Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
March, 2006
Regional Report

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These apricot jewels are heavenly scented and delectably sweet.

Growing Apricots, Plums, and Asian Pears

Yes, you can grow those delectable fruits that seem so fleeting when nestled in boxes at the farmer's market. In addition to apples and cherries that are staples in the Midwest, we can also grow magnificent plums, delectable apricots, pretty good peaches, and fantastic Asian pears. These trees not only provide a delectable harvest, they also offer beauty in several seasons with clouds of attractive flowers, pleasing form, and shining fruits. And when you are standing in the sun, letting the juice of one of your homegrown plums run down your chin, you'll be so glad you decided to try it.

Choose a European, American, or American-Japanese hybrid since Japanese plums are not hardy in our climate. European plums are the most familiar as they are readily available in supermarkets. Other European plums, such as gage-type plums, are not as familiar but are definitely worth trying in the home garden for the honey-sweet flesh.

American plums, or species plums, come in many colors and shapes, but their most consistent trait is small fruits. Some examples are beach plum, Canada plum, and American plum. Most of these are not cultivated and may be hard to find through fruit suppliers.

American-Japanese hybrid plums are cultivated plums with the hardiness of the American stock and the size and flavor of Japanese plums. American and American-Japanese plums need another plum tree nearby for pollination, but the European plums are self-fruitful. Check the catalogs for appropriate cross-pollinators.

Apricots and peaches are true delicacies, with perfumed, honey-tart, golden fruits. And, the white to soft pink blossoms and clear yellow to orange fall color could replace any ornamental tree in the landscape.

The only drawback in our Midwestern climate is that they sometimes lose their early blossoms to frost. With careful site selection, though, they will grow and bear fruit in our area. The key to protecting the blossoms is not to keep them warm, but rather to keep the tree dormant as long as possible in spring. The best site is a cold spot such as a north-facing slope. Planting on a hillside will allow cold air to slide away from the tree.

Asian Pears
Sometimes called apple pears, these delicious fruits are crisp and juicy like an apple but with a flavor all their own. They are usually round instead of classic pear-shaped, and many varieties have russet skin. The fruits ripen on the tree and store well over winter. Plant two varieties for good pollination. A standard Asian pear grows to about 25 feet, and dwarf varieties top out at about 12 feet.

Recommended Varieties
The University of Wisconsin recommends the following varieties for growing in Wisconsin:
Apricots: Moongold, Sungold, Harcot
European plums: Mount Royal, Stanley
Hybrid plums: Underwood, Alderman, Superior
Asian pears: Chojuro, Shinseiki, Large Korean, Hosui

The University of Wisconsin doesn't list recommended peaches but the following recommendations from Utah State University would be worth considering:
Early Elberta
Golden jubilee

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