La Plantelière

Planteliere_MG_5602La Plantelière is a public space dedicated to the discovery of nature and the exploration of sustainable gardening practices. Located near Aurillac, it is a great place to learn about fruit trees.

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From theory to practice, primary school children to expert gardeners can learn a lot about fruit and fruit trees in La Plantelière.

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La Plantelière is a seven-hectare park including, among other features, an apple collection with twenty local cultivars and an “orchard of shapes” with trained trees. Photo 22 May, near Aurillac, France.

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It is also an experimental site, where for instance mulching techniques are tested, here using straw in the “orchard of shapes”.

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The apple collection is maintained with the help of a charity called “Les Croqueurs de Pommes du Cantal”.

At La Plantelière, “Les Croqueurs de Pommes du Cantal”1, who prune the apple trees, also run an annual programme of educational workshops open to everyone free of charge. They last for three hours each and combine theory and practice, like the grafting workshop below. Instructors and experts in fruit trees share best practice with the audience, it feels as if we are learning from three to four teachers at the same time.

The grafting workshop may not be of great interest to gardeners who want to spend as little time as possible in their orchard: those don’t need to know about grafting because fruit trees sold in the trade are already grafted, unless otherwise stated. However, this is a good example of a training programme enabling learners to acquire practical skills:

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A building was recently built in La Plantelière to host indoor animations. Picture: the theory part of the training on grafting techniques provided by “Les Croqueurs de Pommes” on 20 March. The instructor explains the reproduction process of fruit trees and why they are grafted. Basically grafting enables you to make sure the fruit tree will actually produce the cultivar you want2.

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Main grafting techniques explained. The board, quickly introduced at the beginning of the workshop, then serves as a reference for trainees to visualise and memorise the various techniques. Photo 20 March.

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3D representations of grafted shoots are also available to support the learning process. Photo 20 March.

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The practice part: the audience will have the opportunity to give it a try later on. Photo 20 March.

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A live demonstration of notch grafting3 on Sunday. The instructor achieved perfect contact between the edges. Trainees are then invited to practice by themselves under tutor supervision with the tools, tree shoots and scions provided by “Les Croqueurs de Pommes”. Not an easy task for inexperienced gardeners! Photo 22 May.

“Les Croqueurs de Pommes” run two grafting workshops per year at La Plantelière, one in March and one in May, to account for the various techniques used at different seasons. For instance, bark grafting is only taught in May when sap has risen, a prerequisite for this technique to be applied.

The charity also run workshops on pruning (see our 28 February 2016 post), planting, nurturing trees, spotting and curing diseases… and pomology in order to help recognise the local fruit cultivars available around Aurillac. It provides amateur gardeners and more expert ones with a wealth of useful practical information they can choose from according to their interests.

Soil analysis is also carried out free of charge for charity members who bring a sample at the workshops. I learnt that the soil of “Le jardin d’Aurillac” is good for apple and pear trees and that “Le jardin de Saint Simon” is good for potatoes and strawberries. Manure will help strawberries grow better in “Le jardin d’Aurillac” while quicklime put in the ground every meter or so below the drip line of the apple and pear trees in “Le jardin de Saint Simon” will make them stronger.

Again, gardeners who don’t want to think too much about their fruit trees don’t have to do that. Fruit will grow anyway. It is just good to know that if you want to achieve more, there is knowledge around to help you.

The next workshops on fruit and fruit trees at La Plantelière will be about fruit thinning on 26 June, for trees to produce less but better fruit and summer pruning on 26 July, followed by a picnic.

Join us if you are around, or look out for similar opportunities where you are! It is so pleasant to learn from passionate gardeners and experiment with their support… It is like being at the heart of who we are and should always be as human beings on this planet: considerate cultivators of nature.

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Your dedicated writer, practicing. Photo Kamil Ghouati, 20 March. La Plantelière4 , which hosts the fruit tree workshops among other activities, is part of the urban community of the Aurillac area.

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  1. Association “Les Croqueurs de Pommes du Cantal” (= Cantal’s Apple Eaters, Cantal being one of the districts of the Auvergne region of France; website in French). Accessed 24 May 2016.
  2. Why do we graft fruit trees? Explanations here: “The science of grafted fruit trees” (for anyone interested in how humans work with nature). Accessed 24 May 2016.
  3. Notch grafting = number 7, bark grafting = number 2 in the following list of grafting techniques (for gardeners interested in grafting, which requires knowledge and dexterity. It is not necessary to know about grafting though, as most trees sold in garden centres are already grafted). Accessed 24 May 2016.
  4. La Plantelière (website in French). Accessed 24 May 2016.

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