John Stoa, a former nurseryman, expert gardener, about her plants:
In Dundee, we have a colder climate, but my desire to grow fruit types that ate normal in the south has led me to experiment with a range of fruit considered exotic in Scotland without protection. With the promise of climate change giving us a wee bit of global warming, who knows what lies ahead.
Plant breeders continue to supply us with all sorts of innovations so many of these find their way into my garden and allotment for a few seasons of evaluation.
Growing grapes successfully outdoors in Scotland is my latest dream. It is easy to find a large, warm, south-facing wall or fence and once you have sorted out the pruning system to control the vigour and encourage fruit development, all that is left for success is to find the right variety.
My interest started with the purchase of the ornamental variety ‘Brant’ grown mainly for its autumn colour and ability to cover a large area of fence or wall rapidly with dense foliage. However, as I grow plenty of greenhouse grapes and have mastered the pruning I started to summer prune ‘Brant‘ to control vigour. I got a great crop of black, sweet, juicy grapes packed tight into small bunches which you can pop into your mouth whole and just pull out the stalk. Now if these can be successful in Scotland why not some of the larger fruiting verities?
Thus, I am now putting a few on trial along my south-facing fences. Best one to date is ‘Phoenix’ followed by ‘Solaris’, but both ‘Rondo’ and ‘Regent’ produced a lot of good bunches before the phytophthora root rot wiped them out. This disease has been a real pest wiping out a row of raspberries, my four-year-old goji, a whitecurrant, a gooseberry and my experimental blueberries, (Vaccinium myrtillus). Other recently planted grapes include ‘Muscat Bleu’ and ‘Polo Muscat’ and this year I am replacing ‘Rondo’ and ‘Regent’ on fresh soil and also trying out ‘Siegerrebe’.
Outdoor grapes are very hardy so our Scottish winters are no problem, but they need a decent summer to produce large, healthy bunches, then a dry, warm, sunny autumn to ripen them up. This experiment will continue for many years.
These take advantage of the newer ‘Gisela 5’ dwarfing rootstock. It has enabled my cherry ‘Cherokee’ to be fan trained against a 6ft fence and makes netting to keep the birds off a lot simpler. Sampling your own fresh cherries in the centre of summer untainted by any compounds is pure heaven.
I have grown this outdoors as a fan against a south-facing fence for several years but the success rate has been questionable. After wet winters, the trees suffer a lot of peach leaf curl even after two fungicide sprays in autumn and another in late winter. Last year was a lot better as we got a good summer, but spring was so cold that there was a complete absence of bees. Hand pollination is normal with peaches as they flower so early, but the pollinated flowers still need some warm days to allow fertilisation to work. They never got it so there was no fruit in 2015. This year the spring was very cold for a long time so there was still no sign of any flowers by early April, though the bees were waiting patiently this time!