Saturday, 19 April 2008

Blossom Time

Today has been quite chilly, but this is ideal weather for a spot of digging in the orchard. When we moved to Middleton we inherited a small orchard which had been somewhat neglected over the years. The ground had become overgrown with all kinds of perennial weeds, nettles, brambles, and worst of all a choking ground cover of Ivy. I decided that the only answer was to painstakingly dig out all the weeds, level the ground, and re-seed with grass. It's been a long job, but we're nearly there now.

The numerous apple trees around the village are in varying states of growth at the moment, and I spent a pleasant few minutes photographing the emerging blossom. I never tire of snapping apple and pear blossom, it just looks so delicate and pretty at this time of year.

The open blossom in this picture is from one of the old cooking apple trees in the village orchard. This little haven for wildlife provides us with a few sharp apples for the cider in October, but it's in a very sorry state. The trees are covered in ivy, and the high winds we experienced last year has unfortunately felled one of the apple trees. This now lies untidily across the partially demolished wall separating the orchard from the roadside. It still produced a healthy crop of apples last year, and is laden with blossom now, but quite what will become of it remains to be seen. The local council have so far shown no interest in maintaining this land, though it has been suggested that the orchard could become a 'Pocket Park'. I think this would be a great solution, and I would happily volunteer to help maintain this neglected village asset.

Whilst examining the blossom on one of these trees, I noticed a ladybird snuggled in the centre. This one looks suspiciously like a Harlequin Ladybird, an invading foreigner which may be about to out-compete our native ladybirds. I took a snap and have forwarded the details to The Harlequin Ladybird Survey for identification.

Back in our orchard the buds on the Bramley are on the cusp of bursting into flower. I was a little disappointed to spot an aphid sucking away at one of the buds, even in this cold weather when other insect life is scarce in the garden. The cider apple trees are all later flowering, but I've included a picture of the topmost bud ready to burst forth and extend the central leader growth. Even the new Tremlett's Bitter trees are showing signs of growth, despite the recent trauma of planting out.

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