New fruit

by Emma Cooper

2012 hasn’t been the best year for fruit, with late frosts, drought and downpours combining to reduce harvests across the country. But the nice thing about gardening is that there’s always next season. Winter is the traditional time to think about planting new fruit trees and bushes, and there’s a bumper crop of new varieties to choose from this year.

Fruit Trees

Columnar trees are perfect for small gardens, whether you plant them in the ground or in a pot on the patio. They need a little routine pruning to keep them in shape and some careful watering in hot weather (especially trees in pots), but otherwise, these fruit trees need minimal attention, look fabulous and give you a good harvest to boot.

Malini LU 72/06

Suttons has a new columnar apple tree on offer this autumn. Malini LU 72/06 produces glossy red dessert apples that are ready for harvest at the end of August. It grows on an M26 rootstock, which means it won’t get taller than two metres and it can be planted in a large container (at least 30 litres). The fruits have a delicious sweet and sour flavour and the tree is resistant to both apple scab and fireblight.

Bella Bionda Patrizia

Another new apple introduction this season from Suttons is Bella Bionda Patrizia. It’s also grown on an M26 rootstock so it’s suitable for small gardens. Its pale fruits, which ripen in late September or early October, are said to be an improvement flavour-wise on Golden Delicious and are good for storing. A slightly sweeter and earlier cropping alternative is Bella Bionda Marylin, available from Dobies of Devon. If you have the space for more than one tree, choosing varieties that ripen at different times will extend the harvesting season.

All three apple trees cost £24.99 each and are available for delivery now.

'Sibley's Patio'

If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, then D.T. Brown has introduced a mini medlar that will happily grow in the ground, or in a pot. ‘Sibley’s Patio’ medlar was developed by fruit expert Will Sibley, and after four seasons’ growth in a sunny spot will reliably provide 30 full-sized fruits every year, from late September onwards. Medlars are traditionally harvested while they’re still firm, and then left to ‘blet’ indoors for a month or so until they soften; the flavour is described as being similar to spiced apple. Medlars are easy to look after but their quirks mean that they’re not a commercial crop, so if you want to taste them, you’ll have to grow your own!

If you keep your medlar in a container then you’ll need to repot it, and trim the roots, every three years to keep it happy. ‘Sibley’s Patio’ medlar costs £29.95 and trees will be dispatched from this month onwards.

'Madeleine des Deux Saisons'

Although fig ‘Madeleine des Deux Saisons’ is new to the Thompson & Morgan catalogue, it’s a variety with a venerable history as it was planted at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV. A very hardy fig, it bears large fruits weighing up to 120g with pink flesh and a very sweet flavour. In a hot summer, and with a little winter protection, you can get two crops in one season. Trees naturally grow to several metres, but they can be kept smaller by planting them in pots (repotting every other year), or by training them against a wall. A tree costs £32.99.

Soft Fruit

Pinkberry

There are also some exciting new varieties of soft fruit on offer this autumn. A fun new introduction is the Pinkberry or blueberry ‘Pink Lemonade’ – essentially a pink blueberry, with fruits that are twice as sweet. Plants have a bushy, upright habit, bell-shaped flowers in the spring which gradually develop into bright pink fruits by August or September and leaves that turn bright orange in the autumn. You’ll need a sunny spot plus acid soil or ericaceous compost in a pot. The plant is available from Thompson & Morgan, Suttons, D.T. Brown and Blackmoor Nursery.

'Polish Raspberry'

Dobies of Devon has a new rhubarb, ‘Polish Raspberry’, that’s a good choice for containers. It produces plenty of stems which have a nice flavour and freeze well. Three bare root crowns cost £14.99. To grow rhubarb in a container – use the largest pot you can and feed and water well. In the ground, rhubarb needs a square metre of space, but will tolerate some shade so you can save your sunny spots for other fruits. Only take a light harvest in the first year so plants can establish themselves.

'Whiteberry'

Two new strawberry varieties that have been developed at East Malling Research are available to the public for the first time this autumn. D.T. Brown has a white strawberry (not a pineberry) selected for its sweet flavour that has a hint of pineapple. Like any other strawberry, it’s great for small gardens and containers and the birds are unlikely to steal those white fruits! A pack of five runners costs £6.95. Provisionally labelled simply as ‘Whiteberry’, D.T. Brown is inviting customers to give this new berry a proper name, with a prize on offer for the winning suggestion.

'Malling Centenary'

Strawberry ‘EM1764’ has been provisionally named ‘Malling Centenary’, as East Malling Research is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2013. This is a mid-season strawberry, again chosen for its superb flavour. It bears uniform, conical fruits with a lovely red colour. And it’s high yielding, with crops of up to 454 g per plant. Malling Centenary is on offer from Suttons, Thompson & Morgan and Dobies of Devon, with a pack of 12 runners priced at around £13.

 

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