New fruits on the plot

RHS Chief Horticulturist Guy Barter finds many reasons to get scouring the catalogues for new varieties of favourite garden fruits

Dwarf raspberry 'Ruby Beauty'
Why bother with new varieties of fruit? Well, there are a number of reasons; from increased disease resistance, the plants being smaller and easier to manage  – or exciting and unusual colours and flavours.

Picking the perfect apple

Apple scabWith no fungicides available to control apple scab, wise gardeners are considering scab-resistant cultivars.  Older very susceptible apples: 'Bramley's Seedling', 'Gala' and 'Golden Delicious' might need to be replaced in gardens where they are particularly scabby.  Some older apples show fair resistance at RHS Garden Wisley. 

Resistance is based on several resistance genes working together; Dessert apples – ‘Adam’s Pearmain’,  ‘Discovery’, ‘Winston’ . Cookers – ‘Lane’s Prince Albert’, ‘Newton Wonder’. Scab fungus is unlikely to mutate to overcome several genes.

Scab-resistant cultivars have also been bred using the ‘vf’ gene from the Japanese crab apple, Malus floribunda.  Resistance based on just one gene is not durable and prone to breakdown, but is stronger and much easier to use in breeding programmes than multigene resistance.  Some breakdown in resistance has been reported in Britain but these apples remain almost scab-free at RHS Wisley. Available cultivars include; ‘Rajka’, ‘Rubinola’, ‘Topaz’.  The red fleshed apple ‘Redlove’® also claims resistance.

Small but perfectly-formed

Space is another constraint that is getting more acute for many growers where smaller cultivars suited to container cultivation can be valuable. Dwarf ‘patio’ fruit cultivars that offer a lot of potential for growers without much garden include; raspberries ‘Ruby Beauty’ and ‘Yummy’ which grow to 60cm or so.

Blackberry 'Dart's Black Cascade' and  'Purple Opal' are small enough to grown a hanging basket. The dwarf mulberry ‘Charlotte Russe’ offers mulberries without the large tree and long wait for fruit. Another unusual possibility is the dwarf quince, ‘Leskovacz’.

Fruit can be daunting for beginner gardeners but some new cultivars respond to simplified care.  Autumn fruiting raspberries are simple to prune – you just cut them to ground level in February avoiding the thinning and tying in of canes to expensive wire supports, but with a prolonged crop from late summer until the frosts.  Now autumn fruiting blackberries are available; ‘Reuben’ and the compact ‘Little Black Prince’ growing to 1m high which are similarly simple to grow.
November is a great time to plant fruit trees and bushes – so why not grow something different in 2020?

Selected suppliers

Ashridge Trees Limited, Grove Cross Barn, Castle Cary, Somerset, BA7 7NJ, 01963 359444

Blackmoor Nurseries, Blackmoor, Nr Liss, Hampshire, GU33 6BS, 01420 477978

Keepers Nursery, Gallants Court, East Farleigh, Maidstone ME15 0LE, 01622 326465

Pip and Stone Ltd, T/A Adam's Apples, Egremont Barn, Payhembury, Honiton, Devon, EX14 3JA, 07870 576330  /  01404 841166

Thompson and Morgan, Poplar Lane, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP8 3BU, 0333 400 0033

Walcot Organic Nursery Ltd, Walcot Lane, Drakes Broughton, Pershore, Worcestershire’, WR10 2AL, 01905 841587

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.