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Sara Draycott

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Blog from the Orchard, by Jim Arbury, RHS Garden Wisley

Posted by Sara Draycott on 15 May 2013 at 03:46 PM

Hi I am Jim Arbury and this is my first blog. I am an RHS horticultural specialist with a particular interest and experience in fruit growing. I have worked at Wisley for 30 years and so have seen the orchard and fruit gardens through many contrasting seasons. I have been involved with all aspects of fruit growing and in my own time grow vegetables and keep bees.

Fig. 1 Jim Arbury

Blossom time is a critical time in the life of our fruit trees as this year’s crop depends on good pollination. This year the flowering has been about 3 weeks later than has been common in recent years. There is less risk of frost and cold weather when flowering is late and so a better chance of a good crop. However the change from warm to cold weather this week worries me and shows the erratic nature of the weather. The plums, pears and early flowering apples have had better conditions for fruit set than the mid season flowering apples. I walk the orchard frequently to check for pests and diseases and the progress of the crops. So far I have found few aphids which also may relate to the late spring. I am a beekeeper and the bees are needed to pollinate the fruit trees. With a late spring the bees are slow to build up and may need feeding with sugar syrup now the weather has turned cold.


Fig. 2 From the top of the Fruit Mount you get a lovely view of the Belgian Fence of trained apple trees and the apple orchard in the Fruit Field at Wisley.

It is an anxious time for me as a fruit grower but I still appreciate the beauty of the orchard. The flowering of the apples and pears has been some of the best in years and on warm days the scent of the apple blossom is wonderful. The blossom varies from pale white to pink. Some have pink and white blossom such as 'Arthur Turner'. 'Upton Pyne', 'Ross Nonpariel' and 'Winston' are all looking great at the moment. You can check if your trees are flowering at the same time and will pollinate one another. If they do not overlap in their flowering then you may need to choose another to bridge the gap. Remember different cultivars of the same type of fruit are needed to cross pollinate such as two different apple cultivars. 


I took all these photographs today, 15th May 2013, and it demonstrates the different stages of flower that the apples are at - some yet to come into full bloom, others already with their fruits set.


Fig. 3 Early Red Bird fruitlets at petal-fall. This is one of the first apples to flower and subsequently first to set fruit.

 Fig. 4 'Harry Pring' in full bloom

Fig. 5  Spindle bush apples in full bloom


Fig. 6  'Captain Kidd' approaching full bloom 


Nynke said:

Nice to read something about the fruit at the Wisley gardens, they don't get much attention at the website of the RHS, I hope to read more information in this blog, and hope to visit you in October again!

Kind regards,

Nynke from the Netherlands

on 19 May 2013 at 11:44 AM

Sara Draycott said:

Thanks Nynke. I will be keeping you up to date with progress in the Fruit Field and Fruit Gardens, so keep watching. If you're coming in October, try to be here for our Taste of Autumn event. It will be 16-20th October, and is a great chance to see and sample our produce.

on 22 May 2013 at 12:49 PM

Maureen Gardner said:

Hi Sara.  I have just returned to Australia after a wonderful 2 weeks visiting Chelsea, RHS Wisley, Hidcote and lots of other beautiful gardens.  Whilst at Wisley I wanted to photograph all the heirloom apples on the fruit mount but my friends hauled me away!  Do you, perchance, have a list of the apples that bound the spiral walkway up the mount?  I'm wanting to start an heirloom collection in our orchard.  Many thanks, Maureen Gardner, Sydney, Australia

on 31 May 2013 at 10:38 AM

Nynke said:

Hi Sarah, I will be there!

Are the new plum-trees allready planted?

Awful to see how they got harmed two winters ago!

In the books of pears and plums from Jim Arbury, there is a list of the varieties of Wisley in the back.

Is there a list of Wisley's apple varieties?

on 01 Jun 2013 at 08:01 PM

Sara Draycott said:

Dear Maureen and Nynke.  Thanks for your enthusiasm. It makes such a difference to us to know that we have an appreciative audience.  I'll look into your questions and get back to you in a few days when Jim, our fruit expert, is back. Best wishes, Sara

on 05 Jun 2013 at 05:27 PM

Sara Draycott said:

Dear Maureen and Nynke.  I've spoken to Jim and he tells me about half the plums have been planted now.  I have lists of the apples we have at Wisley and those on the Fruit Mount. If you email me at I'll send you the file with the names (at 660 cultivars it's a little too big to list here). Best wishes, Sara

on 10 Jun 2013 at 05:01 PM

Nynke said:

Thank you, Sarah and Jim. Will Jim write a new Blog again soon?

on 17 Jul 2013 at 10:03 PM