31 October 2013
Up the apples and pears to Yorkshire
The West Country wassails of 2013 (and a fortuitous combination
of a cold winter and long, dry summer) must be congratulated for
producing a bumper crop of apples and pears this year. The trees at
Allt-y-bela are laden with both and the apple storage chest is
already full in the granary with plenty more fruit yet to be
This time of year is a particular favourite of mine. As the light fades and the warm early autumnal evenings give way to darker colder ones, the first frosts biting the air, the harvesting of fruit and vegetables and the clearing of the summer borders and beds, is a reminder that the change of season always brings renewal in the garden, and should be celebrated accordingly.
What better way to celebrate this change than with a trip to a favourite nursery to immerse ourselves in apples for the annual Apple Day festivities. Initiated by Common Ground back in 1990 Apple Day is now an annual celebration of apples in all their guises, with events across the UK organised by nurseries, community orchards and gardening clubs at the end of October. The apple is hailed as a symbol of our particular climatic conditions, an ancient fruit which has sustained us through winter months for centuries, and which comes in a dazzling array of shapes, colours, flavours and textures.
We travelled to R V Roger, a specialist fruit nursery in Pickering, North Yorkshire, last weekend to enjoy a wonderful day with friends and nursery visitors, tasting and sampling a number of varieties, old and new. Ian Roger is hugely knowledgeable and so it was a rare treat to spend the day with him chatting about our favourites, new introductions, pruning techniques and a couple of design projects we are working on together.
A few apple varieties caught our eye including Malus domestica 'Gipsy King', a small dessert apple, with a distinct mottled appearance and a wonderful, rich aroma. It is not widely available but is suitable for growing as step-overs, trained or free-growing trees. However, our passion is really pears - we have them arched over the entrances to the kitchen garden at Allt-y-bela and grow varieties suitable for perry-making (in our view a far superior sparkling tipple than its earthy cousin cider!) as well as dessert and cooking pears. We noticed a few unusual varieties at the nursery including the Nashi (Asian) pear 'Koshui', a small bronze-coloured dessert pear which was crying out to be munched (we resisted) and the perry pear 'Gin', again a small fruit with a wonderful rose pink tinge to the skin and an enticing name to boot.
Needless to say that our car left the nursery rather more full (and twiggy) than when it arrived. We will have to find a bit more room in the orchard again this year.