A happy new year, if anyone ever reads this blog. The new year has started well, with a reasonable amount of stored fruit still left in good condition. We have just finished the last of the Glou Morceau, half way through our box of Josephine de Malines and had the first Santa Claus, good flavour but still fairly hard/crisp on the bottom half, no not quite ready yet. None of the stored pears has shrivelled, despite being stored in open boxes (many recommend wrapping in paper individually, or covering boxes with straw, but I haven't found the need for this so far with late cultivars). We have finished the Rosemary Russet (mainly due to running out as they keep until March), and still have a few Golden Russet left, still vastly superior in flavour to supermarket russets we have bought recently. We finished the last of our own Wolvercote variety on New Year's day and found it fairly soft but still sweet and highly edible, so it's good to know it has quite a long storage life for this kind of apple.
One new year's resolution was to find out about registering plant breeders' rights for what seems to be a promising and fairly unusual garden cultivar. Plant Breeders' rights are controlled by DEFRA, and the information is presented in a typically labyrinthine manner. Having found the application form, it was then impossible to work out the fees. Fortunately DEFRA was swift to answer my email query personally, but the news was not good. There is no amateur category for fruit growers, which mean that the full annual DUS testing fees (a mere £1700 pa) apply, making it virtually impossible to register rights to a variety as an amateur without sponsorship. However, I'm not going to give up. I'll continue trialling it, on a range of rootstocks, and try to build a local market for the fruit, once I have built up sufficient stocks. If it fulfils expectations on yield, health and habit then I'll try looking for sponsorship/partnership with a commercial nursery. But a long way to go before that point.
The second new year's resolution is to find more land to grow build up stock and grow more half-standards and plums. Having contacted or looked at the rules of local allotments, again the news is not good. Most allotments have strict rules about fruit trees. Only the most dwarfing stocks can be used, fruit area must not exceed 33% of the allotment area (even half plots) and you can be asked to remove trees if your neighbour complains. Worst still, many have communal 'orchards', usually with a higgledy, piggledy assortment of donated stuff, and so can't see why anyone would want to have their own carefully chosen and managed trees when they could share a load of surplus rubbish. So, very difficult for the serious fruit enthusiast to make headway in terms of finding land to trial stock, grow on grafted whips to maiden stage or grow enough of a surplus to sell at the local farmers' market. Maddeningly we missed out on the chance to buy a nice, sheltered half-acre of land, partially walled, in the next village which would have been just about affordable. My lupus-like skin condition was just too distractingly painful at the time to focus on anything else. A shame as it would have been ideal, and the west-facing wall would have been ideal for peaches and the more frail continental pear cultivars.
Third resolution is to get an order for graftwood into Brogdale before the end of January deadline, something didn't get round to in 2011 or 2010. The aim is to try to extend the pear season by a month at each end (into July and March-May). Also to try more late-season apples as we really appreciate having our own late varieties at what is quite a bleak time for nice fruit, the empty months between winter and late spring. Hopefully this at least will work out.
For anyone wanting to acquire graftwood from the National Fruit Collection, here are the contact details:
Farm Advisory Services Team Ltd
Crop Technology Centre
Brogdale Farm, Brogdale Road
Faversham, Kent ME13 8XZ
t: 01795 533225 f: 01795 532422
Have also found a new supplier of rootstocks, Blackmoor Nurseries based in Hampshire. I emailed Frank Matthews (who would probably do a rather better deal with trade prices for a large order) but they haven't replied.