Make fruit part of your family history

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When I was a small child, my parents – who weren’t blessed with a green finger between them – had a loganberry trained on a fence at the end of their plot. It had been a rooted layer from a plant in my uncle’s garden in Norfolk, which in turn had come from the original plant at my grandparents’ home in Fulham, London, back in the early 1900s. It has to be said that by the time it had passed through the generations, the ensuing progeny of this loganberry (my dad’s sisters had plants, too) were a bit weedy, but still seemed to produce enough fruit to make the jam which I adored on fresh bread and butter.

The ease of cultivation and reliable cropping of these loganberries made them a fixture of our family life and they were fondly regarded having fuelled my dad and his siblings through at least one, and in some cases two, World Wars. By the time I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, my aunts and uncle were all keen gardeners who grew a mixture of soft and bush fruit as well as apples, pears, plums and damsons, together with the ‘fabled’ loganberry. Visits to any of them at harvest time meant us returning home laden with their homegrown bounty. It helped the family save money and ensured that we ate healthily, and in the meantime I learnt from them how to grow these crops – as well as a host of different veg.

New crops to try

I’ve continued the tradition of making space for fruit in my gardens ever since, but realised long ago that whatever I grow has to earn its space in a garden that is overflowing with ornamental trees, shrubs and perennials. Oh, and don’t forget a veg plot, and chickens. My horticultural college training taught me the importance of replacing both soft and bush fruit before they ‘burn themselves out’, in some cases becoming riddled with disease that reduces the weight and quality of the crop. And I’m keen to try new varieties, alongside the ones I know and love, to see how they perform and taste in comparison.

When, a couple of years ago, my redcurrant plants produced a somewhat sparse crop of small, tart fruit I decided to grub them out and start again. But what to choose? I decided to stick with ‘Jonkheer van Tets’ because I’ve always grown it for it’s early crops and good flavour. Next I planted ‘Rovada’ which produces big, easy to pick currants and lots of them, though not to my mind the best for taste.

Researching on the internet, I discovered Lubera and the wide range of fruit that they have bred. Concentrating at that time on finding a new redcurrant, I opted for ‘Babette’® the earliest-fruiting variety they offer. I was impressed by the size and quality of the plant when it arrived and it hasn’t disappointed me since. Last year was the first big crop I got from any of my new redcurrants and ‘Babette’® was certainly earlier than my other two varieties. It also produced huge currants, making it easy to pick, and in a good quantity – though not as big a crop as from the others. And it tasted good too, with markedly less seed content. Think I really struck it lucky.

Meanwhile, it seems we’re in the midst of a renaissance for growing fruit. There are plenty of innovative ways to train and prune fruit trees and bushes to limit their spread. And breeders have produced compact varieties that can be grown in pots. But the best thing about growing fruit is that it doesn’t need too much cosseting – unlike so much of the veg we often struggle with.

So, whatever you choose, make fruit part of your garden and your family tradition for future generations. And who knows, you may be nurturing a passion for growing like my aunts and uncle with me and the loganberry.

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