Fruit Trees and Potager
The garden has a number of mature apple trees, which look wonderful covered in blossom in the spring, and provide perfect support for two rampant rambling roses - 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' and 'Frances E Lester'. The roses cause domestic friction, when it looks as if they are smothering the trees ..but we do have an excess of apples and surely could never have too much rose?
Our 'Bramley's Seedling', the definitive English "cooker", is extremely productive. The first 'Bramley's Seedling' grew from pips planted in a garden in Nottinghamshire in 1809. We have another cooker, 'Bedfordshire Foundling', which probably originated in Bedfordshire in around 1800. The large angular yellow cookers look as if they have been designed for packing, they are so cuboidal. We also have several 'King of the Pippins', another old cultivar but this one originating in France, which produces a small cider apple.
Mr B has added to the apple collection so now we have some excellent eaters all grown on dwarfing root stocks: 'James Grieve' (large, very early and does not keep but great to eat fresh off the tree), 'Sunset' (sweet and crunchy, rather like a Cox, but apparently easier to grow), 'Egremont Russet' (a characteristic nutty flavour) and 'Sturmer Pippin' (an excellent keeper, getting softer and sweeter with time).
The garden, which surely must have been part of an orchard once, also has a number of old greengage trees. I suspect I am guilty of hastening the end of one of these with the very exuberant rambler rose, 'Bobbie James'. I had to put in a large wooden trellis for the rose when the tree finally succumbed- not an ideal solution as the rose is far too vigorous and has to be restricted by a radical prune after flowering each year- a task calling for full protective clothing.
We were inspired by Rosemary Verey's superb potager at Barnsley House near Cirencester to make our own ornamental vegetable patch, but on a very small scale. Box balls and a bay tree provide evergreen structure and the 'Sunset' apple tree, underplanted with the decorative but sterile strawberry plants, Fragaria vesca 'Variegata', is a centre-piece. Mr B grows small quantities of potatoes, leeks, leaf beet (perpetual spinach), rocket, spinach, lettuce and rather fine garlic. My Mum's rhubarb (an old variety from our home in Northern Ireland) does very well and is always ready early in the year. I grow a number herbs including chives, sage, thyme, marjoram, fennel, chervil, rosemary, winter savoury and, of course, parsley.