Apple trees need some friends to help them produce fruit


January 27, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q. I am preparing to order several bare-root apple trees for our back yard. The catalog recommends planting more than one variety. Why is this important?

A. Plants produce fruit only after pollen has been transferred from the male part of a flower (anther) to the female part (stigma). This fertilizes the flower to produce the fruit embryo in the same way that sperm fertilizes an egg to produce a human embryo. The problem with apples is that specific varieties generally do not fertilize themselves. For example, the flower of a red delicious apple tree will not fertilize itself or any other red delicious flower. However, the flowers of other apple varieties can fertilize them. Because it can get relatively complicated figuring out which will fertilize which, it is typically recommended that you plant three varieties of apple trees. This most always ensures that the flowers will be fertilized and fruits produced.

Q. I have had difficulty growing clematis vine in my yard, but I would like to try again this spring. Do you have any recommendations for growing them?

A. Some plants grow well over a range of conditions; however, clematis is somewhat particular in its requirements. It is easy to grow in the right conditions. Plant in a sunny location that gets afternoon shade; avoid planting in hot dry sites. Because clematis likes cool roots, plant the vine where the roots are shaded throughout the day. Some low-growing perennials or shrubs, a low wall, or some small boulders could provide the shade. It is also important to dig a large, deep hole and to include organic matter in the planting mix. I have grown clematis successfully after supplementing the planting mix with bone meal and lime to raise the pH to around 7.0. However, some gardeners have success growing clematis at much lower pH values.


1. If you are recycling old trays or pots, be sure to disinfect them in a 10 percent bleach solution before filling them with fresh soil and starting new seedlings.

2. Diverse landscape plantings tend to have fewer disease and insect problems. Keep this in mind when planning your garden.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site / users / hgic.

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