At first I thought, is there a piece of land that we could have a community orchard on? But one day last summer while on my allotment at Cripley Meadow Allotments (Port Meadow), I had a walk through our small orchard there and, sitting under a massive willow tree looking at the fast growing fruit tree, it suddenly dawned on me!
What if every garden in Jericho had even just one dwarf heritage fruit tree? That would make our beautiful Jericho one big orchard! It would instantly transform our ecology and wildlife biodiversity. And if we all had different heritage varieties of pears, apples, plums, damsons, quinces, peaches etc, we'd also be able to exchange fruit between us.
Having a fruit tree in your garden is sheer bliss! I inherited a pear tree in my garden and it's been such a luxury to be able to pick the fruit during the summer and enjoy eating them fresh, turning them into puddings and experimenting with recipes to preserve them over the cold winter months. I love sitting in the garden under its dappled shade, listening to the leaves rustling in the summer breeze and seeing the birds fluttering in, chirping happily away.
If you have a large garden, a normal sized tree is fine. But in most of our smaller Victorian terraced gardens, having a large tree can cause neighbour disputes from the shade it casts into someone elses garden. That's why dwarf trees are the super solution. Grafted onto dwarf root stocks, they'll grow to a maximum of 6 feet (2 metres), which is the usual height of a boundary wall or fence. It's still tall enough to give you lots of dappled shade if you sit near it, and not bother your neighbour.
Moreover, our small gardens can only really accommodate one large tree. But the beauty about having dwarf fruit trees is that a small garden could have 3 to 4 trees, especially if they were grown up against the walls (what we call "espaliers" - don't worry, I can show how easy it is to tie the branches into the right shape to fan along a wall!) So instead of one large pear tree, you could have 4 smaller trees giving you 4 different types of fruit!
I've also planted 2 dwarf trees - a heritage apple and quince - and am looking forward to the first fruits. Quince is an extraordinary fruit, the fragrance is intensely sweetly scented and if you put one on your kitchen table, it fills the house will its delicious smell. It's also good for making Quince Jam or Jelly - fabulous with cheeses, or a dollop on rice pudding, or just spread on hot toast. I've even see top chefs slice quinces into four and add them to a roast.
Now, there's an important reason why I'm suggesting we only plant heritage dwarf fruit trees for our Big Jericho Rewilding Project. Rather than buy bog-standard fruit trees cheaply from places like Tesco, instead, this is the most amazing chance to rebuild some of our ancient varieties back into our ecosystem. Cheap bog-standard trees just don't help the wildlife biodiversity as much. And they are often weak with little disease resistance. But heritage fruit trees have had a long evolution to strengthen, fight disease and develop their ecosystem connection to wildlife. For example, the blossom on heritage fruit trees will produce far better pollen for bees and other pollinators. They also produce fruit that aren't "bog standard"!! I promise you will discover how amazing it is to pick and eat rare heritage fruit that you can't buy in the supermarkets!! There are so many different varieties of heritage fruit to choose from - apples, pears, plums, damsons, quinces, cherries, peaches and many others.
If you'd like to put one or more heritage dwarf fruit trees in your garden, please post your interest on our Facebook group so I can build up a list of our group from there....Our best option is to build up a group list in order to get a low price for a large order, from a very specialist heritage supplier, Bernwode, in Oxfordshire. I went to visit them 2 months ago and they have the most famous collection of rare fruit trees. If we order a large batch of trees, they will be much lower cost than buying individually, and I'll be able to collect them so you can all avoid the delivery charges. Click on the Bernwode logo to explore their website!
Further away in Kent if you just want to order online on your own, is Brogdale, which also holds a national collection of heritage fruit trees. But remember, buying fruit trees together in bulk means lower prices!