I have been slowly eliminating varieties and turning my hundred-plus variety pedestrian dwarf orchard into a big tree regular orchard. It is all due to animal pressure which has been decimating my harvest. I need tall trees the deer can’t reach, and I need massive crops ripening at once so the other animals can take some but not clean me out. On top of that, it is a pain to keep track of tons of varieties and I am tiring of it.
Anyways, around this time of year I usually start thinking about what I want to save and what to get rid of. This year I also happen to have a new 40x40 or so patch where I just took out some dead/dying landscape trees and I can add a few large fruit trees.
Here is my current thinking of my best of best.
Plum: I am still trialing a few more varieties but it still is Satsuma and Lavina that are the standouts. I already have nice big trees of those so no need to add more. I’d like to have a later one as well, but so far I am just getting a lot of knot on the later ones. I will probably add another plum tree to this new area.
I should probably give up on the European plums, either that or just grow one variety on a really big tree. They are not super happy in my climate and I lose a great many of the often-limited sets. Maybe French Petite is the one I would keep as it is the most reliable / tasty. I prefer the Gages or Coes for flavor but they are not as reliable. Well, Coes is reliable on the setting but it is hard to keep the bugs off of it.
Peach: This is going to be my one exception, I have many unusual peaches and will keep most of them. Ones like Pallas, Oldmixon Free, Kaweah, Red Baron, Nectar, Baby Crawford, Sanguine Tardeva, Sunglo nectarine, etc. So many great peaches, so little time…
Cherry: Montmorency is the one sour I am keeping. I have been trying to grow bush cherries above deer height for several years now but may just hang up on that attempt… they are not even shoulder-high yet, and they are completely fenced-in so the deer cannot touch them. I am still trialing my sweets, White Gold is the only real keeper now.
Apricot: My Ilona tree is very big and vigorous and is as tasty/reliable/productive as any apricot. It should be all above the deer soon as well. Florilege is also good and is a lot later so will keep that one to spread out the harvest; nearly all other common apricots are early like Ilona.
Apple: Beyond my cider orchard I am getting more and more picky about varieties, I am losing money on the limited crop I am getting so I want really original varieties only that are very resistant to rot. Also I am realizing I don’t like sour apples, my stomach is not a fan. There are still a bunch of great varieties I like and will keep such as Abbondanza, Swayzie, Hooples, Reine des Reinettes, Kidds, Suncrisp, Hawaii, Reinette Clochard. I’ll still keep some other ones but just for the occasional samples the deer let me have. I have some still under trial as well.
Pear: I just ate a Dana Hovey which was awesome. Checking the brix it was 23. I’m not a big brix person but when you have that level of brix and flavor you have the one pear I want. It has also been super productive and an easy grower, storer, ripener. The only downside is a bit of grit now and then. Aurora is a runner-up, not quite as tasty and more prone to rots being an earlier pear. Fondante des Moulins-Lille of course as well, although they are a little too sensitive to bruising. I should put that one in a better spot, there is not a lot of sun where it is now. Those three are absolute keepers. Magness and Urbaniste are just as good but are not being very productive for me.
I can’t get as excited about the asian pears, not sure there is any I will keep long-term. Drippin Honey and Kosui are the ones I like the most.
Quince: I am finally getting some fruits on a fireblight-resistant seedling I grew out. It is having a hard time getting tall enough though, and my deer seem to be quince fans. Anyway if this guy ever gets high enough it should be a good tree. All the other quince I had were horrible fireblight magnets.
Jujube: Honey Jar. I’ll still finish trials on some other ones but nothing is coming close so far. I have this as a side graft on a tree and I am going to remove the other variety and make a 20-footer out of this one. Now that it is in a more sunny spot it is setting pretty well.
Fig: I have recently realized that figs come in three varieties in my orchard: under-ripe, ripe, and over-ripe (aka bug-infested). In other words, the ripeness level is far more important than the variety name in terms of flavor. I guess it is nice to have some earlier and later-ripening varieties as well. So, going to keep all the figs I have. I got a pretty good crop this year, it seems my deer are not big fig fans.
Persimmon: I need to get these higher, I added some new trees last year since the 20-year-old ones I had pruned low were not vigorous enough any more to go higher. Huk Gam is the only older one I succeeded on getting high, it is finally over the deer. I have a new Hachiya and a Rojo Brilliante that I hope to get up there as well. I am trying to get Chocolate higher but it is not doing it yet. Persimmons get very loaded and the branches bend low so it is hard to keep the crop above the deer. Peaches have a similar problem. On my newer trees I just let them shoot up like rockets, the higher the better. In terms of varieties I don’t find a huge difference but I do like Chocolate the most. I prefer the softer ones as they have more flavor than the crunchy ones.
Pawpaw: See fig.
Pomegranate: Gee not sure what to do about these. My big trees are still not producing much in spite of some being almost 20’ tall. The few fruits I do get taste just like the store ones. I really should just chop them all down.