Brockworth at 16:00.

We can have a maximum of 15 people. To reserve your place please contact either David Lindgren David.lindgren@glosorchards.org or Martin Hayes martin.hayes@glosorchards.org

Bark stripping – but by what? (Juliet’s Blog, March#2)

 New bark damage to orchard trees. Deer?

I have a Bushnell trail camera that I move around the garden and orchard from time to time to see what the wildlife is doing.

A few weeks back for the first time this winter there was a lot of bark stripping in the orchard, so I put up the camera hoping to discover the miscreant in the act. No such luck! Though, in a way it was lucky since the bark stripping has largely stopped.

Here is the rogues gallery.

I still suspect the worst damage is caused by Roe Deer though they didn’t show on the camera trap, as they are very common round here and I see them quite often in the garden. Or maybe Roe Deer and the very abundant Rabbits. And Grey Squirrels?

Well, at least I’m not blaming the Redwings. Most of the winter thrushes have now gone. The last big flock I saw was on 13 March with just the occasional individual since.

Elderflowers to apples…

Goodbye elderflower.

Hello apple.

The National Trust has planted an orchard on its land at Tinkley Gate, near Nympsfield, in amongst the old elderflower plantation there. Once used to supply Bottle Green with fruit for their elderflower drinks, the trees are now surplus to requirements and are slowly fading away, leaving gaps to be filled with fruit trees.

We started the process last week, planting Gloucestershire varieties of apple…. Arlingham Schoolboys, Gilliflower of Gloucester, Eden, Lemon Roy, Gloucester Royal, Taynton Codlin, Flower of the West, Siddington Russet, Tewkesbury Baron, Wheeler’s Russet, Foxwhelp, Dymock Red, all evocative names that reflect Gloucestershire’s rich past as a fruit-growing county.

As well as supplying the trees and guards, the Trust’s Chair of Trustees, David Lindgren, was on hand to offer advice and guidance to the National Trust’s group of volunteers, who planted and guarded the trees with energy and enthusiasm and no little skill.

It’s another example of the work the Trust does to conserve and celebrate Gloucestershire’s orchards.

 

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Spring is upon us and the buds are bursting (Juliet’s Blog, March)

Fruiting buds of the apple variety Golden Spire just starting to burst, at the silver tip stage, 1st March 2024. Start to record flowering when you can see the pink of petals even though they haven’t unfurled yet.

Spring is upon us and the buds are bursting.

First off is the Prunus blossom – plums and the like – coming into bloom in my garden. Down the orchard most buds are still tight but the pear buds are swelling as are a few of the apple varieties.

One of the first apples in my collection to show pink is Golden Spire, about the 1st of April, and in full flower three weeks later. (I bought and planted it as the local variety Tom Matthews before DNA testing showed it to be a widely known kind.) This little tree blooms and fruits its socks off every year – very reliable – but it has never grown much, even though in theory it is on the same rootstock as everything else.

Early plum blossom, 3rd March 2024.

It is said to be important to have varieties in the same pollination group present. Some bloom earlier, some later. Most varieties are not self-fertile so you need two different kinds in blossom at the same time for pollination to occur and fruit to set. This matters if you only have two trees and one is very early – like Golden Spire – and the other is very late – Kernel Underleaf for example.

But I wonder how true this insistence on planting different varieties really is. For big commercial growers with extensive orchards, sure, but most of us probably have trees in domestic settings where the neighbour over the wall will have also have an apple tree or crab within an easy flight for a bumblebee.

I have for several years been making casual notes about timing of flowering, but this year I intend to make a concerted effort so that Gloucestershire Orchard Trust can publish details of the pollination groups of our varieties.

This is an exercise where other people’s observations would be very helpful. When you see your tree coming into bloom make some notes. There are a series of stages – tight bud, pink bud, king bloom, full bloom, petal fall, fruit set, though obviously on a big tree you are likely to have flowers at various stages, so go for the overall effect. We need to compare Gloucestershire fruit with better-known varieties, so records for your Bramley’s Seedling are valuable too.

Pole-axed at Henley

posted in: Henley, orchard, volunteers | 0
This is the last ever picture of one of two redundant electricity poles still standing on our perry orchard at Henley Bank, kindly left by an electricity supply company for us to deal with. Thanks to the efforts of Rich Priday of F A Priday & Son, agricultural contractors, both poles have now been felled, despite the orchard being somewhat soggy underfoot. Neatly and efficiently done.
We have recycled some sections of the poles; they will become gate posts in another old, traditional orchard near Slad, for which the Trust will be paid the princely sum of £30, more funds to support our efforts to conserve and celebrate orchards in Gloucestershire. Every Little Helps. We’ll also recoup more funds by recycling the copper wire that was attached to the poles.
The little concrete box that used to house some electrical paraphernalia is next in line for demolition… a few blows with a sledgehammer wielded by our Treasurer, Andy Ellis, will see to that. It’s all part of an ongoing process to restore the orchard to its former glory.
Most importantly, before the end of March, four new perry trees will be planted in the orchard, the first perry trees to be planted there for well over a century. The ONLY way to ensure an orchard, any orchard, still exists in the future is to plant new trees. That’s what we’re doing. Please join us; there is a lot to do in a lot of orchards!

Wassail at Days Cottage

Some pictures from Helen and Dave at Days Cottage, taken at their recent Wassail:

– thanking the orchard for the harvest

– welcoming back the sun

– encouraging our good orchard spirits and reminding the trees to wake up after winter

– generally having a good song and dance around the orchard

– Simon our butler/Green Man and masked wassailers enjoying a bonfire afterwards. Continued

Apple and pear trees for sale

Tom Adams from Tom Adams Fruit Tree Nursery has contacted GOT to say he still has a wide range of bare root apple and pear trees for sale this season. Tom says:

I run an organic fruit tree nursery in Shropshire and specialise in apple and pear varieties from the borderlands.

I work closely with the Marcher Apple Network and a few year ago Jim Chapman from the National Perry Pear Collection allowed me access to his collection and I now have a wide range of Perry pear trees for sale.

We are nearing the end of the bare root season and I still have quite a few trees left for sale.

If you know of any projects and and individuals that may be interested in such trees please do pass on my details.

Tom’s current stock list is available on this pdf. https://glosorchards.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/tomtheapplemanpearlist.pdf

http://www.tomtheappleman.co.uk   07776 498936

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