Out and about in the orchard this Autumn I am feeling the pride of achievement: look at my lovely fruit, aren’t I clever! Cocky is hardly the word, I am bursting with pride.
This year has been such a good year for top fruit. But this bountiful fruit harvest owes nothing to my skill: the Spring was still and warm which meant that not only did the blossom stay on the trees long enough to get pollinated, but the insects were out and about to do the work, and the pollinated blossoms were not immediately blown off the trees either, which has happened so often in recent years. Our two venerable Bramley’s Apple trees which nearly blew over last year have responded to the rescue pruning and have survived to fruit another year – with gorgeous fruit:
Two beauties, just right for storing over winter and baking!
Our new young eating apple has its first real crop:
And look at our Louise Bonne of Jersey Desert Pear:
I am so surprised because I always understood that it was a triploid, needing two other different pear species, as well as itself, to pollinate it. Last year was a bad year for us because we lost several trees, one of which was the ancient, cooking pear which was one of its pollinators, leaving us with only two pear trees. Nobody near us has pears as far as I know so this crop is something of a mystery!
Then the romantic apple tree!
When my family moved from London to live in a small Hertfordshire village, there were two large apple trees in the cottage garden. They were huge, even allowing for the perspective of a small child. You can see that the apples are very green, and almost four sided, especially near the flower end. They store wonderfully well and last right through the winter well into Spring. They are dual purpose, both cooker and eater. The flesh is rather ‘floury’ and does not have a great taste, but cooked with some spices or dried fruit they are lovely and their keeping qualities make up for any lack of flavour: I can see why they were such an essential part of a cottager’s garden. The birds love them too because we always leave some on the tree all winter and they last, providing hungry birds with something to eat all through.
A few years ago one of these ancient trees in the orchard of the old cottage came down: the other looked poorly and my mother thought they might be reaching the end of their lives. The Royal Horticultural Society here in the UK runs a ‘Fruit Naming’ service. If you move into a garden with fruit trees which you can not recognise, for a very small price, or none if you are a member of the RHS, you can send a sample of the fruit to their headquarters and they will identify it and let you know the cultivar.
Well, my mother did just this with this apple. And it was unknown to the RHS. Not on the database. They then offered to take the pips and grow on some of the trees and asked my mother if she would like to name this new tree. Unbeknownst to us she did this, and when she received several of these young trees she gave one to me and one to my sister: the third she planted in the garden to take the place of the old trees which had died. She named it after the village where we lived.
I and my sister now live many miles away from our old home: my mother is dead and the cottage sold. But in two gardens in the north of England this apple continues to be grown, and to fruit.
Our move to that village and that cottage came after a devastating time in our family: we had all been apart for a while and that move reunited us. The cottage, village and garden, symbolised safety and security for me: to still have a small part of that precious place means a lot. This apple tree gives me great joy!