Welcome to 2024! A tad late for a Happy New Year message, but what the heck. Here’s hoping it’s a good year for you and yours, as well as your fruit trees and bushes, your harvest, your cider-, jam-, and jelly-making, and so forth.
I’m very glad to report that my year has started really, really well. Firstly, I finally got to have a go at making Norfolk Biffins. For the past four years this has been something I’ve been really hoping I’d one day be able to do and I had a lot of fun experimenting with the method. The finished results weren’t perfect, but they were perfectly, deliciously acceptable for a first attempt. I look forward to having another go next year, or the year after, assuming my ‘Norfolk Beefing’ tree produces enough apples.
Secondly, my mate Steve and I have been able to make a start on re-organising the cordon apple trees down on the allotment. As I mentioned last month, I’ve decided to remove a stepover and three cordons that were planted years ago, although sadly on the wrong – too-vigorous-for-training, MM106 – rootstock.
Here are the three cordons in all their leafy glory, last September:
The third tree from the right – you can just about make out the main trunks at the bottom of the photo – is a ‘Belle de Boskoop’ that had already been summer pruned – breaking my usual rule-of-thumb – back in June, so that’s all just three months’ worth of re-growth. Ridiculously over-vigorous for the space and the purpose, which is why it, and its two neighbours, plus the ‘Blenheim Orange’ stepover – which made for a great hedge but terrible fruit production – had to come out.
All four trees were cut back hard – top growth and roots alike – before they were lifted, the soil knocked off their remaining roots and the rootballs bagged up. They were then transported up to Holly Mount Community Orchard in Greenmount, north of Bury, where they’ve been added to a few other recently-planted trees. I’m sure, given their general vigour, that if they get enough water and light this year they’ll be re-sprouting in no time, and will re-grow into handsome bush trees in the years to come.
But that’s not the big news. No, the really big news is that, thirdly, after a year and half’s worth of temporary contracts at RHS Bridgewater, I’ve now secured a permanent role as a gardener for the National Trust, at Quarry Bank in Styal.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous site, with plenty of horticultural variability, from trees and shrubberies, to perennial herbaceous planting, to formal mixed perennial and annual borders, to woodland areas, to kitchen gardens, and, the very best bit… lots and lots of fruit growing; orchard spaces, trained trees, fruit bushes, the works.
Here’s a selection of trees from the kitchen garden, the first photo taken on Monday, the second on Tuesday:
And here are a couple from back in December, of a pair of wall-trained trees in the kitchen garden, and a few of the trees in the Apprentice House Orchard:
I’ve only been in post for a week and a half, and there’s another new colleague starting at the end of next month, so I haven’t been assigned any specific areas to manage just yet1Our Head Gardener is very sensibly and very fairly waiting until everyone is in-post before opening discussions and/or handing out assignments. But given my well-known area of interest, ongoing knowledge development, and boundless enthusiasm2Verging on obsession, naturally… for the subject, I’m hoping that my professional future will involve a good amount of fruit growing and orchard management, alongside every other horticultural activity you can reasonably think of, short of large-scale tree-work3We have a team of Rangers for that sort of thing..
Expect a lot more photos from Quarry Bank, particularly of the kitchen garden orchard and wall-trained trees, the Apprentice House orchard, and the other two orchards in Styal village that the NT teams look after. I’ll be posting them here and on Twitter4Nope, I still don’t like ‘X’…, with the hash-tag #NTQBfruit.
Oh, and fourthly, this is the 300th post on Orchard Notes. Which is a nice milestone to pass.
How about you? Is your year going well, so far? Have you got any fruit-growing plans in place? Do let me know, via the comments.
- 1Our Head Gardener is very sensibly and very fairly waiting until everyone is in-post before opening discussions and/or handing out assignments
- 2Verging on obsession, naturally…
- 3We have a team of Rangers for that sort of thing.
- 4Nope, I still don’t like ‘X’…