Spring blossom on fruit trees

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Spring is here, although nobody seems to have told the weather department yet. This week's biting easterly wind felt more like standing at a Siberian bus stop than April in an English country garden.

White spring blossom on Prunus domestica 'Count Althann's Gage'Spring is here, although nobody seems to have told the weather department yet. This week's biting easterly wind felt more like standing at a Siberian bus stop than April in an English country garden.

However, the evidence of spring is out there - the trees are blossoming like there's no tomorrow. My children and I gave my wife a small orchard for her birthday in 2000. It always looks gorgeous at this time of year, and gets better every season as the trees mature.

We planted young, whippy trees - a mixture of bog-standard and rare varieties - which are now strapping adolescents, producing more and more fruit each year. It's been one of the most satisfying things we've done in this garden and has, generally, been a success. Although there is one particular apple tree called 'Cornish Aromatic' whose fruit is pretty hopeless. They are few in number and those that survive taste very strongly of surgical lint (some rare apple varieties became rare for the very good reason that they weren't very good).

But I digress: back to blossom. The purpose of blossom (as I'm sure you know) is to attract pollinators and therefore to produce fruit. However, it's also very lovely in its own right. Not all of the trees are yet in flower, but at the moment we can enjoy the following:

Prunus domestica 'Count Althann's Gage': this tree has grown faster than any other in the orchard. There is nothing better than a warm gage straight from the tree. The little orange-tipped stamens on the flowers are like the antennae of butterflies.

Pear 'Fondante d'Automne': one of those annoying pear trees whose fruits are always too hard - except for the perfectly ripe ones that are snaffled by squirrels. However, I'm sure that as it gets bigger there'll be enough to go around. In the meantime, it has gorgeous blossom and wonderful autumn leaves the colour of sunsets.

Pear 'Conference': nothing rare or particularly special about this tree. Good fruit, always reliable (even in slightly damp ground) and with pretty flowers that are, very sensibly, still tucked up, waiting for the weather to improve.

Pear 'Winter Nelis': this is a late fruiter (although we are yet to get much), with the best blossom of all. Pink and white nuggets like freshly washed babies.

There are apples as well, but only Malus 'Egremont Russet' is showing signs of setting flower at the moment, so there should be at least a couple more weeks of enjoyment.

That is without even thinking about cherry blossom (both Prunus 'Taihaku' and P. cerasifera) or, indeed, the glorious amelanchiers.

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Gardeners' World Web User 25/04/2008 at 23:36

My fruit trees have been in about 6 years and I have not yet had much fruit. This year when they have been smothered with blossom they were also covered in snow for 24 hours recently. Has this spoilt any chance of the fruit setting for this year?

Gardeners' World Web User 26/04/2008 at 09:22

You have fruit eating squirrels so do I. I harvested apple cores last year. They know how to avoid my nut baited trap. any suggestions?

Gardeners' World Web User 27/04/2008 at 16:28

I have found little gray bugs on my bay tree on the underside of the leaves. Can anyone tell me what they are and how i can get rid of them. Thank you.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/04/2008 at 16:30

The bugs are probably scale insect or just aphids. If scale insect they live in little hard grey shells under the leaves - scrape off with a finger nail or wipe with a soap based insecticide.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/04/2008 at 17:32

Chris - Squirrels are a pain and there is no foolproof way to stop them unless you feel like mounting a 24 hour guard - but they taste delicious.

Jenny: The blossom should be okay. Snow is much less damaging than hard frost.

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