I must have known somewhere at the back of my mind that the RHS had sold off one of their two halls in London, and because of this, I have to admit to being a tad underwhelmed with their latest show in Victoria. Having marvelled at the size of the competition leeks, and gazed at perfectly formed raspberries, there were only a few stalls left to visit.
One of these was the wonderful Sea Spring Seeds, who did offer a marvellous display of Chillis with seeds to match, and I did buy a couple of garlic cloves from the Garlic Farm stall, so all was not lost. But I’d have been a bit miffed if I’d travelled for hours to arrive at this lightly populated show.
However, there was an apple tasting stand, packed full of apples from RHS Wisley, and this was the unexpected gem of the show for me. With the help of a very friendly RHS gardening team, I tasted a few of the most delicious apples I’ve ever come across.
Lord Lambourne, a variety dating back to 1907, had it all. Crispish texture, but with the sweetest of flavours and a beautiful warm russet-red, fading-into-yellow colouring, and a wonderfully fresh aroma (plus it’s a good storer). I brought a few varieties of apples back for a client to taste, and we’re now planning on planting a few Lord Lambourne apple trees as cordons, which will look very decorative in her front garden. This variety, although never seen in the supermarkets, was easy to buy and I’ve plumped for an M26 semi-dwarfing rootstock which should keep the cordon small-ish, but have enough vigour to produce plenty of fruit.
Another supremely sweet apple was ‘Sharon’. However, this is predominantly an American cultivar, so not readily available in the UK. I did discuss with Rebecca Bevan (Fruit manager at RHS Wisley) the possibility of grafting a ‘Sharon’ from RHS stocks, and also started discussing the possibility of apple tree grafting courses at the RHS and creating ‘family’ trees with more than one variety on the same tree. Could I graft a Lord Lambourne, a Sharon,
and a Limelight (another favourite) onto the same tree? Intriguing, and something I’ll have to explore further.
I’m also wondering how a Lord Lambourne would fair trained as a Quincunx and where in the garden could I grow it!
So despite my initial disappointment, the show was an eye opener for me in terms of apples, but I’ll be more vigilant from now on as to the listings of the shows. Next week is the RHS London Shades of Autumn Show, with a big caption under the first image warning that it’ll be held in only one hall. However, offering 20 specialist nurseries this time round, I’ll be tempted once again to make the journey to Victoria.
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