One of the pleasures at this time of year is to leaf through the seed and plant catalogues and plan what you are going to sow and grow next year.
In Clumber’s walled kitchen garden we grow new varieties as well as conserving old ones and we are always keen to experiment with the new, the unusual, and especially, to grow varieties which taste good.
Shop bought strawberries, especially in winter, frequently disappoint when tasted, which is a good reason for growing your own.
My top two varieties for flavour are both French, the summer fruiting ‘Gariguette’ and the ever-bearing ‘Mara des Bois’, which is why some new French strawberries have attracted my attention. In alphabetical order, they are ‘Combaille’, described as very sweet, juicy and fleshy, fruiting in late May and early June, ‘Manille’, with very large fruits and, like, most French strawberries, very aromatic and ‘Reine des Vallees’, an Alpine type fruiting throughout the summer. Their flavour is described as ‘divine’ and ‘superb.’
We Brits also have our moments when it comes to strawberry breeding. Plant breeders at East Malling in Kent have an excellent track record. One of their latest is a white fruited strawberry, called ‘Whiteberry’ which has a white skin with tiny red seeds which has been selected for its outstandingly good flavour, juicy with a hint of pineapple. It is summer fruiting, ready for picking in June.
Strawberries are available as plants and plug plants throughout the winter. Cold stored plants are usually available from March and crop 60 to 90 days after planting.
Also from East Malling are a couple of new raspberries. The summer fruiting ‘Valentina’ is distinguished by its rich apricot coloured fruits. It crops from mid June and has canes which are almost spine free, making picking easier. The flavour is described as ‘fantastic’ and ‘excellent’ and it has resistance to cane diseases and to most of the aphids that feed on raspberries.
For many years the autumn fruiting raspberry ‘Autumn Bliss’ has been the yardstick against which other varieties are measured. We grow it at Clumber and it is a classic variety, reliable, rewarding and easy to grow. The new autumn fruiting ‘Autumn Treasure’ is said to be heavy cropping and bears large berries. The canes are spine-free and the variety has good resistance to raspberry root rot. Flavour is “deliciously sweet” and a little less acid than ‘Autumn Bliss’. This is a primocane variety, flowering and fruiting at the tip of 6 month old shoots, so plant this winter and you will have a crop next August into October.
Bare root raspberry plants are available until March for winter planting.
A new rhubarb variety is a rare event. ‘Polish Raspberry’ produces good crops of strong green stems overlaid with red. The taste is ‘divine’ and ‘quite possibly the best-tasting rhubarb we have ever trialled’ according to the catalogue. We aim to add it to our 110 rhubarb varieties at Clumber and compare it with the other raspberry varieties we grow.
For further information go to www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk, www.dobies.co.uk and www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk.