Country & garden: Cuttings - News From The Gardeners' World

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The Independent Culture

No 4: Pear

More than three quarters of the people surveyed in a NOP poll thought that Britain would come near the top of any European league table which measured wooded areas of a country in relation to its size. Sadly they are wrong. Britain is now second to bottom in terms of its tree cover. Only Ireland is worse off than we are. So we need to plant, plant, plant.

My fourth millennium tree is a pear. Grafted onto a sensible rootstock, such as the wild pear (Pyrus communis) a pear tree will live for 250 years or more. It is wonderful in north or west London to see old pear trees in back gardens. They are remnants of the 19th-century orchards that once ringed London.

Pear trees are naturally narrow in outline. Though they might grow more than 50ft tall, they will never get in the way. If, that is, you choose a tree growing on the right rootstock. A pear tree grafted on dwarfing rootstock will bear fruit more quickly than a tree grafted on to rootstock of Pyrus communis. But it will grow like a bush, will be more difficult to keep healthy than a pear on non-dwarfing rootstock, and it will not be as long lived.

So order a pear tree from a nursery that knows what it is doing. Ask for it to be grafted on non-dwarfing rootstock. Buy a standard or half standard tree rather than a bush or pyramid.

And dream of the people 200 years hence whose hearts will lift at the sight of your tree.