The quince has been popular throughout middle and south-east Europe, particularly in Italy and Greece, but came originally from Central Asia. It was a favourite fruit of the ancient Greeks and Romans, although it is not recorded in Britain until the eleventh century. Popularity grew throughout medieval times, and Gerard’s Herbal in 1597 gives a recipe for quince marmalade and adds that quinces are also used to make jellies and sweetmeats. He talks about the ancient method of preserving quinces in honey, which produced a liquid called melomeli that could be given to those suffering from fever. Parkinson knew several varieties of quince, and described several ways in which they were preserved.



The strongly fragrant quinces make excellent jelly and add extra flavour to stewed apples or pears, or to apple pies. When stored the fruit will scent a room with its fragrance; quinces were once used by travellers in the east to perfume their tents, and have been stored with household linen.

The trees prefer a slightly moist site, have a good shape and display attractive, large, lightly scented flowers in Spring. The fruit ripens in autumn. Trees are grafted onto Quince stocks and any suckers or bottom growth will look very much like the Quince variety above it. It is important to remove any rootstock growths to keep the true variety vigorous and distinct. Self fertile.


Probably originating in the Caucasus region, the species Medlar grows in S.E.Europe and Asia, and was probably brought to Britain by the Romans, who enjoyed the fruit and dedicated the tree to Saturn. The Medlar can still be found growing wild in south-east Britain. The trees have an attractive crooked habit, and showy white flowers in early summer. These are followed by yellow-brown fruits, which should be ‘bletted’, or allowed to go soft, almost but not quite to the point of decay, before they are eaten or made into jelly. For centuries they were believed to be a valuable herbal cure, and were used to treat kidney stones and digestive disorders. Grafted on quince and self fertile.

Peaches and Nectarines
Nectarines are the same as peaches, but with a smooth skin. They are all self fertile, but tend to flower early when there are few pollinating insects, so hand pollination can be beneficial. They can also be prone to frost damage and icy winds, so growing against a wall is advisable. They flower and fruit on the previous year's growth, so prune out fruited wood immediately after fruiting to produce new wood for flowering the next year.

Raspberries belong to the family 'rubus'- the same family as Roses and blackberries. Red raspberries are classified as Rubus Ideaus; blackberries as Rubus Occidentalis or Rubus Fruticosus, Red raspberries are thought to have arisen in North Africa, though by the fourth century they were eaten in Greece. The Greeks claimed that raspberries were originally white, but red ones arose when Ida, Zeus's nursemaid, pricked her finger on a thorn and the berries were stained red. The black raspberry is native to North America and is classified as Rubus Occidentalis. Edward I is said to have increased the cultivation of red raspberries in England, and European settlers took their canes to America. They will grow quite far north, and prefer a cool climate and moisture retentive (not wet) soil. Teas made from raspberry leaves are claimed to have health benefits for the intestines and reproductive organs. Several varieties of the red raspberry have been developed in the U.K., and there is also a golden one. Raspberries can either fruit in the summer or the autumn. With a summer-fruiting variety, cut back the canes to ground level as they finish fruiting, and as new shoots come through select the strongest and tie them in to a post and wire system. Autumn-fruiting varieties don't need support; they fruit on the current season's growth, so cut them back in Spring. Black raspberries are not the same as blackberries. They are hollow inside, whereas blackberries have a white core, and their flavour is more sweet and fruity. Some people claim that they have an unusual flavour, and they are said to be very healthy, containing large quantities of anthocyanins and antioxidants. They are not currently readily available in the U.K.

The Latin name for gooseberry is Ribes Uva Crispa. Gooseberries are native to Europe and North Africa, and belong to the same family as currants, though gooseberries have spiny stems and only flower in small clusters, not drooping racemes. They grow on bushes up to 5ft tall and wide, and fruit in early summer. The berries are usually green, but can be red, purple, or yellow. Some are tart without added sugar, but there are also dessert gooseberries which are much sweeter. They became very popular in England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, especially with cottagers in Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. They formed societies and began to hold annual gooseberry shows-there were 171 in 1845.- with prizes of copper kettles, and brass pans as well as money. Sometimes gooseberry bushes were pruned so that the berries were very large. To prune a gooseberry bush the dead wood should be cut out in winter, and it is possible to prune the bushes for maximum quantities of fruit or to encourage large fruit.

Blackberries grow wild in much of Europe, including all over the UK. They grow on vigorous, thorny bushes, fruit in late summer or early autumn, and have been eaten for centuries. They are rich in vitamins and minerals. Traditional folklore said that the Devil was expelled from heaven on the feast day of St. Michael, ( September 29th) but that as he fell from the sky he landed in a bramble bush. He cursed the bush and its fruit with his fiery breath, so made the fruit unpleasant to eat. According to legend, he renews his curse annually, so you should not pick blackberries after this day. In fact this was probably because the wetter climate in autumn often means that the berries turn mouldy around the end of September, so they are not so good to eat. In 1921 Luther Burbank wrote in his book that thornless blackberry bushes had been developed in America. Originally the berries which they produced were less tasty than those of the wild blackberry, but gradually other hybrids were produced with better fruit, both in America and the U.K.- hence the Oregon thornless and the Merton thornless. Thornless blackberries can be very vigorous,with stems which root readily when they touch the ground, so require some space, but the berries are usually large and sweet.

The Worcesterberry was once thought to be a cross between the gooseberry and the blackcurrant, but it is now thought to be a distinct species- Ribes divaricatum. which was found in America. It forms a vigorous, spreading bush which can grow up to 3m tall and at least 2m in diameter, with long, spiky thorns. The fruit is delicious; like a medium sized gooseberry which begins green then ripens through shades of crimson to almost black. It can be cooked, even when under-ripe, or eaten raw when deep red. It flowers in April; ripens from June, so can be mixed with raspberries or currants, and was a traditional foodstuff for North American Indians, who also used it for medicinal purposes. The inner bark was chewed, and the juice of the berries swallowed, as a treatment for colds and sore throats, and an infusion of the roots was used to treat sore throats, venereal disease and tuberculosis. The berries are rich in ellagic acid, which is a cancer-fighting substance which does not break down in cooking. It is also found in wild strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. The sharp thorns (which can be up to 1” long) were used as probes for boils, for removing thorns, and for tattooing. The Worcesterberry has several common names in America; usually the Coastal Black Gooseberry, but also the Spreading Gooseberry and the Wild Gooseberry. The berries are very popular with birds, but the bushes form a useful barrier against other unwanted intruders, including burglars and deer, because of the thorns. The bushes are not frost-tender and will grow in shade, as long as it is not too dry. The berries are best picked by lifting each branch, and picking the berries from underneath. The Worcesterberry bears most fruit on growth made the previous year. When pruning, take out very old stems completely if necessary. For the best crops, prune after fruiting.

The Jostaberry is a cross between the gooseberry and the blackcurrant. The first attempt at crossing the two species was made in 1880, but early attempts always failed to produce good crops of fruit. The first useful attempt was made in Germany in 1946, when Erwin Baur of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Plant Breeding Research introduced the Jostaberry ( sometimes pronounced ‘yostaberry’). The name is a combination of the German words for gooseberry and blackcurrant. It was first released to the public in 1977. The berries are shiny and very deep purple-almost black-larger than a blackcurrant, but smaller than a gooseberry. They are like a gooseberry when under-ripe, when they can be used for cooking, but develop flavours more like a blackcurrant as they ripen. The bushes are thornless and grow up to 2m tall. They are self-fertile and resistant to American gooseberry mildew. The flowers can be damaged by frost, and birds love the fruit.

It is usually thought only safe to grow the hardiest figs in the U.K., and then only in a container in a cold greenhouse or conservatory or against a warm (probably south-facing) wall. As figs respond well to having their roots constricted, these systems can be very successful, but in the past the fig was sometimes grown as a standard tree in the open and fruited quite successfully. The old fig gardens, at Tarring, near Worthing, Sussex, were famous; they contained about one hundred fig trees as large as standard apple trees, and were said to produce around 1700 figs a day from August to October. One variety known to have grown there was White Marseilles. The gardens are still open to the public on one day each year-usually in early July- although most of the gardens were destroyed when sold off by the local council in 1989.

Most grapevines will ripen outside in southern England, although many will do better if given the heat of a warm wall. Some are extremely decorative and grown for their striking foliage, but any grapevine will make an attractive climber and provide grapes for wine, dessert or for birds. Many varieties traditionally grown for wine-making are also delicious for dessert, having a very rich flavour. They are sufficiently vigorous to climb up a small tree or along a hedge. Grapes are self fertile, although some varieties do better if given some assistance with pollination - e.g. by rubbing the hands over flowers to release pollen. This may be necessary if the vine is grown in a greenhouse. All vines need a sunny position. Traditional grapes, like those which we sell, are not seedless like modern supermarket grapes. Our vines are grown on their own roots, not grafted.

Red, White and Blackcurrants require similar cultivation. They flower and fruit on the growth of the year before, so they should have all the fruited old wood cut out after picking the fruit, so all the plant's vigour will go into producing strong new shoots that will fruit the next year. They prefer soil that stays moist over the summer, but fruit better in full sun.