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Archive for the ‘Pears’ Category

Trained Ivy at Prieure D'OrsanSomehow after our summer holiday I just didn’t get to writing about Prieuré D’Orsan, but you may well have caught a glimpse of this gorgeous boutique hotel/garden (in Central France) on Monty’s visit for the BBC earlier this year.

This image just hasn’t left my head though, and I’ve been wondering if my wayward Solanum (scrambling up the back of the house) would take to being trained in a similar fashion. Probably not, probably a bit too loose and gangly (even if I could make it up the ladder to trim it). But I’d love to have a go at repeating the almost 2D simplicity of this heart-somewhere!Quince tree and chair at Prieure D'OrsanThere’s so much fantastic training and shaping going on at Prieuré D’Orsan. Nature has been constricted, controlled and cajoled, creating a myriad of desirable sculptural forms, whilst still providing an abundance of fruit. Quite remarkable, especially as this garden was a blank canvas only 20 years ago.

I thought I was getting a bit fancy with my attempt at training a quince tree into a fan shape, but this amazing specimen has been trained as a calming retreat over a woven chair. How bloomin’ delightful is that!

Quince chair at Prieure D'OrsanHere’s a side view, with more evidence of  fruit actually being produced, ready to be plucked after a nice shady sit-down.

Roses trained around small frame at Prieure D'OrsanVisiting later in the year meant that I didn’t get to see most of the roses in flower, but I did see plenty of ideas to take away with me.

Roses trained around large square frame at Prieure D'OrsanWhatever the structure, roses are twirled and twisted and this is certainly a way of training that I plan to experiment more with next year.

Ramblin rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'OrsanThis ‘Seagull’ rose is a fairly rampant rambler, reaching up to 20ft high if left to its own devices,

Rambling rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'Orsan

but curling and crossing stems should supply masses of flowers within this tightly contained framework. All very labour intensive, but what a labour of love (and devotion!). I was watching Carol Klein’s cottage garden episode on the Great British Garden Revival last night (you can catch up with it here), and I must admit to being a complete sucker for loose edges and flowing ebullient borders. Compared to such gentle cottagey planting,  there’s a severity to this garden (with more than a nod to its monastic past) that made me wander round in a respectful hush and a contemplative mood.

Playful supports for veg at Prieure D'Orsan

However, the supports and sculptural additions to the garden are bold and strangely playful and rather uplifting in their simple restraint.

Flower meadow at Priuere D'Orsan

Having said all that, there was a mini (well not that mini!) meadow tucked around the back behind the hotel, bringing in essential pollinators and a refreshing splash of colour.

Veg and flowers at Prieure D'OrsanThe veg patch was, not surprisingly, well-ordered and contained too,

Chunky veg beds at at Prieure D'Orsan

 and I couldn’t help admire the chunky beds and generous supports, packed full of glossy healthy veg.

Frames for roses at Prieure D'OrsanOn the way out, you can pick up your own beautifully crafted rose supports,

Trained apples and vines at Prieure D'Orsanand admire yet more trained fruit trees,vines

Bird box in trained vine at Prieure D'Orsanand even the odd invitation to nature. Prieuré D’Orsan-I’ll be back!

P.S. I couldn’t resist adding some of the gorgeous seats dotted around the garden too.

Chair woven arpound tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 2 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 4 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair unde apple tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 1 at Prieure D'Orsan

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The last time I sojourned on the East Anglian coast was in West Mersea in Essex last June, and I was interested to see which plants would be flowering later in the year as summer starts to move into autumn.

Above is the glorious Holkham beach on the north Norfolk coast. A true antidote to London with its huge skies and endless sandy walks (and supplying handfuls of razor shells which will make fantastic plant labels for next year’s sowings in spring).

Well into September and Valerian is still giving great shows of colour just down the coast in Blakeney,

although hollyhocks and roses are definitely at the tail end of their flowering season.

It was good to see a new generation of these flouncy beauties lining up in preparation for duty next year.

Despite the sandy soil, roses seems to thrive right by the sea, and even their hips offer a gorgeous contrast in texture and colour to this yellow Verbascum.

A few miles inland in a village called Binham, I had to do a quick u-turn in the car to gaze a bit longer on this wondrous espalier pear tree.

It was absolutely dripping with fruit and I wished I’d knocked at the door now to find out how old the tree was and who looked after this beautiful specimen, growing in such a surprising public space!

Back to the coast and Erigeron karvinskianus was climbing out of walls nearby what I think is its slightly larger clump forming relative Erigeron ‘Azure Fairy’. Jolly lovely combination.

And seemingly growing out of a bit of moss by a none too gorgeous drain, was this delicate white cyclamen. I wonder if it will be forming a bulb under all that concrete?

And finally, this lovely common chicory was doing its horizontal best along a coastal pathway,

whilst a blackbird filled up on elder and hawthorn berries in a wind breaking hedgerow. I certainly do love to be beside the seaside, although I might need a lovely walled garden if I wanted to grow some of my favourite flowers and veg.

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Quincunx trained fruit tree

Last weekend, armed with my trusty secateurs, I braved the icy winds and ventured out of the big city to West Dean Gardens near Chichester in W.Sussex. Thought I’d booked myself on to a pruning course, but in fact the ‘Training trees and shrubs’ course encouraged only a minimal use of secateurs when working in the garden.

Through scientific explanations and a series of botanical slides, Paul Templeton introduced the whys and wherefores of training trees. By mid morning tea break, brains were whirring as different training methods were described which could replace the overuse of secateurs, encourage fruiting and restrict growth on trees and shrubs. Mind blowing, but totally making sense at the same time. It’s a vast topic and I hope I can fully reflect how exciting and thought-provoking the day was. Above in both pics is a fruit tree (pear I think), trained into a Quincunx form. What a beautiful thing! Only a few snips of a secateur are required to form this impressive shape, and the rest is done with timely manipulation of the tree stems into different directions to control all growth and fruiting.

Above is another pear tree trained into the 12 Apostles form. Paul explained that as branches are carefully coaxed away from the vertical into 45 degrees or the horizontal, the tree’s growth is turned from juvenility into its reproductive stage, hence slowing down growth and producing more fruit. Finally turning a branch straight down towards the ground should halt all growth, without a pair of secateurs in sight.

Each time the stem of tree is cut, 5 new stems will appear and unless carefully managed, either by training or removing new growth buds with your thumbs, unwanted new stems will grow. Subsequent pruning to control this new growth will cause the end of the branches to proliferate into a bushy mass. I know, as I’ve done this many times before! By reducing pruning, less new growth is encouraged and the tree produces more fruit.

I asked Paul what I could do with a mammoth Choisya that I’m forever reducing in size by pruning, and therefore constantly encouraging new bushy growth. He advised pruning the roots, or underground branch system, instead. Normally these underground branches will spread twice as wide as the crown of a tree or shrub. The reduction of these underground branches should cause above ground branches to cease extending. A very good thing to know and a practice I shall most definitely be putting into use come spring and summer.

Other methods to control growth and encourage fruiting that we touched on were ringing, notching, snapping, bending and tying down. Having attempted these amazing techniques on pieces of willow, a little more practice may be needed before being let loose on other people’s gardens, but practice  and perfect I will do, as alternative methods to pruning seem an eminently sensible way to go when looking after your trees and shrubs.

More excitement followed as we started  to discuss the charming nineteenth century Pomologist (fruit tree grower-lovely word) Thomas Rivers and his methods of growing fruit trees in fairly small (18inch) pots. From his very readable book ‘The Miniature Fruit Garden’ (available free to download), a publisher quotes Thomas Rivers as saying “It must be recollected that pears on quince stocks are strictly garden trees, and not adapted to orchards” and follows on by adding, ‘Those who only have a limited space and wish to grow pears, apples and other fruits, can, by the system of pinching and root pruning combined, keep as small as pot specimens’. Music to my ears (as a spaced-starved Londoner) and with bare-rooted fruit trees still available until March, I’m now planning my own miniature fruit garden starting with pear and quince trees in pots. Each year the tree is removed from the pot and the roots are pruned by 50 per cent. The tree is then replanted with fresh soil and as this is repeated year after year, the fruit tree can always remain in a small pot but will continue to produce plenty of fruit. Fantastic!

And as if that wasn’t enough, there were more discussions on root stocks, dig/no dig, whether trees should be planted directly into soil without any additional compost or not, summer as the best time to prune ALL trees, and Paul’s absolute belief that mulching with manure and compost is a bad thing. The course was then rounded off with a session of training trees and shrubs by bending and tying down (easiest when at their most pliable) and a little light knot tying. What a day!

There’s still more which I haven’t managed to squeeze in, but Paul has a tree training website with much more detail on it and most definitely worth a visit.

Looking forward to visiting West Dean again later in the year to see how these trees develop and fruit throughout the seasons. Heard there’s an ace kitchen garden too, so doubly worth another trip out of London.

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