round the Mulberry Bush
Thanks to a donation from a Wenvoe resident the Wildlife Group has just planted a new Mulberry in the Community Orchard. Mulberries are not new to Wenvoe – there is a fine, mature tree at the top of the village that drips with fruit in late summer. But they are unusual and far less common than they used to be. The Community Orchard already has some interesting fruit in addition to the usual suspects, apple, plum, pear, cherry, greengage. You do not see Medlars too much these days but some new Medlar orchards are being planted around London and our 4 Medlars seem happy with our climate and soil and fruit regularly. Quince is also seldom seen but we have one fruit still persisting in the Community Orchard in mid November. So why not a Mulberry? It produces delicious fruit, the birds usually get to it first, but smaller mammals also find them irresistible. They have an interesting history and associations with our culture.
Our variety is called King James 1st (aka Chelsea) and it dates from the 17th century and thereby hangs a tale. King James was anxious to break the French monopoly on silk and the Mulberry is the main food of the Silkworm which produces it. Unfortunately he imported thousands of black Mulberries but it is the white Mulberry which the moths go for and these do not grow well in Britain. So the project did nothing for a British silk industry but the 4 acre Mulberry garden near Buckingham Palace was a popular recreational spot. Mulberries can be found in many of our stately homes, particularly those dating back to Jacobean times. We have fine specimens at St Fagans and near Llandaff Cathedral. They are incredibly long-lived – the artist Gainsborough who was born in 1727 had one growing in his garden which was already over 100 years old and is still there!
And who has not sung the rhyme 'Here we go round the Mulberry Bush'. There are many theories as to its origins but little proof so when you encourage your little ones to dance around the Mulberry bush why not come up with your own story. And if you think it is a good one, get in touch with the Wildlife Group who can publish it on the Community Orchard noticeboard.