We have a field to the side of our house on which we have some mature apple trees. In addition to these fruit trees is there anything exotic which we could grow in the fruit garden?
YOU are most fortunate to have the opportunity to add to your fruit garden. In addition to apple trees, other soft fruits which can be cultivated reasonably well in this country include cherries, quince, pear, plum and fig.
However, if you want something different, a nut-bearing tree would be just the thing. Some such trees are available by mail order from the Irish company Future Forests.
Castanea sativa, or the Spanish chestnut tree as it is more commonly known, is a beautiful tree but needs hot summers to produce a reliable crop. Hazelnuts or cobnuts (a cultivated variety of hazelnuts) from Corylus avellana are largely self-fertile. However, a more reliable harvest can be achieved by planting at least two trees.
Grown for its edible nut, the almond Prunus dulcis 'Macrocarpa' bears pretty pink or white flowers in spring. It should be sited away from frost pockets, as very cold temperatures at flowering time will mean that the blooms become damaged and hence nuts are not produced.
Cross-pollination should be maximised by grouping trees together to get the best chances of a high yield. A tree of three to four years will produce a crop.
The common walnut from Juglans regia is very slow to produce a crop -- at least 15 years -- and is a little churlish in this climate with regular frosts in winter and spring.
To yield a crop in a reasonably timely manner of four to five years you can specify a grafted cultivar.
Juglans regia 'Proslavski' is suited to our more northerly location but is, like most walnuts, a large specimen and requires no less than two trees for pollination.