Adding new trees to our range is an important part of what we do at Frank P Matthews. Over the years we have introduced some of the very best varieties of fruit and ornamental trees to the market and at any one time we will have lots of potential new trees on trial.
Breeding, selecting and sourcing exciting new trees is a long-term process that, with patience, can yield excellent results. It is worth noting that over 98% of trees in our trial orchards are ultimately discarded as not being good enough - but every so often one comes through that is special enough to propagate and promote. Even when a variety is identified as worth shouting about, it can take several more years to build up sufficient stock to include it in our catalogue.
Betula pendula 'Fastigiata Joes'
Won Best New Tree at the National Plant Show 2016
The search for new varieties is ongoing and makes the palette of trees continually more interesting for growers and gardeners alike. With fruit trees we look for improved or original flavour, better yields and disease resistance; for ornamentals we may be hunting for special flowers, berries, form, leaves or bark. Nature can conjure up some wonderful surprises: sometimes these can be subtle, occasionally delightfully dramatic.
Old favourites such as apple ‘Cox’ and plum ‘Victoria’ were themselves once new and since their arrival on the horticultural scene thousands of others have been bred or discovered. Ornamental trees such as Magnolias have been cross-pollinated by individual breeders to create a tremendous range and seedling selections of Betula and Sorbus continue to add more colour and shape to our gardens. The choice is now wider than ever so there really is a tree for every space and taste.
Many of the apples grown commercially today were either chance seedlings found by accident or raised by professional and amateur breeders. Successful breeders are rare and have instinctive natural abilities and none come more acclaimed than Hugh Ermen. Hugh sadly passed away in 2009 but his legacy lives on in numerous superb varieties such as the apples ‘Scrumptious’, ‘Herefordshire Russet’, ‘Limelight’ and ‘Winter Gem’. Some of Hugh’s unnamed trees are still being monitored in our orchards today.
Apple 'Core Blimey' (2008)
Bred by Hugh Ermen
Named by The London Orchard Project
Other varieties were discovered by chance such as the incredible apple ‘Christmas Pippin’, spotted growing by an English motorway and proving to be one of the most tasty and reliable late apples we have produced. Another recent introduction ‘Rosette’ was found in a garden in Worcestershire as a natural ‘sport’ of ‘Discovery’, offering a richer flavour and attractive red-blushed flesh, making it one of the best early apples and unbeatable for juicing.
Prunus ‘Frilly Frock’ with its striking variegated leaves was a chance find on our nursery which has quickly become one of our bestselling flowering cherries. More recently, Acer platanoides SENSATION, a smaller form of Drummondii less prone to reversion, and Betula pendula Fastigiata Joes, a very slender, delicate birch, both won awards at the National Plant Show and are proving to be an instant hit with gardeners.
Prunus 'Frilly Frock'
A chance find on the nursery and now one of our best selling flowering cherries
We also work in partnership with plant breeders all over the world to help develop new varieties and bring the most promising to the UK market. Organisations, individual breeders and nurseries such as Artevos, Bayerische Obstzentrum, Gräb Nursery in Germany and Botden van Willegan Nursery in Holland have links to or their own interesting breeding programmes that give us access to yet more new fruit and ornamental trees. Some of these come from the commercial fruit growing industry and others from more specialist programmes. The science involved in breeding is becoming increasingly sophisticated opening up more possibilities of hybridisation and through the rapid identification of genetic markers. And much of the work involves improving the rootstocks available as well as the varieties themselves.
You can find more about our partnership nurseries by clicking on the links below:
Every summer when we release our new catalogue the one question we always get asked by our customers is ‘what new varieties are there?’ and we are always delighted to discuss our latest selections. The interest they generate and the positive feedback we get continues to reassure us that the investment is worthwhile.