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