March 2019 - Orchard conservation and one old perry tree

The scion is the brains that leads the tree on

Managing and caring for the variety of trees across our sites is a fruitful job for our woodlands team. In this month’s blog Woodland Ranger Tim talks about when things go a bit pear-shaped…

Better late than never

We have had a quick lesson in not putting things off.  Ten years ago we lost one of the old perry pear trees, on one of our tenant farms on the Clytha Estate near Raglan in Monmouthshire.  This left one old perry pear tree in the orchard.  We set about guarding the remaining tree, so that it didn’t suffer the grazing pressures that its partner had.  The tree flourished and responded well to pruning and shaping.

Graft cuttings of the old perry tree
Collecting graft cuttings on of our tenant farms on the Clytha Estate in Monmouthshire
Graft cuttings of the old perry tree

After the storm

Storm Freya this year was unfortunately too much for the old perry pear and the trunk snapped.  With this came the realisation that we hadn’t got around to doing its formal identification or propagating any cuttings to maintain this variety for future planting on the farm.

The effect of Storm Freya
The fallen old perry tree on the Clytha Estate in Monmouthshire
The effect of Storm Freya

A chance for new growth

So, a little late in the season for taking samples and grafting, with a tree living off the sap that remained within it there has been a rush to preserve this old Perry Pear.

Firstly we had to find good young growth from the previous year, known as the ‘scion’.  This year old growth is more vigorous, as well as having a thinner bark to aid the grafting process.  We use this method with fruit trees as it is the only way of being certain you will get a clone of the tree.  Planting from the fruits seed can lead to all sorts of variants which would lose the original variety.

Next step was to send these cuttings off to a tree nursery that could help graft these on to some ‘root-stock’ and grow them on.  The scion is the brains that leads the tree on whilst the root stock feeds and anchors the scion.  This is how you get a clone of the original plant.  Fortunately, the National Trust Plant Conservation Centre stepped in to say they could grow some, as well as a local fruit tree nursery near Llandeilo.

With action happening a little later than ideal, we are now back to waiting for something to happen; waiting for the new trees to form from the cuttings; waiting to plant these trees back out on the orchard at the tenant farm; waiting for a formal identification and to test if the fruit still has that same mouth puckering dryness.

Hopefully with more than one tree, there will finally enough to make some Perry as well.

If you've been inspired by the work of the woodlands team, come back next month for an update with Countryside Manager Joe, with a look into our other areas of conservation management.