I decided this year that I would get someone else to prune my fruit trees. Generally I do it myself. Inside my head, I know exactly what I should be doing. And what I do, I think I do quite well. But all the time I’m lopping, I’m thinking about aesthetics. It’s a big hurdle. I thought, therefore, that a more practical mind might be better placed to leap over it.
Of course I didn’t give Marco free rein. It was good for him, I think, to have me beside him groaning with every cut: he can be heartlessly cavalier, giving no thought at all to the scenary-enhancing side of trees, and he would probably otherwise have removed twice as much. It was good for me to allow someone else to administer the pain. It will, I hope, be good for the trees to have received a thorough clean-out. And it’s good too to have the living room full of vases of apricot buds bursting gradually into flower.
My hope is that, lighter and brighter, the trees will finally begin to produce rather more, rather better fruit than my foliage-heavy specimens have done to date. I don’t want vast amounts of produce: I wouldn’t know what to do with it all because I have nowhere I could leave apples and pears to overwinter. But I would like enough to fill my end-of-summer fruit basket abundantly, and some over to put in the freezer and the larder** to bring summer tastes to our long cold winter.
The sticky insect-bands that I have put around the trunks in past years have not, I’m afraid, done the fruit trees much good. Yes, they stopped a huge invasion of insects in its tracks but the bark on many trees is rough and peeling and looking like fungi have nested beneath the bands. I won’t do that again. But I will, as soon as these days of (currently much needed) rain are past, get my yellow sticky traps back up among the sadly depleted branches.
And I will continue with my policy of spraying as much as I possibly can. I’ve done bordeaux mix and dormant oil and most recently sulphur to stop the apples getting scab and the peach tree leaves curling up and falling off. Next I shall revert to bordeaux mix and then when insects start moving, make with the pyrethrum. I’m doing the roses at the same time as the fruit trees. It’s such a relief this year to see tiny leaves emerging clear and green on my rose bushes: in last year’s damp and muggy season, they were born from the word go with black spot all over them and never really picked up all summer.
We’re having problems with our bluetits. Usually it’s robins that mistake their own reflections for rival encroachers and attack themselves in our windows. But this year it’s bluetits. They’re not quite so aggressive about it as robins are. In fact at first I was thinking that there must be some insect around the windows that the birds were pecking away at gently. But it isn’t: it’s the windows themselves. They are often so engrossed in putting the ‘stranger’ out, that they don’t even notice me standing eye-to-eye with them on the other side. Of course I never seem to have my camera close to hand when this happens.
This is springtime behaviour, when territories need to be clearly staked as nests are being built and eggs hatched. It generally only happens on sunny days too. Or perhaps I should say very sunny days because you need a considerable amount of shine on my dirty windows to get anything like a reflection. In fact, I’m taking this bluetit onslaught as a not totally deserved compliment.
** The bottling method here works brilliantly for apricots and peaches.