Fruit trees. One of my major goals this year has been to get plenty of long term planting done. Completed before construction work starts so that during the busy months/years, the trees and shrubs can establish and start to bear fruit, so that once I move into my house there will already be the startings of an orchard and some decent sized trees, shrubs and hedges to continue my gardens around.
I have spent hours and hours researching fruit tree nurseries in the region, visiting several and perusing websites when I’ve had the chance. Then, by chance, I visited some friends who planted an orchard several years ago. They had an old catalogue from the place where they had bought all their trees and were still excited about the memories of their visit to the nursery.
Pascale explained that one weekend a year the nursery has a exhibition and open day to celebrate fruit trees with demonstrations of planting, pruning and grafting. tastings possibilities for the majority of fruits that are in season, a market area for associated goods and products and, as always at such events in france, the opportunity to eat well and copiously at lunchtime in a marquee dedicated to food.
Since August I have slowly been learning the technical vocabulary to understand this catalogue, dreaming about my orchard and attempting the almost impossible task of reducing the contents of several hundred trees to a manageable number to buy, plant and care for. It’s not even as if I have reference from all the British varieties that I know. Whether they be apples, pears, cherries or grapes, all the names were foreign to me.
I managed to limit my choices to four cherries, four plums/gages, five pears, three hazle nuts, two walnuts, two chestnuts and one quince, though with the apples i reduced the hundred and fifty or so possibles to twenty five and took advice from the knowledgeable staff to finalise my selection to eight varieties. I sent my order ahead of time, in the hope that they would all be available.
To be accurate, it’s not specifically a nursery but a conservation orchard. It’s grand name is ‘Le Conservatoire Vegetal de l’Aquitaine’ and it’s aim it to preserve heritage varieties of orchard fruits, research new varieties, care and pruning techniques in a way that helps the wider environment. The use of mixed species plantings to reduce pest invasions, minimal pruning techniques that stress the plant less, increasing the biodiversity within orchards to aid pollenisation and attract beneficial insects, a whole gammut of ideas that lean towards a more holistic and natural way of caring for our environment.
The date of the exhibition had been in my diary since July and I wasn’t going to miss it for anything.
It was amazing. As described by my friends and more. I was able to taste the vast majority of the apple varieties that I had chosen, plus a couple of pears and walnuts. I made changes to my order without problem. Noted kiwi varieties that were tasty for later on, along with grapes, cherries and other gages that looked good either in the flesh or on posters and was awed by the sheer enormity of the event. Photographs will tell the story .......
|one of several demonstration marquees|
|nice juicy pears|
|small choice of walnuts|
|jam making demonstrations|
|thankfully the organisation was faultless|