Straw hats and apple trees

First day back at the nursery since Christmas and, I have to confess, there was a certain amount of feet dragging and grumbling on my part. I know, I know, everyone else has been back at work for ages and I should count my blessings and I do. You may be forgiven for thinking I used my free time productively, tidying sheds, finishing greenhouses, ordering seeds, alas I did not. No, as you may have noted from previous blogs I indulged myself in watching Monty Don’s French gardens and other fabulous programmes from the warmth and comfort of my sofa. All the above jobs are still to be done but now squeezed into a few days when I am not at work, or running the school gardening club that I have somehow found myself volunteering for. Eek!

Arriving in the nursery I was pleasantly surprised to find it a cheerful, colourful place, brimming with golden yellow tete a tete, an array of primroses and bright pink camellias. I was even more delighted to discover an absolute bargain, namely a couple of fan trained fruit trees reduced to a tenner each. I hastily baggsied the last two apple trees and am hoping, with anxious anticipation, that a certain Mrs Ruskin forgets to come and collect the trained pear and plum trees she has put to one side. If she does, they too will be mine.

Trained fruit trees are perfect for the small edible garden. I used several in my first RHS back to back garden where I trained them onto the hazel hurdles that formed the boundary of the design. These gardens measure 6 metres by 4 metres and I had four fruits trees in mine! I have been meaning to recreate this compact method of planting in my own garden but instead of planting against hurdles I intend to build a simple wire structure, running along the edge of a path, on which to train the branches.

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My two new apple trees will be under-planted with chives as  old garden lore suggests that planting these plants together will discourage scab and I love companion planting so will give it a go. The proposed planting area has chives already flourishing. I adore the profusion of purple pom-poms that are produced throughout summer, not just gorgeous to look at but great for beneficial insects and the edible flowers can be tossed into a salad. Keep chopping the chives and adding them to butter and cheese for a mild onion flavour and fresh leaves will keep coming.

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And the straw hat? All this talk of apple trees has put me in a Cider with Rosie frame of mind. A cool glass of home-made cider savoured on a summer’s afternoon, whilst peering out lazily from under the brim of a languid straw hat. What better way to spend a day………