Gooseberry fool and roses

Rose the Doctor
Rose The Doctor (1936)

All the watering you can do doesn’t have the same effect as a goodly drop of rain. OK it also downed a few things and the pelargonium flowers aren’t loving it, petals have gone brown and mouldy but overall everything has plumped up. I started this a few days ago and now I have to say the Mediterranean and similar climatic zone plants are really sulking. What’s left of the older roses in flower are going to mush.

It’s wild weather out there at the moment, misting rain and a whipping wind – very unsummery although it’s not particularly cold – just grey. Not good for squash or courgette set either. Picking up this morning sunny and fresh but more rain expected.

The squirrels have started on the hazel nuts and the hawthorn berries although not yet fully ripe. The pale milky hazel nuts cupped in the finest fresh green do look very inviting. Many nibbled shells are now browning on the ground and felled clusters are being retrieved and buried.

The unrelenting song of the Chiff Chaff has disappeared from the soundscape replaced by the manic laugh of a green woodpecker.

Hybrid T’s

Because of their stiff growth HT roses often look awkward in a general garden context, unlike the rangier older roses. But they remind me of my gran’s suburban garden in Enfield. On visits as a child in summer, we’d pick a big bouquet of mixed colours, mainly pinks and dark velvet reds, wrap them in wet newspaper and travel home from London to Leicestershire with the perfume pervading the car.

I also love the high pointy buds and shape of some HTs, very different to the more flattened heads of many old roses. An added bonus is that most flower for a longer time than the older roses some of which flower once only.

Also I can’t resist the Peter Beales end of winter bare root rose sales even though I HAVE NO MORE ROOM FOR ANY MORE ROSES!

So this year I decided to get a couple of HT’s in the sale and plant them in the veg patch for cutting.

A couple had been recommended in an article in the RHS magazine by The Real Flower Company, Margaret Merril a floribunda released by Harkness in 1977 and Chandos Beauty (another Harkness bred rose which I bought direct from them). The other two from Beales were Comtesse Vandal and The Doctor (dating from 1936). Sadly the Comtesse expired early on, but the others have been putting out intermittent flowers despite the newness of the planting.

  • Margaret Merrill is off-white, lovely in bud and deliciously scented, however fully open she ain’t to me a pretty dame.
  • Chandos Beauty – lovely scent, nice retained HT shape as it opens but as a cut flower quite a lot of orange in her colouring.
  • The Doctor is a revelation, beautifully fruity scented. I love the large soft flowers and although not an absolute classic HT shape very pleasing so far. It reminds me again of my gran and the artificial cloth roses that used to be pinned to hats and dresses from the dressing-up box.

Gooseberry fool

Gooseberry Lady Delamene apparently
A week on from this picture and the fruits are even redder!

This year I decided to buy another gooseberry bush to add to my collection of one, Whinham’s Industry, which is an old variety with fruits that mature a reddish colour.

I have limited space so had a good rummage around online. I fancied an older variety that was green ripening to gold and could be eaten at peak ripeness as a proper dessert gooseberry.

Lady Delamene on the Chris Bowers website after a lot of deliberation seemed to fit the bill. The photo showed a plump green gooseberry which supported the description of a green gooseberry which stayed green.  I was even hoping that Lady Delamene was a typo and what they were actually offering was Lady Delamere an old prizewinning green gooseberry (for size and weight) dating back to at least the turn of the 19th century.

So duly purchased and planted this spring she flowered and set a few fruit. All well and good you might think. However the fruit is v small (yes I know it’s her first year) – and distinctly ripening red!

I approached Chris Bowers and said surely some mistake – No stupid customer! they said (after a second email as the first went unanswered). We’re amending the copy on the website, Lady Delamene is a green gooseberry which turns red like May King.

So I emailed back – but I read the description this spring on your website and bought Lady Delamene based on that description and picture of a large green gooseberry that stayed green.

No reply to the email. There was no oops, no sorry, no nothing.

After the fulsome guarantees given on the Chris Bowers Ltd website – very poor show!

I am now on the lookout (but not from Chris Bowers Ltd) for an old green gooseberry variety that stays green, is large and plump and can be eaten as a dessert gooseberry!

For those actually looking for the recipe for Gooseberry Fool a concoction of stewed gooseberries and cream Nigel Slater | The Guardian