It’s 20th February, the wind is blowing straight from Siberia, but the apricot tree growing in my greenhouse doesn’t care. It could live outside quite happily if it wasn’t for the early flowers you can see in my photo. They are every bit as delicate as they look. This cold would destroy them, and all the pollinating insects are too sensible to risk being blown about by the icy breeze. That means if we’re going to enjoy eating our own apricots this summer, I have to do the bees’ work myself.
This is the best-ever flowering we’ve had. Home-grown apricots are such a rare, delicious treat, I’ve never managed to take a photo before they’ve all been eaten. As you can see by the teethmarks on this one, I was only just in time last year!
Once a day, from the moment the first apricot flowers open until the last petals begin to drop, I dust each one with a fine paintbrush. There’s no skill involved, and I don’t bother buzzing like a bee while I’m doing it! All I do is nudge pollen from the anthers to the stigmas. With luck, that will fertilise all the flowers. I’ll be able to see where my impersonation of a bee has been successful. Tiny green fruits will soon begin to swell.
This apricot tree is growing in a tub. If it dries out at any point from now on, it will react by dropping its fruit. Once the compost is nice and moist, I’ll top up the soil with an inch or two of fresh compost. When the little apricots really start to grow, I’ll give the tree liquid plant food as well.
With luck, in five or six months time we’ll be picking warm, sweet apricots in summer sunshine. My dream is to grow enough to make jam. Warm croissants spread with butter and home-made apricot jam is my favourite Christmas Day breakfast. What’s yours?