Picking apples and pears for 5b (New England)

We are heading into the third year with our home orchard here, and I am hoping that you all can help me out with some advice for selecting apples and pears to graft this spring.

Our selection criteria (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Tasty.
  2. Growable.
  3. Old/unusual/local to New England. My wife has said that she’s not really interested in growing anything that we can get at the grocery store.
  4. Season of harvest. We are currently pretty heavy on winter apples, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I am looking for a couple of earlier varieties. (Although I’m thinking that our “early apples” are mostly going to be pears.)
  5. Suitable for espalier, i.e. not primarily tip-bearing. Partly due to space/sun constraints, we are growing most of our trees in an espalier/Belgian fence, and while we might be able to include a couple of free-standing trees, they would have to be real stand-outs. (I am already planning to make an exception for Bramley, because my wife specifically requested it.)
  6. Ornamental (attractive tree/fruit/blossoms). Especially ones with pink flowers, because that would make our daughter happy. (On that note, @NuttingBumpus, am I right in recalling that Hunt Russet has had notably pinker blossoms for you?)

Note: I know that Goldrush is a forum favorite, but conversations with people at several local orchards suggest that it does not ripen reliably here in Western MA, and that combined with the CAR susceptibility are counting against it for me at this point.

What we currently have:

Apples (with what I’ve been able to find about season of harvest/use and a couple of notes):
Adams Pearmain (Late, early-mid winter)
American Beauty (Mid fall? - an old MA apple, don’t know much about this one, frankly, but felt like taking a flyer on it)
Ashmead’s Kernel (Late, early winter)
Black Oxford x2 (Late, early-mid winter)
Blue Pearmain (Late, early winter)
Cornish Aromatic (Late, early winter - I have heard up and down things about this one, but felt like giving it a go)
Fall Russet (Early-mid fall)
Gray Pearmain (Late, early winter)
Hoople’s Antique Gold (Mid-fall)
Hunt Russet (Late, mid winter)
Kidd’s Orange Red x2 (Mid-fall)
Mother (Early-mid fall - I’ve heard that this one can be really up and down, exceptionally good when it’s good, but very blah when it’s not, but figured it was worth a try)
Orleans Reinette (Late, late fall-early winter)
Pitmaston Pineapple (Early-mid fall)
Pumpkin Russet (Mid-fall, primarily baking - another one that I don’t know that much about, but felt like taking a flyer on)
Reine des Reinettes (Late fall)
Roxbury Russet x2 (Late, early-mid winter)
Westfield Seek No Further x2 (Mid fall)
Wheeler’s Golden Russet (Late, early-mid winter. As if the general confusion surrounding “Golden Russets” weren’t enough, I should note that this is not the Wheeler’s Russet from the UK - which sounds pretty appealing, actually - but the Wheeler’s Golden Russet from Western Massachusetts, described by Tom Burford.)

(I made some rookie mistakes with the pears, and Tyson was the lone survivor…)

Some of the things that I am thinking about adding:


Belle de Boskoop
Bramley’s Seedling
D’Arcy Spice
Hubbardston Nonesuch
Kerry Pippin
Pomme Gris
St. Edmund’s Pippin


Beurre Superfin
Clara Frijs
Harrow Sweet
Harvest Queen
Madness and/or Warren?
Seckel and/or Dana’s Hovey and/or Honeysweet?
Korean Giant (can this be pollinated by European pears?)

Thanks for your help!


Have you considered any of the classic early apples?

Red Astrachan
Early joe
State fair
Mollies Delicious

Or the new ones like Williams pride, pristine, Zestar, or sweet sixteen?

I have just grafted many of these or am grafting them this spring so I can’t pretend to be an expert on any of them. I also can’t comment much on blossoms. In effect, I’m just sharing things I’ve found from a search very similar to yours. (Zone, espalier, no grocery store offerings). Sounds like you are farther along in your orchard than I might be, so apologies if this is redundant info.

Btw. I haven’t tried st edmunds yet but I think it’s tip bearing. As you probably know, Fedco has a great selection of scion wood and trees for your area. Maple valley also has a great selection that should fit your zone.

That’s a great collection you have so far! Good luck with whatever you choose. :slight_smile:


Yes, Hunt has some pink that does not fade (so does Claygate Pearmain). It is a late apple. I grafted Rosemary Russet last year and it is supposed to have even more colorful, mid-season bloom (Hunt blooms late) and is reputed to be very tasty and a reasonable keeper.
Winekist blooms pretty much mid-season here, starts flowers shocking pink fading in our potent light to lilac. Your daughter might not wish to bite down on one: very tart. It is early, 22 July here, and red all through, making tart ruby red sauce.
You might look into Lamb Abbey Pearmain, which is likely to be early September here. I’ve grafted it to Bud118 in '17 and it is slow growing; a small tree and apple with reputation for big flavor. Keep it clear of sod at least to the drip line.

Have you looked into Discovery? I hope to graft it on to a disappointment this spring and see how it does in the heat and dry. Early harvest, supposed to have good flavor (strawberry), it might have some pink in bloom, judging from how deep the skin color develops. It made a bud sport that is red-fleshed, so that reinforces the potential, I think.

Lovely early strong pink SF bloom starts the season here on Redfield. Another red flesh and ripe mid-October here. Beautiful pies, cider, sauce and jelly, it has fair amounts of tannin and pectin.

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Good suggestions all. Williams Favorite, Lowland Raspberry, Red Devil, Odysso would make good additions. Frequin Rouge cider apple with pink blooms. Those are some extras mostly early in the season I thought of. (Actually just grafted Red Devil past spring, so not sure it’s ripening date, but has pink/red blooms and red flesh fruit. Someone already suggested others that are good.

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Isn’t zestar a club apple still on patent?

It’s not on patent, I was thinking of SweeTango.

By all means grow Dana’s Hovey, and if you want another small, dessert type pear consider Gold Spice.

Are any of your apple choices similar to Snow or Macintosh types? Not everybody’s taste, but they can be excellent. A modern Mac type that I love is Liberty. Two other modern apples that are really superb are Karmjn De Sonneville and Rubinette.

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No Baldwin?
Originated in Mass. At one time a most popular apple. Still a standout.