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In our recent Scion Exchange post, I mentioned that we were adding some different apple and crab apple varieties to the orchard.  It will be a while before the grafted scions will be ready to plant out in the orchard though.

In the meantime we’ve been adding other fruits to the orchard.  Three new bare root trees have been planted this winter.  A white peach, an antique apple, and an Asian persimmon.

 

We've now planted the white peach 'Indian Free' in the orchard

The peach tree ‘Indian Free’ was special-ordered through a local nursery to ensure we’d have one to plant this season.  We have Tom at Tall Clover Farm to thank for pointing out this variety to us.  Ever since reading his posts about ‘Indian Free’ here and here, we’ve had a slight touch of peach envy.  ‘Indian Free’ is a freestone white peach that is resistant to peach leaf curl (PLC), and tolerant of cool coastal climates.  This variety produces beautiful fruit with red skin and crimson-streaked white flesh.  I can only imagine how gorgeous our peach preserves will be from this tree!

We instituted the rule of PLC resistant peaches in the orchard before we even installed the orchard fence. After battling PLC, which is caused by Taphrina deformans, rather unsuccessfully in our last garden, only resistant peach varieties are allowed to set root here.  We also prefer freestone peaches, especially if they’re going to be used in the kitchen. Clingstone peaches are fine for eating out of hand, but for baking, canning, and jam-making, I find nothing more infuriating than trying to pry persistent pits from stubborn stone fruits.  ‘Indian Free’ meets both criteria…and as such, we have high hopes for this tree.

 

For now 'Indian Free' is still dormant

‘Indian Free’ is not self-fertile, and requires a pollenizer.  Fortunately though, we already have another PLC resistant yellow peach variety, ‘Frost’, in the orchard which will serve the purpose nicely. Despite setbacks with browsing deer last year, ‘Frost’ still outperformed our expectations for such a young tree, so we’re hopeful that ‘Indian Free’ will do as well for us once it’s established.  That said, we won’t allow this tree to set any fruit this year to enable the tree to concentrate on establishing a healthy root system.  In the meantime, it’s clear our ‘Frost’ tree is impatient for spring…

 

The buds of 'Frost' are just beginning to burst

The antique apple we’ve chosen to plant this year is ‘Spitzenburg’.

 

Like most of our other apples, Spitzenburg is on M-111 rootstock

The ‘Spitzenburg’ apple was first discovered in the early 1700’s near Esopus, in New York’s Hudson Valley.  It is reputed to have been one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite dessert apples grown at Monticello.[1,2]  Spitzenburg is self sterile, but our other apple tree varieties in the orchard will serve as pollenizers.  This is an excellent dual purpose apple, apparently wonderfully flavored eaten fresh, but equally as good as a culinary apple, and also a decent cider apple.  Along with our Golden Russet apple, and Humboldt crab apple, it’s likely some ‘Curbstone Valley Cider’ will be in the making once the orchard really begins to produce. That said though, I’m excited to try the Spitzenburg in a homemade apple pie!

 

The apple 'Esopus Spitzenburg' was one of Jefferson's favorite dessert apples

Unlike our PLC resistant peaches though, this heirloom apple is not known for being disease-free.  Although we have selected mostly disease resistant varieties of fruit that are adapted to our location, the Spitzenburg is a little bit of a gamble.  This variety is not overly vigorous in growth habit, or fruit set, and unfortunately, especially during a wet warm spring, can be particularly prone to apple scab (Venturia inaequalis).

 

Fungal spores that cause apple scab disease (Venturia inaequalis) erupting through the cuticle of a crabapple leaf. Magnified about 1500x (Public Domain Image: Source USDA-ARS)

As such, good orchard hygiene and management will be imperative to help prevent and control any potential outbreaks.  However, with its rich history, and favorable culinary qualities, we think it’s worth giving this variety a try.

Our third bare root planted this winter is the persimmon.  We initially expected we’d just plant the non-astringent and multipurpose variety ‘Fuyu’.  However, in the fall and early winter ‘Fuyu’ fruits are readily available at local farmer’s markets, so we decided to plant something different.  We’ve chosen the pollen variant cultivar ‘Chocolate’, also known as Tsurunoko.

 

How could anyone resist planting 'Chocolate' in an orchard?

Although a pollenizer is not required for ‘Chocolate’ to produce fruit, the presence of a pollenizer changes the characteristics of the fruit significantly.  In the presence of a pollenizer, ‘Chocolate’ fruits will contain some seeds, but they’ll also develop a wonderfully sweet, complex, spicy brown flesh reportedly reminiscent of cinnamon in flavor.

 

Fuyu Persimmon (left), Hachiya Persimmon (right) (Source: Public Domain Image)

If the fruits from ‘Chocolate’ are not pollinated however, the fruit will be seedless, and will remain astringent until fully ripe, more similar to the Hachiya persimmon.

As we’d like to increase the likelihood of pollination we acquired scions from two other Asian persimmon varieties at the Scion Exchange a couple of weeks ago, Izu, and Suruga.

 

These Asian Persimmon Scions, 'Izu' and 'Suruga', will soon be grafted to 'Chocolate'

The orchard will be almost completely full once the grafted apples are planted out, so rather than make room for two additional persimmon trees, which can become sizable in age, the scions from ‘Izu’ and ‘Suruga’ will be grafted directly to the ‘Chocolate’ persimmon tree in the next couple of weeks. These additional varieties will also hopefully help to extend our persimmon harvest season.

In addition to these bare root trees, we’ve also added two varieties of rhubarb this winter, ‘Victoria’ and ‘Crimson Cherry’.

 

Our rhubarb crowns are just starting to take off

The crowns are already throwing up their first stalks and leaves, and the rhubarb should make for some wonderful strawberry-rhubarb pies later this spring!

 

The strawberries are starting to bloom, with the promise of fruit to accompany the rhubarb

Also on the new fruit front, another gamble, a blackcurrant.  I grew up with blackcurrants in the garden, and am very fond of their unique flavor.  However, I’m not sure if our climate will really be optimal for them to grow here, but as we have some room just outside of the vegetable gardens, we thought we’d try the blackcurrant ‘Consort’.

 

Blackcurrant 'Consort' should soon be stirring

Lastly, we’ve planted some additional cane fruits, including the gold raspberry ‘Anne’, the popular red raspberry ‘Meeker’, and our personal favorite, Olallieberries!

 

The Olallieberries are starting to awaken

With our new bare root fruit trees planted out, our next orchard task is grafting our apple and crab apple scions to their M-111 root stocks…just as soon as the rest of our grafting supplies arrive!

Are you planting any new fruits this season?

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[1] Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, By Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc., 2002
[2] The Fruit and Fruit Trees of Monticello, by Peter J. Hatch, 1998