My husband always wanted an “orchard” but we never had the time or space to commit to fruit trees until now. Our “orchard” is a selection of most types of fruit trees you can grow in our climate. We inherited a few older cherry, pear and walnut trees when we purchased our property: however, only the pear tree bore fruit last summer. We’re keeping these mature trees for harvesting their beautiful spring flowers but have added new ones for fruit.
Since we’ll use the fruit trees ourselves, we weren’t particular about the variety and basically bought them from Loews. The local garden centers stock items that are appropriate for our area so we should be okay, except for citrus trees. To this day, I cannot seem to keep citrus trees alive beyond the first summer as I don’t have enough light inside the house or heated greenhouse or shed. Needless to say, my citrus trees have died from the harsh cold spell earlier this winter and I have finally decided to stop purchasing them. If anyone has any successful methods they’ve used to keep their citrus successfully overwintered, please let me know! (We are thinking to add a second heated greenhouse for our annual bulbs and could keep citrus trees in it).
Fruit Trees We Have Planted
Some fruit trees require cross pollination, meaning it needs a similar tree nearby to bear fruit. Even the self-pollinating ones that don’t require another tree, I am told, will bear better fruit if it is able to cross pollinate.
Apricot (ordered online, Chinese Apricot and Autumn Glo Apricot from Nature Hills Nursery)
Crab Apple (primarily for arrangements and wreaths) (ordered online, Sugar Tyme Crabapple, from Tree Center Supply Co.)
Lemon (in container)
Lime (in container)
Orange (in container)
Special Pruning Method for Fruit Trees
Most people I know who have fruit trees on their property usually have ones that are behemoths with fruit at the top they can’t reach without a ladder. Because of this, I follow the “little fruit tree” philosophy of pruning. I will keep the trees tall enough for my arms to reach and width wide enough to accommodate all of the trees I planted nearby. I discovered this type of pruning from Ann Ralph’s book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree. If fruit trees are in your future, then this is a must read. Pruning of my fruit trees will be done near the summer solstice. Again, anyone interested in visiting and learning at the farm can do so by contacting me by email. As soon as the date and time are scheduled, I will notify you.
The other types of trees we planted were a result of ones we discovered on our trips or have always liked.
Bald Cypress (ordered online from Perfect Plants) – we discovered this little beauty when we dropped off our daughter at Lafayette College in PA and it was right outside her dorm. Although it is a conifer, it is not an evergreen. Its leaves turn cinnamon and reddish-brown in the fall and then lose its leaves (thus its name) and re-bloom in the winter with tiny flower buds. Bald Cypress have soft, bright green feather-like foliage. Its first summer was touch and go, because of the drought. This tree is a very thirsty tree whose ideal location for planting is near a body of water. Unfortunately, our property does not provide that and so we have been deep watering it regularly. Fingers crossed on this one.
Flowering Dogwood (Cherokee Princess Dogwood, ordered from The Tree Center Supply Co.) – we discovered this tree when we were visiting our sons at Haverford College in PA. Haverford is renown for its arboretum and we happen to have visited the school in spring when this tree was in its splendor. The Cherokee Princess Dogwood is considered the top choice for white flowering dogwood. Its large pure white blooms come early spring before all the others, is long lasting, and in the fall the leaves turn a fiery crimson red. We initially planted this tree in our front yard and unfortunately it died. We replanted the replacement in the same place and saw it too wasn’t doing too well. Doing a little research, we learned that dogwood trees in hot areas like to be under taller trees with sprinkling of sunlight throughout the day and so moved it to a better location.
Magnolia (Sweetbay Magnolia, ordered from The Tree Center Supply Co.) – I’ve always have been in love with magnolias and ordered one online. When I saw that the leaves stayed green and on the tree this winter, to my surprise I learned they were both evergreens and diciduous depending on the planting zone (evergreen in south to southeast and deciduous in the north) . The flowers on the Sweetbay tend to be sparser than other types of magnolias (and will look more like accents on the tree rather than being smothered by them). Birds feed on their red fruits. We plan to use the leaves in our winter wreaths.
Japanese Black Pine – We purchased this tree from Church’s Garden Center here in Cape May because we like the shape of the tree and its pine cones (which we’ll be using for our wreaths). We learned that these trees are also planted along the shore on the Delaware Bay side of the peninsula to help build and preserve the sand dunes.
Next week, in part 2 of the Perennial Flowers, Woodies, and Trees, I will be discussing the many diverse flowering shrubs, bushes, and vines planted on the farm.