During our first winter as homeowners, we plotted what fruit trees we would plant in the spring. “Apples, of course. Apples like chill hours. And pears would be practical. And an edible crabapple to help pollinate them.”
We bought a Honeycrisp apple and a Honeygold apple, which are very cold hardy. We also bought a Whitney crab apple. We made it live outside the garden fence though…we only had room for 6 trees.
After that it got a little less practical.
“I heard a story once from a friend of a friend who rented a house here in McCall that had a cherry tree. The legend goes that it had made it through at least 10 WINTERS! Do you know how many cherries that is? My god, do you think it could be true?” (It is true, there’s a cherry tree in town and one out on Warren Wagon Road. That one is an Evans-Bali…it was bought from a local nursery.)
So we bought two tart cherries, an Evans-Bali and a Northstar.
And then: “Okay how would a plum do? What if it was the hardiest type? I had plums at my house growing up, and THAT was in Idaho…” (Totally different part of Idaho…the sandy desert.)
Two hybrid plums boarded the ark. We bought an Alderman and a LaCrescent.
If you are doing the math as we go along, you will know that we are now at 7 fruit trees, 6 inside the fence and 1 outside. And that was all the fruit trees we planted. The End.
Hahahahaha…just kidding. By late spring we impulse bought two hardy peaches. There was a sale, and we’d been eyeing Reliance, Red Haven, and Contender peaches for months. They didn’t have Contender, so we bought the other two. We planted them behind the garden in a row with the crabapple, protected with welded wire fencing. 9 lovely baby fruit trees were carefully watered once a week for about an hour, right at the drip zone where we had carefully dug circular trenches. We picked off all the blooms the first year to let their roots grow.
9 fruit trees is a lot, right? NOT ENOUGH! We don’t even have any pears yet!
The winter of 2015/2016 had heavy snow, and the trees also suffered losses to the under-snow vole army. In the spring, when they started to leaf out, we had lost the Red Haven peach (it froze..eh, it WAS only zone 5 hardy) and the Honeycrisp, Alderman plum, and Whitney crapapple had suffered heavy vole-damage. The plum was a complete loss, but the crabapple pulled through. The Honeycrisp actually had live branches above the graft, but it was so tiny! We dug it out, admired its already robust root system, and then ended up planting on the southeast side of the house.
On a March roadtrip we were fortunate to find a giant replacement Honeycrisp! We had our trailer, so it was wrapped up in a blanket for travel. And then we found a really cheap Gravenstein apple. “A Gravenstein! Zone 2 hardy, and excellent for pies! My grandparents had one!” Into the car, Gravenstein.
Technically that was just ONE extra fruit tree, until we also saw two Asian pears. “Hardy to zone 3! And on sale!” The Nijisseiki and the Shinseiki got in the car too. (And I’m serious about the car part, we were driving a Honda Element with the seats out. They all got IN the car.)
Later in the road trip we nearly bought a sand cherry, but came away with only a Bleeding Heart plant and a few blueberries.
Since it was March, these 4 enormous trees lived in our kitchen until it was warm enough to plant them.
We purchased a replacement Alderman plum online from the same place we gotten the first. (Bare root stock seems to do really well here, especially if you soak them in water and a mycorrhizae mix before planting.) Since we were paying for shipping anyway, I looked for a pollinator for the Gravenstein apple tree. They are sterile and also incompatible with a lot of other trees. There happened to be a 3-in-1 cold-hardy grafted apple tree with a compatible pollinator! ‘Click.’
In the summer of 2016, our tart cherry trees were loaded with fruitlets. The LaCresent plum was loaded too, but the new plum-stick next to it didn’t produce flowers, so all of the green junior fruit dropped off. The Reliance peach, a fast-growing whip of a plant, set several fruit! We picked off all but 4. Besides the tart cherries, all of the trees are really young and need more time to grow. It’s incredible the girth and height they put on each year.
So you aren’t in suspense, the fruit harvest for 2016 was one terrible, tiny peach and over a gallon of tart cherries. Maybe it was those red, perfect cherries that made us do it…
…we bought two sweet cherries. A Van and a Hartland, maybe the only sweet cherry trees that could survive here. Zone 4 hardy (barely). At this point we are really running out of room on the north side of the house!
Finally, our local grocery store had an end-of-summer sale and we thought we’d just pick up another crabapple tree (a standard Dolgo) and plunk it in a dark corner. It’s seriously in the woods.
And that is the story of how we bought 16 fruit trees. Right now it is January of 2017, and Toby has always wanted apricots…