Monday 21 April 2014

Multiplying tomatoes

Tomato plants went on sale locally at the beginning of March. We saw the first of them on a stall in Descartes market. A gentleman well seasoned in years with a flat cap and rubicund features turned to me and said bemusedly, 'Tomates?' These plants could only survive even the most favourable early spring in a heated greenhouse, a rare item in these parts.

But then, having sowed our tomato seeds for the year, we found ourselves without 'Lemon Boy', one of our favourites. Instead of buying seed (mail order from Baumaux) we bought a plant from Gamm Vert (5€10 per 3), potted it on and cut the top off. The top went in a glass of water, the rest on the windowsill.

In the space of a couple of weeks, the top has grown roots, making a plant about the size of the growing seedlings. We now have two Lemon Boy plants. Yesterday a side shoot from the mother plant went into the glass with the top, and very soon the Boys will be a threesome. There are six more sideshoots forming on the stem of the mother plant...

The rooted cutting is in front

Little rootlets questing for nutrients

For this technique we have to thank Joe Maiden, then of the Gardening Which trial gardens at Golden Acre Park, Leeds, and still very much of Sunday mornings on Radio Leeds. As GW subscribers we were invited to an open day at the trial gardens, where Joe was in full anecdote. Free tomato plants? Well, why not?

A true Yorkshireman, reet enow - with fans elsewhere in Touraine!

A corner of Golden Acre Park, courtesy of Leeds List

Saturday 5 April 2014

Wait seven years for a pear tree

...and then four come along at once!

Poirier "Beth"

In 2007 we planted two bare rooted pear tree "whips" (first year grafted young trees) in our brand new verger. We collected them from the nurseries of RV Roger in Pickering, North Yorkshire, and brought them to France with us. These were of two historic European varieties so in a way we were bringing them home.

"Catillac" (French) has been in cultivation since 1665. It is also known under the names poirier angobert, poirier gros monarque, poirier chartreuse, poirier trompelaquais, and poirier monstrueuse des landes. The last name hints that it yields big fruit, and it is highly recommended as a cooking pear.


"Glou Morceau", an excellent eating pear, was raised in Belgium in about 1750, "obtained by Abbé Nicolas Hardenpont at Mont-Panisel near Mons". It is also called Beurré d'Arenberg, Beurré d'Aremberg, Beurré de Kent, Beurré Lombard, Délices d'Hardenpont, Délices d'Hardenpont Belge.

Glou Morceau

The next year, we brought over and planted "Beth", a variety raised at East Malling Research Station in 1938 by Tydeman but not given the name of Beth until 1974. Beth is another excellent eater and is widely used as a perry pear. A winner of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, it came highly recommended by Mick Miller, who knows what he is talking about when he is talking fruit. (Just untie the blue nylon rope, Mick.)

Beth has this many flowers!

When in 2011 none of these had flowered, we bought a "Doyenne du Comice" at a graft exchange event held by Les Croqueurs de Pommes de Touraine in Esvres, just to the south of Tours. This affair was bedlam, with grafters working away at tables in front of a scrum of customers, all wanting to be served first. It was impossible to work out what was going on, and anyone who might have been able to help us had been drawn into the melée. So we bought our little Comice from a dealer. It flowers a few days later than the others, and is only just out.

Doyenne du Comice

This year, all four trees are blooming for the first time. The Glou Morceau in particular looks a picture. As if we didn't have enough pear trees, we have bought a graft of "Curé", a vigorous variety from the Berry which was propagated by M. le curé Leroy of the parish of Villiers where he found it in the Fromeneau woods in 1760. It is a more than acceptable table pear and an excellent cooker. A characteristic of this variety is the russet line running down the skin from top to bottom.We watched our new tree being grafted at a session run by Les Amis de la Licherette at the Maillet nurseries run by the redoubtable Mme Claudine Vilaire at Le Puy, near Martizay. More about that in a further post.

Beth, a haunting beauty