It’s been a seriously busy season packing and sending out orders of apples, pears, damsons, plums, quince, cherries and one or two medlars. A big thank you to everyone who placed orders with me! Your support is greatly appreciated, and I hope you will continue to enjoy your trees for many years to come.
We are completely sold out of plums, damsons and gages, and have limited apples, cherries and just 4 pears still available: Barnett, a perry pear which produces a light, low alcohol and medium sweet perry, hails from Gloucestershire and is also called the hedgehog pear as its fallen fruits are said to look like baby hedgehogs nestling in the grass. Also still up for grabs is a final remaining Hazel pear – a very old Cheshire variety, about which there seems to be little available information. It was thought to have been grown commercially for the Liverpool market and is also known as the Hessle Pear, with links to the Yorkshire town of Hessle. This is a hardy variety which will thrive in almost any situation, making it a good option for marginal sites, and those wishing to re-discover the qualities of lost varieties.
We’re down to our final 8 cherries, on dwarfing rootstocks, including Regina, a popular German variety, giving large size cherries of balanced flavour, resistant to fruit-cracking and one Summer Sun, a productive, mid-season cherry from Norwich and an excellent option for the UK climate, consistently giving good cropping even in less-favourable weather. The Gisela 5 rootstocks make for a compact tree with an attractive, spreading habit, which proves suitable for smaller home gardens and allotments.
Also available are apples including some of the following varieties – check out my online shop and nab them before they’re gone!
Last month we hosted a volunteer day with some of the Tree Council’s corporate partners, including visitors from Acorn by Synergie, Agrovista, Ground Control, Kind & Co, NFU Mutual (including volunteers from the local Oswestry branch), Rathbones, Savills and Witley Jones Furniture. Volunteers planted 500 sweet chestnut and cherry trees to create a woodland corridor around the footpath which bisects the nursery site. As well as providing visual interest, biodiversity habitat, and a source of food, these forest garden trees will also provide ramial chipped wood when they are coppiced. This will be fed back into the cropping areas of the site as a high quality mulch, encouraging those mycorrhizal networks which are so important for healthy trees, and bringing us an important step closer to my aim of a carbon-negative nursery, and a closed-loop system, which doesn’t require any off-site inputs to improve the soil. Huge thanks to all the volunteers for your hard work and enthusiasm!
Continuing our work with the Tree Council, we’ve been putting together orchard and hedgerow packs for schools all over the UK, in partnership with their project Orchards for Schools. This initiative provides schools with free trees, providing pupils an opportunity to learn about establishing and caring for their own micro-orchards and traditional hedgerows, while doing their bit to help sequester carbon, steward rare fruit varieties and improve food security and biodiversity habitat on their school site. For the orchard packs, I selected a range of varieties I thought would be suitable and most enjoyable for young growers: with each pack containing 3 different varieties of delicious eating apple, a plum or cherry, and a pear tree. The hedgerow packs contain a diverse mix of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, dog wood, dog rose, field maple, spindle, wayfaring tree, and crab apple, which will bring life, colour and hopefully more birds and insects to their new growing sites.
When not packing up trees for delivery, I’ve been enjoying getting out and about running courses, including a recent winter grafting course at Plas Newydd in Llangollen. The site was looking very spring-like, with a swathe of purple and white crocuses bringing colour, and the odd early bumble bee to the gardens.
On Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th March, I ran a two winter pruning courses on site, between my nursery and old orchard just up the lane. It was a lovely couple of days with a great bunch. We explored pruning a variety of tree forms, from free-standing bush and standard trees to renovating slightly neglected cordons and espaliers at my established orchard site, the perfect example trees for students ready to get stuck in with the secateurs, loppers and pruning saws… Pruning can feel like a daunting task – it’s one of those skills which requires the pruner to ‘look into the future’ and imagine the outcome of each cut, before committing to it. We discussed the differences in pruning styles depending on whether you intend to encourage fruit yields, or vegetative growth for propagation material. The crew on Saturday worked together to make some fairly radical improvements to the cordons, overgrown espelliers, and dwarfing apple trees bent almost horizontal by wind, and the weight of many seasons fruit. The results of their work will become truly visible in the summertime, when follow up pruning will be required to the restricted forms we were focussing on. I hope the days learning has equipped both groups with the knowledge and confidence to tackle their own fruit trees. Thanks to everyone for attending, and to Bryony for keeping us sustained with delicious homemade cake! Later in the year I will be running a summer pruning course – dates are to be confirmed, get in touch if you’re interested in attending.
Just in the nick of time before the snow arrived, a muddy day was spent this week planting 4000 rootstocks for next year’s nursery. The rootstocks are planted in long, straight rows and in order of vigour – and once grafted in the summer, will produce a diverse variety of trees to suit many different growing sites and requirements. If you’re planning an orchard or agroforestry project, or have a specimen tree you’d like to take propagation material from, I can graft specific varieties to order – with these trees available for the Winter ’24/’25 season.
On the topic of rootstocks, I’ve been exploring the possibility of growing my own from seed, particularly of Pyrus communis (common pear) which is currently not grown within the UK and must be imported. This is a project the Woodland Trust have expressed interest in, as they are now following a strict biosecurity protocol which prohibits importation of trees. Whilst this will see positives in terms of the health of UK woodlands, it sadly means putting many of their agroforestry projects on hold, as the UK fruit tree market is not currently producing rootstocks domestically in sufficient quantities. Increasing resilience and self-sufficiency in agroforestry trees will be a long-term project, but it’s something I’m very interested in working towards with the Trust. Look out for updates.
After a busy few months, this week the snowfall has enforced a moments pause. With the site hushed in its blanket of white, it’s a chance to reflect on the winter season almost at an end, and look forward to whatever Spring has in store for us after the thaw…