See the fruits of your labor -- in back yard

It doesn't take much space, or know-how, for home gardeners to grow fruit trees

In The Garden

October 03, 2004|By Marty Ross | By Marty Ross,Universal Press Syndicate

There's nothing quite like taking a bite out of a crisp, juicy apple, especially when it comes from right outside your own door. Even if you have only a tiny city garden, you probably have enough room to grow your own fruit.

Harvesting fruit in your own back yard is very satisfying, and it's not difficult, the experts say. It's important to choose the right size tree for your garden, and to select varieties that are appropriate for your climate, but if you make good choices early on, fruit trees are quite a thrill to grow.

"People enjoy fruit trees right from the beginning," says Allen Cosnow, who has about 35 fruit trees in his garden in Glencoe, Ill. His smallest trees, on dwarf root stock, are no bigger than a tomato plant. A couple of his larger trees are grafted so they bear the fruit of several different varieties of apples -- "a parlor trick," he says, but one that has captivated him since he was a teenager.

Cosnow is a member of the Midwest Fruit Explorers (www. midfex.org), a group of garden hobbyists who grow every conceivable kind of fruit in their gardens and share their harvests and their enthusiasm with people throughout the Midwest.

"We're interested in keeping the old varieties from going into extinction, but we love the new stuff, too," Cosnow says. "We want to try them all -- it gets ridiculous."

Cosnow especially likes varieties that have a distinguished history. He grows the old apple varieties Esopus Spitzenburg and Calville Blanc d'Hiver, which Thomas Jefferson had in his extensive orchard at Monticello, in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

At the Chicago Botanic Garden's Fruit and Vegetable Garden, Alana Mezo manages a demonstration orchard of about 50 apple trees. Twelve varieties were chosen because they are easy to grow and hardy in the Chicago area's winters, Mezo says.

Mezo loves fresh-picked fruit, but the orchard is beautiful year round, she says. "In spring, when the trees are in bloom, it is just fabulous. Even one fruit tree in bloom is fabulous," she says. Through the summer, as the fruit develops and matures, it looks like colorful baubles on the trees.

In fall, the leaves on the apple trees turn to gold, and the peach foliage is a bronzy red. After the leaves fall, the trees reveal their sculptural forms.

"In the winter, you can really see their different characteristics," Mezo says. "It's very pretty, especially with a little bit of snow on the trees."

Mezo recommends semi-dwarf trees, which grow to about 12 to 15 feet. Most people plant fruit trees in a spot by themselves, but they are also handsome elements at the ends of long flower beds, or right at the center of formal gardens, she says. Fruit trees need sun, so give them an open spot and design the garden around them, Mezo suggests.

"Most people seem to want apples, but peach trees are very pretty, and cherries, and we have a quince here; 100 years ago, anybody who had a garden had a quince," Mezo says. She also recommends serviceberry and bramble fruits like blackberries and raspberries, particularly for gardeners who have limited space.

Sources

Stark Bros. Nurseries & Orchards

P.O. Box 1800

Louisiana, Mo. 63353

800-325-4180

www.starkbros.com

Raintree Nursery

391 Butts Road

Morton, Wash. 98356

360-496-6400

www.raintreenursery.com

Miller Nurseries

5060 W. Lake Road Canandaigua, N.Y. 14424

800-836-9630

www.millernurseries.com

Valley View Farms

11035 York Road

Cockeysville, Md. 21030

410-527-0700.

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