Orchards

Golden toffee apples.

IMG_9980Yesterday morning, the sun came out and sparkled on the soaked landscape.  So I took our little dog Harry and sheepdog Sam on the quad bike for a big run around the pinoak paddock.  (Jack doesn’t come, he’s scared of the bike!)  And on the way, we passed the Medlar tree.  Now in its fourth year it is laden with fruit and in the watery light of the morning sun it looked incredibly beautiful.  The medlars are like golden toffee apples and are set off by the Manchurian Pear as it changes colour, and you can just see in the background (pics below) our neighbours pinoaks turning colour in the same amber tones.  Very soon their Pinot Noir vines will also turn to match and the russet tones gather together in an almost perfect autumn painting.  People ask me what we do with the medlars.  And the answer at this stage is nothing.  I just pick them and admire them in a bowl.  In times of old they were valued as a fruit that was available in winter, but you can’t eat them off the tree.  You have to wait till they spoil, either by frost or becoming ‘bletted’ (basically rotten) in storage, then they are considered a delicacy and can be served as a dessert, or as an accompaniment to cheese and port.  An acquired taste, I believe. I’ve never tried them but a friend makes them into Medlar Jelly which I’m told is delicious.   So why grow fruit that you can’t eat?  Because I saw a lovely specimen years ago in the garden of the late Christopher Lloyd, at Great Dixter and it was so beautiful I had to have one.  It has massive blossoms in the spring – almost like magnolia flowers, then this golden fruit in autumn.  When it is bigger I’m imagining great branches of it in a massive floral arrangement and will pass some on to the very talented Margaret Young Whitford to turn into some incredible installation. Which is what she does so brilliantly. And that’s another story for another day. IMG_9979 IMG_9982 bletted_medlar medlar_blossomIMG_1907 IMG_7481 IMG_7493Medlar notes (thank you Wikipedia):

Mespilus germanica, known as the medlar or common medlar, is a large shrub or small tree, and the name of the fruit of this tree. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and is unusual in being available in winter, and in being eaten when ‘bletted’ (browned by rot). It is eaten raw and in a range of dishes.

Despite its Latin name, which means German or Germanic medlar, it is indigenous to southwest Asia and also southeastern Europe, especially the Black Sea coasts of Bulgaria and of modern Turkey. The medlar was already being cultivated about three thousand years ago in the Caspian Sea region of northern Iran and Azerbaijan. It was introduced to Greece around 700 BC, and to Rome about 200 BC. It was an important fruit plant during Roman and medieval times. By the 17th and 18th century, however, it had been superseded by other fruits, and is little cultivated today. M. germanica pomes are one of the few fruits that become edible in winter, making it an important tree for gardeners who wish to have fruit available all year round. Mespilus germanica fruits are hard, acidic, and high in bitter tannins. They become edible after being softened, ‘bletted’, by frost, or naturally in storage given sufficient time. Once softening begins the skin rapidly takes a wrinkled texture and turns dark brown, and the inside reduces to the consistency and flavour reminiscent of apple sauce. This process can confuse those new to medlars, as a softened fruit looks as if it has spoiled.

Once bletted, the fruit can be eaten raw, and are often eaten as a dessert, for example with cheese or tarts, or used to make medlar jelly and wine. Another dish is “medlar cheese”, which is similar to lemon curd, being made with the fruit pulp, eggs, and butter. In Iran, the fruits, leaves, bark and wood of the tree have been used as medicines for ailments including diarrhoea, bloating of the stomach, throat abscesses and fever.

Mespilus germanica requires warm summers and mild winters and prefers sunny, dry locations and slightly acidic soil. Under ideal circumstances, the deciduous plant grows up to 8 metres (26 ft) tall. Generally, it is shorter and more shrub-like than tree-like. With a lifespan of 30–50 years, the medlar tree is rather short-lived. The leaves are densely hairy and turn red in autumn before falling. It is found across Southern Europe where it is generally rare. It is reported to be naturalized in some woods in Southeast England, but is found in few gardens.
The flowers have five broadly ovate white petals and appear in late spring. They are hermaphrodite, pollinated by bees, and self-fertile. The flower is about 6 centimetres wide and the reddish-brown fruit is a pome, 2–3 centimetres diameter, with wide-spreading persistent sepals around a central pit, giving a ‘hollow’ appearance to the fruit.

 

Advertisements

A perfect pear.

IMG_9854One of my (many) goals for The Potting Shed is to provide an outlet for local artists and craftsmen.  So I was delighted when this lovely pear was carried through the gate by a former Sydney jetsetter, now semi-retired and living in the Highlands.  He loves working with steel he explained, as a hobby,  and would I be interested in some of his pieces to sell at The Potting Shed. Yes indeed, I said and next day he pulled up in his ute and showed me a beautiful obelisk he had made for his wife, the legs still covered in dirt fresh from her rose garden!  Elegant and perfectly proportioned, it was just what I had been looking for, for my own garden.  And therefore I was sure it would be ideal for The Potting Shed. Off you go, I said.  Make me more.  And so I am waiting for the ute to pull up again, hopefully this week, with more steel woven magically into art by this George Clooney lookalike, who prefers to remain anonymous.  I’ll let you know when more goodies arrive – but in the meantime, if you’re looking for a special piece for your courtyard, orchard or on a table in a conservatory, this pear is simply, quietly stunning.  It is, as a friend and seasoned collector noted, ‘just right’.

IMG_9852 IMG_9853

About a pig.

IMG_8649
IMG_8642
IMG_4550If you walk south from our house, across the lawn, under the Chinese Elms, past the pond and through the hedge to the orchard, you come to Pigley’s House.  There she lives in luxury with the 6 Boer goats we bought to keep her company – Leisl, Gretel, Scarlett, Evie, Fleur, and Matilda.  All is usually happiness and bliss in this part of the world, but recently Pigley split one of her hooves and has been limping, so the vet has been called and she will be sedated in order for a manicure to be conducted!   Not easy to trim the toenails of a 150kg pig and to keep her still for the procedure lots of sedative is required, so the lovely girl at the surgery explained.  At great expense I might add, but what can one do?  A lame pig is not a happy sight.   So before leaving for work yesterday morning, like a guilty mother over-compensating for a sick child, I gave her a treat to take her mind off her sore toe. In the pantry I had spotted a packaged pavlova (I know, I know!) which had been invaded by ants …  and this, added to a large bowl of porridge, was delivered to the patient.  Blissful grunting and groaning followed as Pigley gulped her way through the delicious treat.  Then last night after work, still worried about her wellbeing, I raced over to see how she was coping and took with me the remains of a tub of ice cream I had spied in the freezer, past its prime and with Pigley’s name on it.  She trotted swiftly over (lameness momentarily forgotten) and the still evening air was split by the joyful smacking of lips and gleeful mutterings as her giant snout licked hungrily for ages at the remains of the tub.  She is a big pig with a big personality.  
Pigley  was sold to us as a ‘miniature’ pig and from the moment we carried her home from the Burrawang Markets she owned us … never the other way around.   We were conned.  Nothing miniature about this Berkshire piglet.  And, no-one bothered to explain the bit about bottle feeding her every 15 minutes … for 3 months!  If food wasn’t instantly forthcoming she would squeal at the top of her lungs until she got action. I had to take her everywhere, even to Sydney in a little carry crate. Eventually I rigged up a bottle on a chair on the deck so she could feed on demand. We called it the ‘piglet cafe’. She adopted our sheepdog Sam as a surrogate mother and snuggled up each night beside him.  She grew and grew and grew and grew. Soon, too big for the house, we moved her out to live with the chickens and she had a lovely little kennel of her own.  This she quickly outgrew and a bigger kennel was found.  Again, she soon became wedged in the opening. So a new shed was built in the house paddock and she was  transferred over to live with the sheep.  But she hated it and there was no doubt she was quite lonely on her own … she never related to the sheep and was friendless and upset.  Around about then a notice at  the local produce store advertised Boer goats so a call was made and they arrived as cute as buttons on a little truck.  Instantly they bonded with Pigley and a love affair began.  They all sleep together in a large mass of white and tan and black bodies snuggled in Pigley’s giant straw bed.  
This morning I delivered another large bowl of porridge as a last little snack before fasting begins tonight prior to sedation.   I’m incredibly anxious about the whole procedure … what if something goes wrong? I can’t bear to think about it. Instead I must just think about how much happier she’ll be when her feet are in order. Until you’ve known (owned) a pig, you cannot understand their compelling personality and extraordinary intellect, which is ranked second only to dolphins in the animal kingdom.  Winston Churchill knew about pigs. He famously said:    ‘Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal.’     
I’ll keep you posted about the pedicure. 
IMG_8639IMG_8674 IMG_8688 IMG_8716
IMG_1116
IMG_8750 IMG_8861 IMG_8966
IMG_8745 IMG_9155 IMG_9430
IMG_4812
IMG_4556

A living gift.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are popping in to The Potting Shed to pick up potted herbs or flowers to give as gifts when they visit friends or meet for lunch. It’s a lovely idea –  the gift lasts a long time and the pot can be filled again and again with some other treasure.  My garden is filled with plants given to me by friends – one friend in particular practically transferred her entire garden to mine!  Generous boot loads of treasure would arrive week after week, month after month as I started out creating our garden from a bare paddock and she simplified and streamlined hers.  Now, years later we enjoy beds of irises, borders of agapanthas, under plantings of ajuga, hellebores and violets, drifts of catmint, paths bounded by daffodils, hyacinths and tulips,  wonderful blocks of euphorbia, penstemons, salvias and scabiosa, orchards of citrus and barrels of rhubarb all started out from bags and boxes and snippings and clippings of these gifted plants.  Another lovely friend and neighbour gave me, some years ago, another type of living gift … a basket of heirloom varieties of garlic she had grown, harvested and labelled.  Not only was it delicious, I kept a clove of each and planted them and I’m still harvesting them year after year.  One needn’t spend a lot of money on a gift … just a little thought … and time. And that gift keeps on giving for years and years and years. How perfect is that! _MG_4547

IMG_4556

IMG_5862 IMG_5927 IMG_5931 IMG_5932 IMG_6112 IMG_6118 IMG_6120 IMG_6164 IMG_6166 IMG_6301 IMG_6358

Today in my garden

apple_rain

The apples are bursting into life and I’m wishing I’d been more organised and ordered the heritage apples I plan to espalier around the fences enclosing the vegetable garden.  Now it will have to be next winter.  Inspired by the extraordinary orchard at RHS Wisley, I am planning an exciting display of old English and French cultivars.  First on my list was the famous Cox’s Orange Pippin which will fruit for the first season this year. It is widely regarded as the finest of all dessert apples.  Cox’s Orange Pippin  ‘Pippin’ is an old English word derived from the French word for ‘seedling’. The same word can be seen in the modern French for a plant nursery or garden centre – ‘pepiniere’. Like many old apple varieties Cox’s Orange Pippin was discovered as a chance seedling.  If you would like to research this further, here’s a link to the Heritage Fruits Society www.heritagefruitssociety.org.au/

About the Heritage Fruits Society

The Heritage Fruits Society is based in Melbourne, Australia. Their aim is to conserve heritage fruit varieties (also known as ‘heirloom fruits’) on private and public land.  They enable and encourage society members to research this wide range of varieties and to inform the public on the benefits of heritage fruits for health, sustainability and biodiversity.
You can read about their history here and you can find their list of heritage apples here.

A list of some of the Heritage/Heirloom apples you might like to consider from Petty’s Orchard in Templestowe, Victoria, Australia.  It is one of Melbourne’s oldest commercial orchards, and it holds the largest collection of heritage/heirloom apple varieties on mainland Australia, with more than two hundred varieties of old and rare apples. The maintenance of the apple tree collection is done by Heritage Fruits Society volunteers. Anyone can come and help. Find out more!

Petty’s Orchard Complete Heritage Apple Collection

Abas

Akane

Albany Beauty

Alexander

Alfriston Mother (=American Mother)

Andre Sauvage Antonovka Kameniohka

Atlanta

Autumn Tart

Baldwin

Ball’s Seedling

Barry

Bashfort

Batman’s Tree

Batt’s Seedling

Baumann’s Reinette

Beauty of Bath

Beauty of Stoke

Bec D’Oie

Bedford Pippin Cross

Bedfordshire Foundling

Belle de Boskoop

Belle de Magny

Berner Rosen

Bismarck

Blenheim Orange

Blue Pearmain

Bonza Boy’s Delight

Bramley’s Seedling

Breakwell’s Seedling

Brittle Sweet

Brown’s Apple

Browns Pippin

Bulmer’s Norman

Buncum

Butters Early Red

Carolina Red June

Cataignier

Cayuga

Cayuga Redstreak

Chandler

Cimetiere du Pays

Cleopatra

Climax

Coldstream Guard

Cornish Aromatic

Cornish Gilliflower

Cox’s Orange Pippin

Cox’s Orange Pippin Red

Cox’s Pomona

Cranberry Pippin

Crofton

Crofton Red

Dabinett

Delicious

Caldicott

Delicious Glen Vimey

Delicious Hi Early

Delicious Richared

Delicious Starkrimson

Democrat

Democrat (Black)

Devonshire Quarrenden

Dewdney’s Seedling

Discovery Doctor Hogg

Dunn’s Seedling (Monroe’s Seedling)

Duquesne

Early Victoria

Edward VII

Edwards Coronation

Eggleton Styre

Egremont Russett

Eldon Pippin

Ellison’s Orange

Emneth Early (=Early Victoria)

Esopus Spitzenburg

Esopus Sptizenburg

Fameuse (=Snow Apple)

Fenouillet Gris

Forfar Pippin

Forge

French Crab (=Winter Greening)

Freyberg

Frost

Fuji

Gala

Geante D’Exposition

Geeveston Fanny

Geoff’s Tree

George Carpenter

George Neilson

Gildering Sage D’espagne

Gladstone

Golden Delicious

Golden Harvey (=Brandy Apple)

Grandmere

Granny Smith

Gravenstein

Gravenstein Early

Grosseille

Hollow Crown

Holly

Hubbardton Nonsuch

Hyslop Crab

Ida Red

Improved Foxwhelp

Irish Peach

Isaac Newton’s Tree

James Grieve

Jaunet

Jerseymac

Jonagold

Jonared

Jonathan

Jonathan Red

Jongrimes

July Red

Keswick Codlin

Kidds Orange Red

King Cole

King David

King of the Pippins

King of Tompkins County

Kingston Black

Kirk’s Seedling

Lady Finger

Lady William

Lalla

Laxton’s Fortune

Laxton’s Superb

Legana

Lodi

London Pippin (Five Crown)

Lord Derby

Lord Lambourne

Lord Nelson

Lord Suffield

MacIntosh Early

Magnolia

Maigold

McIntosh Early

Melba

Melrose

Merton Worcester

Michelin

Minjon

Monarch Cross

Monroe

Murray Gem

Mutsu

Newtown Green Pippin

Nickajack

Norfolk

Northern Spy

Opalescent

Orange de per

Orleans Reinette

Ortley (=Cleopatra)

Peasgood’s Nonsuch

Pine Golden Pippin

Pittmaston Pineapple Fameuse (=Pomme de Neige)

Poor House

Potts’ Seedling

Prima

Prince Alfred

Prince Edward

Queen Cox

Quinte

Ranger

Red Astrachan

Red Delicious

Red Granny Smith

Red Winesap

Red Winter Pearmain (=Buncombe)

Reinette d’Angleterre

Reinette du Canada

Reinette Musque Rheinette de Macon

Rhode Island Greening

Ribston Pippin

Rokewood

Rome Beauty

Roundway Magnum Bonum

Rous La Tour

Royal Jubilee

Saint Edmunds Pippin

Saint Edmunds Russet

Scarlet Nonpariel

Scarlet Staymared

Scotia

Spartan

Splendour

Starkes Earliest

Starking Hi Early

Statesman

Stayman’s Winesap

Stewart’s Seedling

Summer Strawberry

Sunbury Late

Sundowner

Sweet Coppin

Symond’s Winter

Twenty Ounce

Tydeman’s Early Worcester

Upton Pyne

Vista Bella

Winter transparent Early

Woolbrook Russet

Worcester Pearmain

Yarlington Mill

Yates