Choosing apple and pear varieties
Our existing orchard is five semi-dwarf Empires. Last year we added three more semi-dwarf apples, two pears and some stone fruit. As the Empires are more than 30 years old and may be coming to the end of their bearing years, it’s possible we should be adding even more new apples.
Our 4b climate zone limits the varieties we can consider growing. The pear varieties that I know and like — Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc — are all zone 5 and thus iffy for our farm. I chose our new trees strictly based on hardiness: Conférence and Golden Spice Ussarian. I haven’t a clue what their fruit tastes like and, given the slow maturing of pear trees, it may be some years before I find out.
There is much more choice in cold-hardy apples. Semi-dwarf trees of my favourite summer apple, Red Astrakhan, were available from Silver Creek Nursery, near Kitchener, Ontario. I haven’t eaten a Red Astrakhan in many years but I still remember the fine taste. Even though they are widely regarded as the best-flavoured summer apple, Red Astrakhans have almost no shelf life and therefore are never going to be a commercially available fruit. If you don’t stumble upon them at a local farm-gate stand, growing your own is the only way to source them. Silver Creek earned our 2014 fruit tree order because it carried this great heritage variety. We also bought our two pear trees, and a Northern Spy and a Snow apple from Silver Creek. Continue reading Anticipating Spring: Apple blossoms