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Country diary: Cherry blossom has given way to apple blossom | Virginia Spiers
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Country diary: Cherry blossom has given way to apple blossom | Virginia Spiers

In this cool, damp May, greenery washes across the land, clouding memories of wintry mud and rain. Along the lanes near home, fresh leaves of woody growth on flailed hedge banks merge with bluebells, stitchwort and an array of unfurling ferns – lady, male, buckler and scaly male. These are succeeded by soft shield, hart’s-tongue, and the latest to emerge – the hard fern, reminiscent of pale green fish skeletons.

In the orchard of local and historic fruit varieties – planted, maintained and documented by my brother-in-law and sister – the froth of cherry blossom has faded among the orange-tinged leaves of tall trees, whose broad trunks are encrusted in lichens. James and Mary are uncertain as to whether it has been pollinated yet, but are encouraged to find fruit on the Morwellham and grey cattern pears.

Apple blossom in our orchard, by Mary Martin.View image in fullscreen

Now, the pinks and whites of apple blossom predominate (inspiring hope of better weather beneath today’s welcome blue sky). Early blooms flourish in the shelter of dense hedgerows – as on the multi-grafted spreading branches of Annie Elizabeth, Johnny Voun and wintergreen, and on the red rollo, by the leafy wood underplanted with snowdrops and double white narcissus (contemporary with the orchard, laid out almost 45 years ago). The Zennor beauty is full out in the sun, hardy like its predecessor, found exposed to the sea in west Cornwall.

Very few insects are about, but variable and staggered blossoming times may help pollination. The sack-and-sugar shows full-out flowers on its lower branches, with dark pink buds on the higher twig tips. Beneath the cider apple, pink petals drop on to sweet vernal, plantains and bright speedwell; blossom of the adjoining Plymouth pippin has still to open. Beside the usual paler flowers comes the surprise of crimson petals, on niedzwetzkyana types such as the pendragon, possibly related to a primitive apple from the Tian Shan mountain range in China.

James and Mary’s collection continues to be refined – a Cornish nonpareil was grafted this year, just three feet high and protected from gnawing rabbits by wire netting and old tights. Northwards, near Kit Hill Castle, the first bell tents have been erected in readiness for campers, yet another indicator of optimistic wishes for reliable summer warmth.

Country diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary

Source: theguardian.com