Here is a recent facebook post from Bernie:
Russian Pear Winter Hardiness Update
After my depressing post on the death of almost all of my sweet cherry varieties on test after -36C, I thought a more positive post might be in order
I have started a second test orchard at a friends acreage northeast of Sherwood Park near Ardrossan. The site is in a lower area (aren’t they all it seems when we try to get a test orchard going) which is good as there is no protection from the cold by being up on a hill. The temperature this winter dropped to -38C. In a cold winter -40C and a bit colder is common at this site. This was basically “an average winter” there according to my friend who owns the acreage.
I have planted about three dozen Russian pears on Siberian rootstock at this location over the last two years. The trees are now around 3 ft. tall, and were a good 18 inches or so above the snow all winter. They are individually fenced with stucco wire to stop rabbits, porcupines, deer, and moose from chewing them, and are wrapped to prevent vole damage in the winter.
The varieties are Krazulya, Krasnobokaya, Marshal Zhukov, Sentyabrina, Memory Zhegalova, Memory Yakolev, Chizhovsky, Kudesnitsa, Vekovaya, Bolshaya, Sentyabrina, and I’m sure a few other varieties I can’t remember right now (but they are labeled at the site).
Here is the good news…Every single variety seemed fully hardy to the tips when I visited the orchard a few days ago. So they seem fully hardy for us in a “normal winter to -38C”.
According to the Russian literature, these pears are more tender when young in terms of winter temperatures, but they gain “significant hardiness” once they are old enough to produce. But -38C with no damage as young trees is pretty good, and they should all be hardy in our conditions, so grow away with confidence to the folks that have them planted from the scionwood exchanges at the Botanic Garden over the last couple of years.
Many should pass our stringent taste tests, and every variety should easily surpass in quality what we have available now (ie Early Gold, Ure, Golden Spice, and the “apostle” series from the U of Saskatchewan). Of the 6 varieties that have fruited for me so far, Krasnobokaya was the best tasting, full sized, and to me as good or better than any Safeway bought pear. But there are supposed to be even better tasting ones we have growing for the folks who have them on test from the Botanic Gardens scionwood exchange. Time will tell…Here is a photo of the best tasting so far to me, Krasnobokaya. But keep in mind the better tasting ones have yet to fruit for us yet, and this one was really, really good.