THE heatwave is not only bringing out the beachgoers in Dorset.

The combination of a mild winter, a warm spring and a hot summer has meant that loquats have fruited for the first time ever at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens.

Loquats - not related to kumquats - first came from ancient south-east China. Nowadays they are mostly grown in Japan, Mediterranean countries and Brazil for their delicious peachy apricot-coloured fruit.

Steve Griffith, curator at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, said: “Loquat trees are mostly grown in this country just for their foliage. They’re big-leaved and they suggest the tropics. In this country it’s very, very shy to flower and fruit because we don’t really have long, hot summers - but this year it’s produced some fruits for the first time.

“Many of our plants are doing spectacularly well this year, but it was still a real surprise to walk past and see these big orange fruits.

“That’s one of the great things about a garden like this. Very often we’ll put a rarity in some odd corner, and nothing interesting will happen for years, but then suddenly you’ll see something amazing, and it’s the first time it’s done it.

“I only wish there were more loquats and we could harvest enough for a picnic!”