The detailed answer to our little question on our Instagram page …
There were, perhaps, 5 possible reasons we planted the perry pears in the way we did.
It could have been randomly. It wasn’t.
It could have been done in alphabetical order. It wasn’t (obviously).
It could have been done to take account of the geography of the orchard. It wasn’t. (More on this in another blog, if there’s sufficient demand.)
It could have been done, as our lone entrant suggested, in the order in which blossom appears on each tree, to assist with pollination. This is a very sensible way in which to plant fruit trees, particularly in a domestic setting or in a small orchard and several of the orchards we’ve planted have been arranged in this pattern, for a very good reason. Most apples and pears are not self-fertile (and those that are grow more fruit where cross-pollination can take place) and the vast majority of apples and pears are self-sterile - they cannot pollinate themselves. They therefore need to be pollinated by another tree of the same Genus (apple pollinating apple, pear pollinating pear) but of a different Variety … a Court Pendu Plat apple will not pollinate another Court Pendu Plat apple (we are forever delighted by the names of apples). And to improve the chance of pollination it’s advantageous to plant trees that will be in blossom at the same time close together, so the bees and hoverflies can easily hop from the flowers of one tree to the flowers of the next. For this reason, fruit trees are classed into 5 categories, A to E (imaginatively), with those in Group A flowering earliest and those in Group E flowering latest. So, plant trees in Group A close to other Group A or Group B trees, but not trees in Groups C, D or E as these won’t be in flower at the same time.
It could have been done in the order of pollination … but it wasn’t.
It was planted in the order in which the fruit ripens. The orchard is on a working farm and the pears are harvested to make perry. The fruit that ripens earliest has been planted closest to the farm, so that it can be harvested and taken to the barn for milling and pressing with no danger of damaging or disturbing later fruiting varieties; the route to later fruiting varieties will then be past trees that have already been harvested. This planting pattern also minimises damage to the land caused by tractors and trailers (apparently).
But why does the pollination pattern not matter in such an orchard? Well, in large orchards such as this there are generally plenty of trees of all pollination groups dotted around, so it doesn’t matter as much as it would in a garden with just 2 or 3 trees, where getting the pollination groups right is essential.
So, there you have it. And if you’ve read this far, thank you.