Saturday, 1 May 2010

Suppliers of incorrect varieties?

The fruit shown here was supplied on maiden whips labelled as Spartan (left) and Tydeman's Late Orange (right). Both took a very long time to come into fruit, but clearly neither bears any resemblance to the varieties ordered. The red is quite an early September cultivar; the green one is still hard, acid and barely edible even in January, never develops any colour or flush and fruit in full summer sun often develop scorch marks from which brown rot sets in quickly.

When buying fruit trees, it is entirely down the good word of the vendor that the varieties supplied will actually be correctly identified, as it may be quite a few years before maiden whips actually flower and fruit. This is one of the reasons why one chooses a fruit specialist, as planning a fruit garden, especially one with intensively-trained forms, requires specialist knowledge of pollination compatibility and habit of growth. Tip bearers or unusually vigourous varieties will not be happy as cordons so it is particularly important to avoid planting these as anything other than half-standard specimen trees.

One of the main reasons many people appear to become disillusioned with growing fruit is because varieties so often turn out to be not as expected; either too big, self-sterile or incompatible with existing pollination partners. It would not surprise me if large commercial nurseries quite often mis-label fruit trees, but I think it is unforgivable for a so-called specialist nursery to do so. Of the 14 or so varieties of fruit tree and graft-wood I have bought from Deacon's Nursery, 4 were definitely not as described, although it took many years before all came to maturity and could be evaluated. 

I had the foresight to keep the original order receipt for 2 of the wrong trees, and last year send this and photographic evidence of the unidentified varieties to Deacons. My request was not unreasonable; for them to help identify the two apples and resupply graftwood for the varieties I had ordered originally (Tydeman's Late Orange and Spartan), although I think I would probably have been entitled to a full refund for these trees in law. No reply. I emailed several times, and tried calling but the answer phone appeared to be permanently turned on.

They also supplied a cherry labelled as Sunburst, which has turned out to be a yellow, self-sterile variety of very weak growth and medlar graftwood which turned out to be the small-leafed Nottingham (which I already have), rather than the more attractive Dutch.

I think 28% of varieties incorrectly labelled is more than a mere coincidence, and their refusal to engage with customer enquiries is apalling. I mainly graft my own trees with wood from Brogdale now, but if I were buying maidens for a project I'd source them from local enthusiasts or Keeper's Nursery, as I've found Mr Habibi very helpful in the past and the varieties from his nursery have all been correctly identified.

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