By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
On the Go Answer – Readers Digest Condensed Version of this Article
- Fruit trees are easy to grow in the Mountains.
- Apple, Pear, Peach, Plum, Apricot, Nectarine, grapes, and blueberries all grow
- Native plants with edible fruits are Manzanita, Mahonia, and Currants
Early spring brings a sense of rejuvenation, vitality, and renewal. The revitalization gardeners witness from the fresh leaves and flowers in the gardens. The season also generates activity in plants that produce edibles, especially those fruit trees that flourish in the higher elevations of Arizona. But there is more to fruit trees than just a bountiful harvest; they bring seasonal changes of colors and textures that provide fascinating diversity in our landscapes.
Spring fruit trees bloom in a range of colors, from the purest white and dainty pink to robust reds. Besides visual glory, the sensuality of their fragrances enhances any style of landscape. In autumn, fruit trees have some of the best mountain colors from intense shades of red, glowing orange, and solar yellow. Edibles have it all, even if you never harvest a single fruit!
If you choose fruit trees for their harvest, look for trees that bloom later in spring. Late-blooming varieties reduce frost damage that may take the fruits. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in choosing the perfect pair of trees. Watters garden experts watch share personal experiences and keep a close eye on which varieties perform better in mountain landscapes. Here are my top picks:
Gleason Elberta Peach is the world’s most famous because of its abundant flavor and attractive color. These trees produce huge peaches of the highest quality. Also consider Redhaven, Ranger, and Rio Oso Gem peaches.
Granny Smith Apples are one of my favorite fruits. This bright green apple is grown primarily as a dessert and cooking apple. My mouth waters just thinking about a fruit freshly picked and immediately eaten in the shade of this landscape beauty. This late-blooming variety consistently fruits in local gardens. Also, consider Honeycrisp, Yellow Delicious, and Gala apples.
Moorpark Apricot is the best red apricot with a rich, luscious flavor. This large firm apricot is a local favorite for eating out-of-hand. The delicate pink blossoms set a red-blushed fruit that is pickable early as Independence Day. Consider Harcourt, Chinese, and Tilton apricots.
Stella Cherry is very cold hardy. Its dense clusters of fruit resemble Bing varieties, but I find them to be sweeter. This prolific tree bears high-quality fruit that takes a back seat to its magnificent blossoms. A majestic Stella cherry covered with its spectacular blooms indeed is one of the breath-taking beauties of spring. Also, consider Bing, Van, and Utah Giant cherries.
Pear, Nectarine, Plums, Almonds, and Walnuts also produce well in the mountains of Arizona.
In addition to fruit trees, grapevines produce surprisingly well in local landscapes. The fruits can be a tad smaller than their California cousins, but they are sweeter than other grapes. The vines’ long tendrils make great shade cover as they climb arbors, decks, and covered patios. The most prolific grapes Flame and Thompson varieties, but don’t dismiss the vineyard wine grapes.
Bountiful Blue Blueberry plants are hardy in the ground but produce the best fruits when this showy shrub is grown in containers. They make exciting additions to full-sun areas just off a patio.
Whichever edible appeals to you and your landscape, be sure to plant an extra, so you have enough to share with family, friends, and your local food bank. You might be surprised how appreciative they are to share in your bounty.
June classes and instructors are finalized, and the rest of the Summer schedule is almost completed. Here are the topics for the first classes of summer:
June 11 @ 9:30 am: The Doctor is in the House – How to Heal Sick Plants
June 18 @ 9:30 am: – Perennial Plants that Thrive in Heat
June 25 @ 9:30 am: – Best Mountain Fruit Trees and How to Plant Them Now
Until the next week, I’ll be helping local gardens choose the perfect fruits here at Watters Garden Center.