The fruit garden became a fruit jungle. This is mostly because of the raspberries, which like to move around. There is also quite a bit of nettle(s), which make it not conducive to casual browsing. The nettles are a good sign actually, since they prefer richer soil. Probably decades of manure from the byre in times past have increased the fertility of the area, although there has been no livestock since we’ve been here. I’ve tried to tame various areas in the past, but am fighting a bit of a losing battle; it looks beautiful for a few months, then nature happens. It is probably the soft herbacious layer that I don’t understand yet and haven’t got the balance for. Hopefully in time I can get the groudcover plants established so that the nettles and docken don’t dominate quite so much. In the meantime I have been pulling these perennial weeds out, sometimes by the root, sometimes not. They will probably come back next year, maybe not as strong, we shall see.
The comfrey still seems to come back in patches where I thought I had removed it. I think if I carry on digging out as much as I can it will eventually give up. In the meantime the lush growth is useful to mulch around the fruit bushes. I’ve got quite a nice patch of strawberries, although they tend to get damaged outside before they get a chance to ripen off. They do much better in the polytunnel. The Toona sinensis seems pretty happy, if not that vigorous. It can be seen sprouting earlier in the year in the strawberry picture above (at least if you know where to look). It is only it’s second year and I haven’t tried eating any yet. It is supposed to taste like ‘beefy onions’, used as a cooked vegetable in China. The patches of Good King Henry have established well. They will stop some weed seedlings coming up next year. The Japanese Ginger is very late coming into growth again, and does not show much signs of being too vigorous in my garden. I just hope it survives and grows enough that I can try that as a vegetable as well. I forgot I had some Oca in by the Ribes Odoratum last year. That seems to have come back of it’s own accord. I have a feeling that Oca volunteers will be as much of a nuisance as potato volunteers tend to be, albeit somewhat less vigorous.
I have mulched around the ‘Empress Wu’ Hosta, which I planted in the trees just beyond the fruit jungle, with cardboard. I wanted to protect it before the grass grew and swamped it too much. The bistort has come back nicely as well this year and set seed, which I just sprinkled close by. I wish now I had sowed the seed in pots so I could determine where to plant out new plants if they grow. I mulched the area between the path and the lower parking area as well. The new large fruited haw there, Crataegus Shraderiana, is growing well, and it is underplanted with a Gaultheria Mucronata cutting and a Mrs Popple Fuchsia cutting. The latter had been growing quite nicely, but unfortunately got broken off once planted, possibly by Dyson sitting on it, or the cardboard shifting against it. It seems to be growing back again OK now.
The original elder bush, which came as a cutting from Solihull is coming into it’s own now. It flowers really well, despite being on the windy side of the willow fedge that protects the fruit garden from the worst of the prevailing winds. It doesn’t seem to have set many berries again though. Hopefully some of the local elder cuttings that I took will cross fertilise it and help a set; it may just be the wind though. It’s worth it’s position just from the blossom and extra shelter it provides, although fruit would also be nice. I used to make a rather tasty cordial from elderberries…..and I read somewhere that it used to be cultivated to make a port-like drink back in the day. Certainly I have drunk some rather good home brewed elderberry wine (not mine I hasten to add).
The rest of the fruit jungle is living up to it’s name. The original rhubarb has provided a batch of jam and a batch of chutney, I could have picked more… The Champagne Early rhubarb are starting to establish well with a lovely pink colouration (I made a batch of rhubarb and ginger liqueur which is maturing as I write), and the Stockbridge Arrow is coming on, although still quite small. The Ribes Odoratum flowered well, although only one berry appears to have set. I will maybe try and take some cuttings from these this winter. They are very pretty while in bloom, although it would be nice to get a bit more fruit from them. The Saskatoon remains a bit disappointing. I was hoping it would be setting fruit better by now. There are a few but not many. It maybe that it requires more ‘chill days’ to flower well, since we have much milder winters here than it would be used to in it’s native North America. A bit of research indicates that the bushes may need pruning, or just be immature. The raspberries are starting to ripen now, and the black currants (all Ben Sarek in the fruit garden) are tempting with a heavy crop, but need a few more days yet. There is also at least one flower on the globe artichoke which is a division from the polytunnel plant (spot it in the top photo after clearing). It is encouraging that it is returning and getting stronger year on year. The cardoon seems to have succumbed this year. I don’t think any of my new seed have germinated, but I may be better getting vegetable branded seed rather than HPS seed, which is more likely to be an ornamental variety – they are rather spectacular in bloom.
All of the apple trees also flowered well. Only the Tom Putt apple seems to have set any fruit though. I’m not too perturbed about that. The Worcester Pearmain is unlikely to ripen anyhow, and the Starks Early (which I grafted myself!) is still very young. Given a halfway reasonable summer however, I am hopeful of getting more than one apple this year. There don’t seem to be any surviving fruit on the Morello cherry unfortunately, which is looking rather tatty.
The monkey puzzles as yet are far too young to expect nuts. They were planted in 2009 and have grown really well in the fruit garden. All three are about twice as tall as I am. By special request from Maureen, I’ll put a photo of one of my monkey puzzle and I above. They are also getting wider in diameter; both in trunk and in branch reach The branches are so prickly this means that the original path at the top of where the fruit tunnel once stood is no longer viable. I therefore need to have another think about path routeing this winter, particularly in the upper raspberry dominated area.