The Walled Gardens (listed grade II*); a rare example of formal English Baroque garden design, are being restored as near as possible to the period 1680 - 1740. I like everything about these gardens, especially that they are cared for by a largely volunteer workforce of committed individuals, passionate about our horticultural heritage. And I like the little tea rooms, where they serve cakes and scones made by the workforce, all "ladies of a certain age," and sell you packets of seeds, harvested from the Gardens and made from folded brown paper with hand written labels. RHS Wisley this isn't, but it is a place full with passion and commitment and love.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Prunus Domestica "Warwickshire Drooper"
This is a lovely plum tree, producing masses of yellow plums towards the early weeks of autumn. It's had quite a chequered past, and more than likely started life as Prunus domestica Dundale from Kent. It was grown commercially in the English Midlands under the name Magnum, until that was replaced by Warwickshire Drooper.
Keeper's Nursery describes it thus: medium sized, oval-oblong fruit. Yellow skin speckled with red spots, brownish russet patches and covered with a thin grey bloom. Tender, yellow flesh. Thick skinned. Quite sweet. Fruit hangs well on the tree. Very vigorous tree with a conspicuous weeping habit. Very heavy regular cropper. Attractive tree particularly in the early autumn when it has long hanging branches full of yellow plums.
I've been sitting at my garden table throughout the summer, marvelling at this little tree's ability to live up to its name. It seems as if each week the branches of Warwickshire Drooper become more curvy; reaching upwards all spring, then curling outwards and under the combined weight of DNA and a bumper crop of plums. The June drop took few victims. Then last night I sat near one of the thymes cutting some herbs for a supper of toasted bread and herbed feta, and my eyes were entranced by the sheer weight of plums bending the tree so low. So low that the trunk looked to be pretty much 45 degrees to the soil. Enchantment eventually gave way to the realisation that it wasn't the weight of plums but a loosened trunk where it entered the soil, that was the problem. Closer inspection revealed a gap measuring a good couple of inches around the base of the trunk, and mild panic set in. I called beloved firstborn to help, and whilst he slowly pushed the tree perpendicular, I dug over the surrounding soil, then firmed it in with good, strong boot action. I added a supporting stake and then went through each branch in turn "June dropping" with secateurs and a new sense of urgency. There's only so many plums you want to eat warm from the tree, and I like this plum tree so much, I didn't want to lose it due to carelessness on my part.
It's an unusual variety. I first saw it summers ago, in the Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, near the flight path of Birmingham Airport and within the suburbs of Birmingham itself. The Hall was built in 1599 by Sir Edward Devereux and extended by Sir John Bridgeman I about 100 years later.The Walled Gardens cover some 10 acres, and were developed by several generations of the Bridgeman Family (later to become the Earls of Bradford) reaching peaks of excellence around 1740 and 1900. The Gardens fell into decline during the second half of the twentieth century until they were rescued by the Castle Bromwich Hall and Gardens Trust in 1985.