Gardening is always a leap of faith. We experiment, plant with bucketfuls of optimism, as well as manure, and hope for the best.
In this garden I have planted lots of fruit and, so far, the results have been slight. Of course, tree fruits are always a long-term proposition and you can’t expect too much too soon. The apples would probably have cropped more earlier but I was a bit ruthless in the pruning in the early years to encourage a bushy habit. Cold weather in spring and hungry birds can all conspire against us too.
But I am hoping and, dare I say, expecting, more this year. The row of pears, plums and cherry trees has so far provided little more than tragedy and not a single fruit. But maybe this year.
I am most optimistic about plum ‘Lizzie’. This poor little tree has had a tough start in life. I bought it in 2016 and it spent a year on the allotment in Cambridgshire before it was potted and brought to Ireland. There it remained for a couple of years till finally planted here in 2019. I was rather concerned when it dropped its leaves early last year but it has been covered in bloom this week. This maybe its swansong – trees often flower profusely just as they are about to snuff it – but I will try to be uncharacteristically upbeat.
This is a Japanese plum – Prunus salicina – and is supposed to have heavy crops of small fruits with red flesh, and very sweet. It does flower ridiculously early, though it is said to be self fertile and the flowers are reportedly resistant to frost. But the pretty white flowers have been greeted by several nights of severe frost and the past few, wet and windy days will be a severe test. I am not expecting a great crop, but we will see.
I have several other plums which are starting to show signs of colour. The buds are swelling. Because there are four other plums and a damson, I hope that they will pollinate each other and, failing that, the surrounding sloes in the hedges will do the job. The trees were too young to bloom last year but it looks like we may get flowers this year so maybe some fruit too.
In the polytunnel the peach has started to open its pink flowers. When we get some sunny days and the anthers start to release pollen I will start to go over the flowers every day and pollinate them. Peaches are self fertile but the bees are often not very active when the flowers are open and hand pollination, to move the pollen around, is beneficial. As usual, I can’t find my little paintbrush so I have scraped off some fur from the cat brush and it looks perfect for the job – old gardeners would use rabbit tails – and at least she will be making a useful contribution to the garden for a change!