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The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

Recent Posts

Our Apple for February: Ashmead's Kernel

'What an apple, what suavity of aroma. Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavour overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet, not sugar-sweet, but the succulence of a well-devilled marrow bone. Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance can ever have been raised anywhere on earth.'

Who wouldn't be keen to try Ashmead's Kernel after hearing art critic and pomologist P. Morton Shand's description, broadcast in 1944 on one of the BBC's earliest gardening programmes? Ashmead's Kernel is a true connoisseur's apple, and after several months in careful storage is at the peak of its perfection in February.

It's one of our oldest apples - so old, it was taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers and can still be found growing on both sides of the Atlantic. Known by many names over the years, 'Ashmead' comes from a Dr Ashmead who grew it in his Gloucester garden in 1700, 'Kernel' from the belief it was discovered as a chance seedling rather than deliberately bred. Despite its unique flavour and excellent keeping qualities, Ashmead's Kernel is now rarely grown. Its downfall was its 'exquisite homeliness' - the small, dull, lumpy, mis-shapen fruit is about as far from the image of Snow White's glossy red and green apple as it is possible to get.

We have so far discovered only one Ashmead's Kernel growing in Waterfurlong and several of us are keen to plant more, despite the variety's reputation for trickiness. It takes three or four years to fruit, erratic flowering leads to sporadic cropping and the flavour is said to be hugely affected by weather conditions - some years nondescript, others sublime. An irresistible challenge!

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2019

Photograph kind courtesy of Alan Buckingham © via Photoshelter

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