Having a December birthday means winter seasonal visits, including gardens where possible. Inevitably, most gardens are not at their best at this time of year but this does not put us off visiting and today we have made the acquaintance of the University of Bristol Botanic Garden. The garden largely consists of carefully planned educational displays all with a clear theme, the four core collections being plants that illustrate evolution, those from the Mediterranean region, useful plants and rare and threatened plants from the Bristol area and south west peninsula; sadly a December visit did not provide much of decorative value and many of the less hardy foliage plants were wrapped up for the winter, but the educational emphasis was obvious with clear signing and explanation throughout.


I was, however, pleased to see my first Iris unguicularis of the season:

tmp_9778-20161202_214132-1901250304The ground under this ginko tree was most attractively carpeted in fallen leaves, completely undisturbed:

tmp_9778-img_85381023313921Over 250 herbs are grown in the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden, created in partnership with the Garden and the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, enhanced by an affiliation with the Nanjing Botanic Gardens and other Chinese contacts. Very much a teaching garden, the herbs are arranged in the traditional Chinese categories of diagnosis and use, with the yin and yang qualities also attributed to specific organs:

tmp_9778-20161202_214536150331946Signs were helpfully explicit:


In the glasshouses my camera lens quickly steamed up:

tmp_9778-20161202_214339-595164670Apart from these photographs and a wider knowledge of herbs to improve certain bodily functions I also took away a little pile of medlars, fallen from the elderly tree in front of the buildings on site, now used as student residences. This is the first time I have been confronted with medlars and was surprised by their size – over an inch in diameter – as I had assumed they were smaller. I know they have to be ‘bletted’ before they can eaten, allowed to go soft and brown after ripening, but I haven’t a clue what they taste like and whether I should bypass the tasting process altogether and make medlar jelly instead…



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25 Responses to Meddling

  1. Thanks for the tour, I always wondered what Medlars looked like, small Persimmons?

  2. Happy Birthday! For a gardener, taking a tour of a botanical garden is always a nice way to celebrate. Thanks for the tour!

  3. johnvic8 says:

    Thanks for continuing to broaden my education regarding far away gardens medlars. What in the world are medlars? Happy Birthday.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks John – it is a large shrub or tree which has been cultivated since Roman times. The fruit would be picked around now but has to be left to go overripe and almost ‘rotten’ to be edible

  4. Cathy says:

    I have never seen or eaten medlars either, so look forward to an update. Many happy returns Cathy!

    • Cathy says:

      I have seen the trees before but not with fruit and hadn’t realised this is when they would be picked – will let you know when they have been sampled!

  5. [J+D] One-inch diameter is small – two inch is more normal. Before bletting: hard, tasteless, yuk. After bletting: a firm brown paste, gently sweet, taste like … err … umm … medlars! No, seriously, perhaps a bit like roasted apple and avocado blended together? If you don’t have a ‘sweet tooth’, and eat mostly natural fresh foods unsweetened, you’ll probably really like medlars. A very autumnul taste, and once liked, always loved. Does that encourage you?

    • Cathy says:

      I was estimating from across the hotel room and yes, they are nearer 2″! Thank you for sharing your knowledge which was indeed encouraging – until I read later comments, that is! 😀

  6. Chloris says:

    Happy birthday Cathy. You get about, this sounds like a fun birthday treat. I was interested to see how they wrap the tree ferns up. I was worried about the tips of my fronds sticking out but they obviously don’ t worry about fronds.
    I am interested to see what you do with the medlars. I have a medlar tree but bletting them is just a polite word for letting them go rotten. I’ ve never quite fancied them. They don’ t look very appetizing once they are bletted. Funny word’ bletting’. You don’ t use it for anything for medlars do you? Imagine inventing a word for letting an inedible fruit go rotten so that you can eat it.

    • Cathy says:

      Only get about in the UK though – so many parts still unvisited (although have just planned an early spring treat to another part!) 😀 I was thing of the medlar tree you used to feature on your monthly tree posts when I wrote about them but had forgotten you had one yourself. Apparently the term bletting is used for any fruit that needs to go overripe before eating and includes persimmon, quince, sea buckthorn and wild service, whilst rowan needs to be bletted and cooked – or so Wikipedia tells me. But I agree that from pictures a bletted medlar does not look in the least bit appealing 😐

      • Chloris says:

        My tree following was a Mulberry. I bought my little Medlar tree 4 years ago. It was an impulse buy because it was such a pretty shape. It fruits well but so far I have done nothing with fruit. I will wait and see what you do with your fruit and how it turns out.

        • Cathy says:

          Oh, silly me – at least it begins with an ‘M’ too, but as a penance I am to become a guinea pig for medlar tasting… ps and I was still thinking of you and your tree even though was a mulberry rather than a medlar 😉

  7. homeslip says:

    Happy Birthday Cathy, how refreshing to visit a new and different garden for your December birthday treat. Bletted medlars are an acquired taste I think (quite dry, not very tasty and I guess they were eaten in the past when no other fresh fruits were available, apart from the ubiquitous apple and pear.) I once served bletted medlars to our local history group – they came from a venerable tree on the Common – but made sure they were accompanied by a glass of dessert wine to wash them down.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Sarah – the jury certainly seems to ve still out on bletted medlars but in the circumstances I feel it is my duty to give them a go

  8. You share a birthday month with my husband and several of my friends. Happy Birthday. Lucky you getting to go on a garden tour. Even this time of year it is fun to see a garden you haven’t seen before. A nice treat.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Lisa – my Mum said recently that she wouldn’t wish a December birthday on anyone (hers is November!). S’pose I am used to it after all this time…! 😀

  9. rickii says:

    I love winter rambles, so we share that as well as birthdays (one day off, if this your day). The descriptions of medlars’ taste above sound intriguing to me.

  10. Christina says:

    Happy Birthday Cathy! I’ve never visited Bristol Botanic Garden, it sounds interesting. I can’t help about the Medlars as I’ve never tried them; I’ve seen them growing here but have never been offered any. I have to admit I don’t really fancy eating rotten fruit.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Christina – it is a fairly small garden, and as part of the University it is definitely designed more for educational purposes than any other botanical garden that I have visited. I shall ‘feed’back on the medlars in due course!

  11. Pingback: A Medlar Experiment – and a Surprise! | Rambling in the Garden

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