Dealing with Mussel Scale infestations on an apple tree

One of my apples (a triple cordon ‘Fiesta’) has suffered for a few years with infestations of Mussel Scale (Lepidosaphes ulmi). You can see them attached to the surface of the fruit in the photo above. These sap suckers do little damage to the fruit, but they are unsightly. It’s not a big deal as they can just be wiped off before eating. I tend to ignore most minor pest problems as many of them naturally resolve without intervention.

However, last year (2016) I noticed that the Mussel scales were covering the bark of the trunk and twigs as you can see in the picture below. I hadn’t realised this problem was building up, but they had infested two of the three cordons, so I could compare how the bark was supposed to look. Continue reading


How to create quality wire supports for walls and fences

A traditional starting point for training climbers on walls and fences is a system of tensioned horizontal wires. Ideally these wires should provide a permanent structure that needs little maintenance over the years, whilst creating a firm fixing for tendrils, shoots, branches and canes to be attached to. In this post I am looking at the best solution I have found so far: the Gripple Trellis System. Continue reading

Late season apples

Apples in December

In my garden I have tried to include fruit varieties that extend the season as widely as possible. This is the first year that I have been able to pick apples in December extending my record to seven months of fresh fruit this year. As you can see, they are a good size, and in pretty good nick considering they have hung on the tree for six months. I picked them on December 3rd after several nights of frost. They were still firmly attached and could have been left even longer I expect, but the birds were taking an interest and I had lost a couple to furious pecking despite my attempts to cover them with netting. How do they get underneath? Continue reading

Trained fruit at West Dean Gardens

  • Free standing trained forms – pears in spectacular open drum and cone formations
  • Wall-trained forms – pears, apples and gooseberry in varied espalier forms
  • Arched pear pergola – pears trained in a series of arches to create a pergola tunnel
  • Glasshouse fruit – desert grape vines in several forms and glasshouse peach fans


West Dean Gardens in West Sussex include one of the finest restored Edwardian kitchen gardens anywhere in the world. If you want to see trained fruit (and veg) at its best it should be on your itinerary.

The photo above shows a view down one side of the walled fruit garden, which is laid out in quadrants, transected by two long paths. Each quadrant contains a small orchard of free-standing apple trees, growing among rough grass and wildflowers (right hand side of image above). Continue reading

Fan Trained Fig – Brown Turkey


Fig – Brown Turkey – freshly planted – Spring 2015

Unfortunately, I had to remove the fan trained plum that grew in this spot for the last five years. Although it was magnificent and had an excellent form, it suckered violently. One shoot came up through the fence panel, forcing the slats apart. It grew six foot tall and one inch thick in a single season! Removing it was quite a challenge and required access from the neighboring garden. Other suckers appeared up to ten feet away – in the middle of vegetable beds and even lifting the brick paving of the path. It was incorrigible. The only solution was to remove it. Lesson learned. Continue reading

Step-over apple Beauty of Bath

Step_over_apple_1A six year old step-over Beauty of Bath apple trained along a narrow bed under a window at the front of my house – just coming into flower in late April. The basic form is just two horizontal branches trained outwards, then pruned for fruiting spurs. The spurs on mine have got rather crowded at the left hand end and only have a few flowers. They could do with pruning – a job for next winter. I will prune them hard back to 2″ from the trunk, encouraging new spurs to form.


Basic step-over form (click to view an index of other trained forms)

Apples, pears and grape vines are suitable for training this way. Continue reading