Sunday, 17 March 2013

Buying our Trees
We have chosen a range of trees to start off our orchard. Two apples, two pears, and a damson. More may be added at a later date as we clear the land at the end of the garden, but we have decided that this is enough investment in trees for now.

Our house is just over 500 feet above sea level, and people who know a lot more than us often suggest that this is just about the maximum acceptable height for fruit trees, but we are surrounded by old orchards here, and in particular have a very old apple tree behind our house that is heavy with beautiful big cooking apples every year. And I really want to grow fruit, so in the end we decided to go for it.

The advice on Ashridge Trees excellent website sealed it:

So which trees we wondered and where to get them? Stock in the garden centres is not too special and I was really keen to get old varieties of trees that could have possibly have grown in this valley in the past, so specialist nurseries via the internet seemed the way to go.

Apples and Damson:
We found our apple and damson tress via Ian Sturrock and Sons who are specilaists in Welsh Fruit trees. 

The web site is full of useful information, and the trees come with a great label that says it all really!

We turned our attention then to buying a second Pear tree.  Second because I had rather excitingly already won one pear (a Conference, very standard) in a competition, and needed a pollination partner for it.  Ashridge Tree Nursery (web address above), based in Somerset was the source of this tree.

What we've got:

Monmouth Beauty Apple - Originated in 1750, and popular in markets around Monmouth in the 19th Century.  Claims to be a Crimson Flushed Eating Apple with rich scent and Texture.

Seek no Further Apple - in Welsh Gwell na Mil (better than a million).  A very old variety dating back at least to the 1700's Another old Monmouth variety, this time a light russet eater with creamy flesh and an aromatic nutty flavour.

Abergwyngregyn Damson - Not from our local area but again purportedly a very old and resilient  Welsh fruit variety.

Conference Pear - What is says on the tin - not a local variety of course, but free!

Winter Nellis Pear -  An old European variety, bred by Jean Charles Nelis and imported from Belgium in 1818.  I admit its not a local variety, but it is old, and anyway I was totally sold on it as soon as I saw this lovely picture of this late fruiting variety:

Twenty years and we should have some results hopefully!

Photos from rainy valley

Just some photos to share today:

Building the kitchen garden raised bed

Snowdrops (obviously!)

First log to go in the scrub at the end of the garden - to encourage insects.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Its an Orchard - actually

We have begun "Project Orchard" - Orchard! Ha! its five little sticks in the corner of the garden at the moment, but will now have a page of its own where I will explain our choices of trees and log their progress in the coming months and years.

I have always loved orchards - especially old ones full of magical twisted, gnarled ancient apple trees, heavy with moss and lichen's.   We are surrounded by fruit trees here, so it's reasonable to assume that we would have had fruit here at some time in the past, especially as there are at least two buildings claiming to be "olde cider mills" within a few hundred metres of our house.

I am keen to use old varieties of plants whenever possible, so began to try to track down some apple trees native to Monmouthshire.

I eventually chose some from Ian Sturrock and Son, a firm that specialises in old Welsh fruit tree varieties

But first its worth thinking about the lovely names of some varieties, particularly old cider apples; how about Fillbarrel, Fox Whelp, Hangy Down, Hoary Morning and the Peasgood Nonsuch (actually an eater).  But best of all is the glorious "Slack ma Girdle", an old variety of cider apple. Well just imagine... I may have to get one of those....

This is what I want our orchard to look like:

I know, but I can dream......

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Well whoops!

I was about to start a post about my apple trees, when I decided to search for the blog online.  Well I found one, but it isn't mine - and its very good, and they've won prizes for their books, and ..... how embarrassing.  Should have checked.  So welcome to my new old blog - The Garden in Rainy Valley.

Monday, 11 March 2013


This is a blog about our garden tucked away in a clearing in a forest, on a hillside in South East Wales. We have been gradually improving our old stone house since we moved in about 18 months ago. New roof, chimneys, windows, sewage systems and a million other things have happened since and we still have lots to do, but finally we can turn our attention to the interesting bit. The garden.

Originally a simple stone cottage and, it's reasonable to assume, an at least semi self-sufficient small holding, over the years our home has been gradually turned into a bigger house with a fairly run of the mill garden.

Somewhere along the line (relatively recently) the land that went with the house was mostly sold off, leaving us with a decent sized garden, but less land than we would have liked. We are determined to restore a wilder character to the garden and some of the features that would have existed in 1870, which is the oldest recorded mention of the house I can find in local records.

We have spent much of our outdoor time so far cutting down and clearing out.

The land we have now looks like this, you can see the bare earth resulting from the installation of the sewage treatment plant last Autumn. The whole property is bounded by beautiful dry stone walls – when we moved in we didn’t know they were there – the boundaries of the property looked like hedges:

This is a wet part of the world and we often find ourselves in clouds that float down the valley and along the river creating a beautiful moody atmospheric tableau:

In summer the borders and our roadside verges are full of vibrant naturalised Crocosmia, which gives more of a taste of our vision for the garden:

As this blog develops I hope to add sections on particular projects:  Orchard, Vegetable patch etc and share our success's and failures.  I suspect that I will also be looking for help and advice too!
So welcome to the Garden in Rainy Valley.  We hope you enjoy your visit.