Melon has deep red-orange flesh, more 'meat' than expected

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England is one of the only country houses in Great Britain to be given the title of palace. Everything about Blenheim is grand: the front of the house is 856 feet wide; it has hundreds of rooms and covers a full seven acres of land.

The land itself was a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne in thanks for the Duke's victory at the Battle of Blenheim. Construction began in 1705 as a kind of monument to Queen Anne, who also gave funds for construction. But here things get sticky, because the Duke's wife, Duchess Sarah, who was a favorite of Queen Anne, argued with the architect Vanbrugh until he resigned. Then, Sarah fell out of favor with the Queen, so much so that the Marlboroughs fled the country for a brief time.

Originally budgeted at 30,000 pounds, the final bill was about ten times that and eventually, the duke paid to complete the palace. The duke must have been appalled as he was known for being so frugal that in order to save ink he refused to dot his Is.

Blenheim Palace is now famous to gardeners worldwide as the birthplace of the Blenheim Orange melon (Cucumis melo).

Blenheim Orange melon was developed by the head gardener Thomas Crump in 1881 to be grown in the greenhouses of the palace, but they do very well outdoors especially in short season areas. The two-pound melons have a thick rind and intoxicatingly fragrant deep red-orange flesh. The seed cavity is small so there is more "meat" than one would expect.

Like all melons these prefer warm soil and lots of sun. You can start them indoors about four weeks before setting them out or you can direct seed them in the garden once the soil is warm and all danger of frost has passed. A sandy loam soil with a pH of 6.5 to 8 is best. In the garden plant the seeds about an inch deep in hills of six seeds each. Space the hills about two feet apart in the row. Keep a good five feet between each row.

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