Bob Purvis - Pears for the north

" Purvis Nursery and Orchard

Aurora: Bartlett x Margaret Marillet cross, large pyriform fruits, juicy, sweet, upright to spreading grown habit.
Beurre Giffard: Tree has reddish new growth, willowy growth habit, precocious in bearing, blossoms with Summercrisp. Tree not hardy below –30F. Fruits are medium sized, somewhat pyriform, good tasting even when slightly unripe, sweet with vinous flavor notes, but keep only a month at best. One of the best of the summer pears, grown commercially in southern Quebec.
Champion: Russeted pear, seedling of Gorham, fine-grained flesh, very good flavor, ripens mid to late September in Idaho. Tends to shrivel in long-term storage because of a thin skin.
Comptesse Clara Frijs: Dessert pear from Denmark, 19th century, solid rugged hardy tree. Fruit size medium, shape oblong, yellow-green with a blush of red, rather thick skin. Flesh firm but not crisp, juicy but not dripping, flavor a cross of honey with vanilla. Tree very productive, flower buds hardy to at least -34F, fruit very popular at SW Minnesota farmers’ market.
Concorde: A British cross of Conference x Comice. Tree growth habit upright to spreading, moderate vigor, precocious, grower friendly, some resistance to fire blight, spurs up well, fully winter-hardy at –33F in SW Minnesota. Fruits are large with long necks, excellent sweet flavor, and keep till April in cold storage. Grown commercially in northern WA.
Dana Hovey: Possibly a seedling of Seckel, nicknamed Winter Seckel because of its sweetness. Fruit size is small to medium, intensely sweet, highly aromatic flesh, keeps till at least December. Spreading growth habit, ripens late Sept. here, good resistance to fire blight as observed in our 2016 epidemic. One of our favorites.
D’Anjou: Commercially grown pear for winter storage. Tree upright, vigorous, early blooming; fruit large, flavor mild and sweet, stores about 5-6 months in cold storage.
Douglas: Fruit is large, slightly tart, few grit cells, firm texture, excellent for canning, keeps well. Tree has upright to spreading growth habit. Flower buds hardy to at least -34F; tree is productive in SW Minnesota and very resistant to fire blight.
Ewart: Introduced in Ohio, 1928. Tree is precocious and very productive, somewhat more fire blight resistant than Bartlett, willowy growth habit, flower buds hardy to at least -34F. Fruits are medium sized, flesh fine-textured, melting, juicy, flavor and quality are excellent. Ewart will pollenize Bartlett and somewhat resembles it although it ripens 10-20 days later.
Harrow 604: Somewhat spreading growth habit, well spurred, low vigor, very precocious, early ripening, fire blight susceptible, hardy in Zone 4, injured at -33F. Fruit has long neck, yellow, size small to medium, outstanding flavor, ripe early August in SW MN.
Harrow Sweet (Harrow 609): Medium sized tree, moderately precocious, somewhat spreading growth habit, hardy in SW Minnesota to at least -34F, resistant to fire blight, very productive. Fruit ripens 3-1/2 weeks after Bartlett, yellow with red blush, sweet and juicy with excellent taste, keeps about 3 months in cold storage.
Honeysweet: Self-fertile seedling of Seckel, hardy to at least -35F, very productive. Fruit resembles Seckel being very sweet. Larger and keeps better than Seckel. Tree has spreading growth habit, exceptional resistance to fire blight, ripens about Sept. 4 in east-central Minnesota.
Hudar: St. Lawrence Nurseries introduction, tree is precocious and productive, medium sized fruits are yellow with sweet, juicy flesh, quality acceptable for farmers’ markets, size is medium in SW Idaho, where it typically ripens in early August.
Korean Giant (Olympic): Flower buds hardy to -30F, very productive in SW Minnesota, large round fruits, orange-brown skin, tree is precocious under Idaho conditions. Fruit is juicy, sweet; I find it tastes excellent when dried.
Luscious: Medium sized fruits, good flavor, tree has somewhat spreading growth habit and sterile pollen. Hardy in Zone 3.
Maxine: Productive in Stillwater, MN; grown for roadside sales in Oregon. Fruit medium sized, pyramidal shape, good flavor. Tree is resistant to fire blight and a good pollenizer of other pears.
Nova: St. Lawrence Nurseries introduction. Tree is spreading, low vigor, precocious. Fruit is large, round, melting, and juicy, of good quality, and may be used either green or ripe. Tree is supposedly self-fruitful. Hardy to about -45F.
Paragon: Discovered by Dr. David Sugar at Mid-Columbia Research Station, Oregon. Tree has upright growth habit. Fruits are large, juicy, honey-like sweet flavor, one of our favorites, keeps about 2-4 months, ripens mid September in SW Idaho. Tree observed to be susceptible to fire blight in 2016.
Parker: a 1934 introduction by the U of MN. Medium to large yellow fruit with red blush, fine-grained sweet flesh but does not keep well, susceptible to fire blight.
Patten: U of MN introduction, very large, pyriform fruit, ripe late Sept., good flavor but should be picked 1 week before tree-ripe for best flavor. Good for eating but only fair for canning. Some resistance to fire blight
Stacey: St. Lawrence introduction, very sturdy tree, hardy in USDA Zone 2, tree is productive. Fruit size medium, sweet, but needs to be picked before fully mature. Keeps for about a month. Popular with customers at the farmers’ market in SW Minnesota.
Savignac: as grown in central WA, tree is spreading, low to medium vigor, precocious, hardy in zone 2. Fruit ripe about Sept. 10-15 in central WA. Sweet, juicy, size medium to large, coarse flesh, few grit cells.
Sierra: Seedling of Bartlett x Marguerite Marillat, introduced at Summerland, B.C. in 1969. Tree is medium sized and cold hardy, bears early and heavily. Fruit is very large, long pyriform, light green, somewhat irregular in size and shape. Flesh is medium tender, very fine and melting; flavor is very good. Ripens a few days before D’Anjou and keeps till January.
Summercrisp: Tree is upright to spreading, fairly precocious, and very well spurred, an excellent pollenizer for early-ripening pears. Good resistance to fire blight. Fruits medium sized, best eaten when crisp. Hardy well into Zone 2.
Ubileen: Tree is upright to spreading, flower buds not hardy below about -25F. Fruits large, very flavorful and of high quality, ripens early August and keeps about a month. One of the best pears in the Corvallis collection, precocity is average.
Vermont Beauty: Tree medium to large, hardy in Zone 4, extremely productive. Fruit lemon yellow, flesh yellow-tinged, melting, smooth, dense, fine-grained and juicy. Ripens before Seckel, keeps 8-12 weeks. Highly resistant to fire blight during blight epidemic here in 2016."


I have no proof, but saying any pear is “hardy well into zone 2” seems like a major stretching of the truth.

Its hard enough finding pears hardy here in zone 4a (with 3b lows every few years)

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ive seen other places say summercrisp is z3 hardy. i have patten on mt mtn. ash. that too is supposedly z3 hardy and my grafts did survive -40 3 winters ago but so did Bartlet and it’s in a low spot with no protection from the n.w winds. maybe mtn, ash gave it some protection? got 4 clusters of Stacyville that set fruit for the 1st time. exited to get my 1st pears ever. i wonder if Stacyville is the same as Stacy on this list? any idea Clark?

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I had a 2nd year Summercrisp get zapped by nothing colder than -28…but we had weeks and weeks of -20 to -28 that winter

Could wind be a factor perhaps?


I think there are some differences from area to area in zone hardiness. For years I’ve thought zone 4 in the NE U.S. is very different from zone 4 in the upper midwest.
I see Purvis talking about -34 in SW MN. I’m sure he experienced that temp, but I’d guess it was for a short period of time in the dead of winter. That’s quite a bit different than -34 in November or December. Snow cover/depth also plays a huge roll IMHO. Seems the NE U.S. has more consistent snow cover, as well as more depth than here.


From that list I’ve got Summercrisp, Honey Sweet and Nova. I’m in zone 5 up in Canada.

My Summercrisp is 8 years old now and has really come into its own. The first couple of seasons the pears were only ok, with bitter skins, but now its one of my favourites. It can be eaten fresh right off the tree (no need for putting it in the fridge for a while) and when it does ripen it really mellows out to be super sweet, soft, but not mushy. Can confirm my tree is upright, minimal spreading, but precocious.

My Honeysweet is 3 years old and while growing well hasn’t produced any pears yet.

I planted Nova this year. Not much info online about it besides what @clarkinks posted above. I’d hate to have to wait 3 years for fruit and find out it’s a dud.

I wasn’t aware that Korean Giant was very hardy. I would probably replace it on that list with Shinseiki, which is my only Asian pear (and is fantastic tasting). It seems to be doing ok but it’s had a couple rough winters, bit of dieback, and overall growing slower than most of other trees. The nursery that i bought it from states it’s hardy to zone 4 but I think that’s probably overzealous marketing.

I agree zone 2 is pushing it for any pear, though I’ve heard some of the Russian pears are suitable for zone 3.


I don’t know about the pears, but I do know a little bit about Bob.

Met him at a conference and farm tours some years back. He gave me my first lessons on grafting and helped me get my first apricot “orchard” growing. I was trying to find the latest blooming most cold hardy apricots for our place in Northern AZ that almost always suffers from late frosts. He was able to help me out and we went from getting fruit 1 out of 7-8 years to getting fruit 3 out of every 4 years. This year we had a bad late frost and still have fruit on one of the trees.
I kept in touch with him sporadically over the years since.

To the best of my knowledge Bob is pretty careful about how he runs his farm and what he represents.


Nice to hear that about summercrisp. I was thinking maybe…what did I buy? Prolly a lot like harrow crisp

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Here is a little more information

"Nova pear is a sizeable pear with a thin yellow skin and shape that is that of a typical pear but a little rounder with more meat on it. The flesh is juicy and has a silky texture that seems to melt in the mouth. It is among the very best dessert pears but is equally suitable for canning and holds its shape very well.

The pear hangs on the tree well through ripening and is ready for harvest around mid-September. It can be used both when it is green and when given further time to ripen and in both cases is an exquisite treat."

" Nova was discovered on Hudar farm in Hammond, NY. It is a seedling tree of one of the numerous adult pear trees growing wild there. Among other varieties that emerged from the same source was the variety Hudar."

“We tasted it for the first time while on a visit to our friends at St. Lawrence Nurseries in Potsdam, New York, who considered it to be their favourite pear. It was also they who had named it Nova, after their daughter who was with them when they discovered it on Hudar farm.”

"Nova pear tree is good grower that fruits reliably and with excellent yields. The tree tends towards a smaller and more spreading form than most pear trees and shows resistance to fire blight and scab.

It is hardy to zone 4 and is self-fertile though another variety nearby will likely maximize pollination."

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The U of MN was the source for Summercrisp pear. They list it as being “very good” in zone 4 and “poor” in zone 3. That’d pretty much match my experience. I suppose once a tree is well established and is growing in a protected micro-climate it could survive in 3b, maybe 3a until a test winter hits. Well into zone 2? I don’t think so.

Growing pears in the home garden | UMN Extension


Noogy are you growing Harrow Crisp? I waffled on it for the exact reason that I thought it might be similar to Summercrisp. I’d be curious to know what you think about it if you have it.


Thanks, yeah I have seen that info. What I meant was there’s not a lot of info outside of what nursery’s who sell it are saying about it. Nursery’s always put a positive spin on most fruit to incentivize people to buy. I was hoping for more real life feedback from people who are growing it. I’ve seen that video from Nick Kasko on Nova and his feedback isn’t great: “edible but subpar”. I’m hoping that it’s because he’s growing them out on the west coast. The pear is native to the east (NY) which is much closer to my own climate. Finger’s crossed.


Hi Mike,
I anticipate fruiting next year. I also grafted some chinese pears to it as a reservoir.


I’d also be interested to know if anyone is growing Concorde in the north east and what they think about it.

It’s always cool to get new fruit from your own source.

I’ve had Ure, Golden Spice, and Early Gold pears fruiting for a few years now. They’re not bad, but they’re certainly no Bartlett. Last year I had a couple Beireschmitt pears…now that variety is excellent. I may get to taste Southworth this year, I’ve got my fingers crossed for the few fruit that set to make it to maturity.

Others that have proven winter hardy here for at least a year, most for several years-
Taylor Apple pear
Walden Large (got to taste this one last year, not bad, not great)
Okolo (strong grower, tasted last year, meh)
Cabot Vermont
Dana Hovey (very, very slow growth I have my doubts it survives long term)
Kaspar’s Winter (found some not great results long term out of NoDak)

I think you’ll find the limiting factor for many pear varieties is the rootstock. I’ve been using ussurian and communis…but the only source I’ll use for communis is St. Lawrence nursery. SLN says they source their communis seed only from pears that have proven hardy in their location. I don’t want Bartlett seed communis stock from Washington state or some other more temperate area. Now that I am getting my own pears, I’ll be using seed from them for any new rootstocks.


my mountain ash is 5 yrs. old and grafted 3 yrs. ago and gave me fruit. i may just graft a few more over to pear just because they are free to me and fast growers. also alot more tolerant of my wet clay soil. they may not las as long as a pear tree but ill probably be dead by time these trees die.


Mountain ash here are fireblight magnets.


that’s strange as I’ve never seen it on one. they get some leaf issues occasionally. my properties ringed with old 30-40fters, fire blight in general is rare here anyway. seen mountain ash leaves get affected but since this tree is all pear now, i don’t think it will be a issue.


Fireblight here is pretty rare in apples and pears, but mountain ash gets pounded. No idea why