Many many years ago I ate a fresh apricot in France and it was a revelation.N
ot the chewy, sour bullets that pass for apricots in the supermarket but a juicy, fresh, delicious little fruit and from that moment I was smitten.
I was determined to have a tree in my own garden one day and a couple of decades later my wish came true. The south-facing brick wall in the front garden was the obvious location. We bought a two year-old fan-trained, bare-root tree from a local specialist nursery. We bought it the same time as our plums and cherry trees and planted it in the dormant winter season.
By the summer something was not right. The leaves were pitted with tiny holes and many were stunted and limp. More worryingly the bark was oozing a substance that had set hard like golden amber. It was almost certainly bacterial canker. I hoped it would recover since not all the branches were affected. I sprayed it with Bordeaux Mixture (a copper sulphate solution) incase it was a fungal infection but by the next Spring it was worse. There’s only one thing to do in that situation and that is to dig it out and burn it.
When we dug it out I cut the trunk in half and the tell-tale brown stain in the cross-section was confirmation that the plant was badly infected. The tree may have already been infected when we bought it or the bacteria could have entered the plant when it was pruned. I was careful to do this in late spring because stone fruit are prone to silver-leaf which is a similar fungal infection.
My worry was that the bacteria were now in the soil so I didn’t want to plant a new tree in the same place in case it was immediately infected, but that spot in front of the wall was the only place it could go. The solution: put it in a big, decorative planter and keep it well watered throughout the growing season next year. We ordered another tree from a different supplier. We soaked the bare roots in water overnight and then planted it in a mix of top soil, compost and perlite with an extra sprinkle of fertiliser to give it a good start. It’s a good shape already with two strong shoots which is convenient for a tree that’s going to be trained in a fan. Once it is established we may take it out of the pot and plant it in the soil but that will be a gamble.
The branches are bare at the moment so we will have to be patient to see if it is healthy. Even if it is it will be a few years yet before I enjoy my own apricots!