You don’t need to plan a complicated orchard to enjoy opulent blossoms on your trees in early spring. There are fruiting trees and pollen-less ones that both produce sweet spring flowers for every garden.
Before Mr. Sickles Sr. planted his raspberry field beside the road, I remember the exquisitely pale pink blossoms of his short, vigorously pruned Peach trees. They were surreal—like pink gauze covering the sky. The peach orchard resembled a Van Gogh landscape in the middle of Little Silver. The trees, planted in rows, gave forth magnificent, snowy blossoms every spring. In my almost daily trips to the farm, I would invariably forget my camera after promising myself I had to have a photo of this sight. Now, the vision is only in my minds eye forever, as I pass the field everyday on my way to work.
Peach trees were always a symbol to me of the old days. My grandfather in Long Branch had a couple, and the big deal every year was that he presented my father with one. Not hard to take care of, the peaches produced well without any big deal spraying, and they were always there to remind us that Pop Sr. or Pop Jr. planted them. Worth more than a bushel of peaches, the spring blossoms took my breath away. If we got some useable fruit, that was good. If not, if was a family “thing”—you just had to have a peach tree in your yard.
Redbud trees don’t fruit, but they are the most luxurious and wild color of fuchsia I have ever seen. Long, straight branches are stuffed with hundreds of pea blossom-type flowers in April. They almost seem fake in the natural landscape. Blooming for only about 2 weeks, the pleasure is fleeting. They do well as an “under story” tree—planted under larger trees in moister soil. I always say “I gotta have one of those” and then it's too late—until next year when their stunning flowers catch my eye again.
Last year, I had to severely cut back my Kwanzan cherry. The tree, known for its famous blooms in Washington DC every spring, has choking fluffy blossoms that create a pink snowstorm against the sky—and utility wires. It’s a beauty to behold when it is kept pruned. There is nothing more exotic than wading through a pile of pink flowers on the ground after they fall. Elegant and sophisticated, the more graceful Weeping cherry grows a little slower. There’s no time like the present to put one in the ground—once they take off, they are magnificent in the landscape with their all-encompassing pink arching branches. This tree is one of the arborist's true successes. Grafted (special taping) with precision on to a common cherry tree trunk, the top holds the secret that makes the cherry branches cascade over. The tree will get quite large, up to 30 ft at maturity. I’m afraid I planted mine too late. How long am I going to live? No problem- my children might remember me down the road for a few things when they see it. Coming back as a tree isn’t bad at all.
If edible cherries are what you like, you can always plant a vigorously growing Montmorency cherry tree. The fruits in summer are tart, and extremely productive. It’s a show in itself if you want to see a tremendous variety of birds. The Robins go absolutely crazy high up in the branches. It’s a tweeting fest where babies are fed and fattened with the good life before they take on independence.
One of the earliest flowering trees is the delicately blooming ornamental Plum. There is no fruit here but their branches cloud the air with pink and white blossoms. Plums develop glossy burgundy leaves after blooming, providing all season beauty. Hardy and stout, they need a little pruning every couple of years to keep it broad and healthy.
I think apple trees are the dream of many a backyard farmer. Thoughts of lush springtime blossoms and crisp fall fruit entice us to plant one. But two is better. They have to cross-pollinate with a different variety to get fruit. The blossoms of an apple tree are historically poetic. Old, abandoned orchards still put forth flowers in the spring, and evoke songs to the tune of “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree”. There’s a little more work involved in apple trees—spraying every couple of weeks is crucial to decent fruit and disease-free branches. It’s not hard, just a little more of a challenge. But still, if you grow them for the blossoms, birds, squirrels and other wildlife, they are fine just the way they are. Slicing the top off your apple trees (coppicing) in late winter keeps the fruit coming strong, whether you choose to spray or not. I still harvest the “not so perfect” apples of my neighbors’ tree. I cut out the bruised, and have plenty of flesh for a good, homemade pie.
If the care of apple fruit doesn’t suit your sensibilities, there are the gorgeous ornamental flowerings Crabapples. The ornamentals don’t produce fruit, but the reward of fabulous white, pink, or deep raspberry blossoms in the spring. Don’t be afraid to prune these either—the more you prune apple, the better they will grow. Stop in and talk with some of our fruit tree-loving staff for more info when you get a chance.
I have to admit that I love a tree for just being a tree. A tree is solid- a giver of shade, beauty, shelter, and unspoken history. When a tree grows in your yard, you are firmly planted —and you have a place in the world. To us, a tree is family, and is cared for and spoken about for years to come. Remember when that old Cherry tree that bloomed against your grandfathers windows each summer you visited? The one you used to lie in bed and look at? I do.
Early Garden thoughts on my mind:
The moles are on the move. Although it is the shrews and the voles that will eat your plants, a mole will not usually feed on vegetation underground. They’ll just soften the soil and tumble things around a bit. Nothing is better for stopping them than getting to their source of food-- grubs. That’s where the homely Starling comes in. When these birds poke their beaks in and around our lawns, they are eating the grubs that moles love. Keep the Starlings happy with Coles Suet cake for year round feeding. They’ll be encouraged to stay and feed on the grubs while starving out the moles.
Start pruning back your roses now. The ever blooming roses (ones that bloom off and on all season) can be pruned back now for thicker growth with more blooms. The one-time June bloomers can be cut back after they finish blooming.
Get a good head start with planting young perennials. They are used to being in the cool ground, and by the time June and July comes along, you will have a bigger plant with lots of flowers.
Stinkbugs again. These little Asian hitchhikers need light every day to survive—that’s why you’ll usually see them crawling on your brightest windows. If you put flypaper on your window, they’ll get stuck. Picking them off one by one helps too. Keep at it-- the agricultural world is working hard and furiously on finding the right (and beneficial) insect that will eat the little stinkers, yet not cause another problem.