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Choosing fruit tree cultivars

Posted by myrmayde 5a Montana (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 24, 12 at 16:53

Hi, All, I'm trying to choose fruit tree cultivars for a 4,000 square foot border in my back yard. By September 10 I hope to plant two each of apple, European pear, sweet cherry, apricot, and European plum (and ornamental crabapple for the birds). I want trees that will be 10 to 15 feet tall at maturity, somewhat disease resistant, and cold hardy to zone 4 if possible. The pairs also have to be compatible pollenizers. Good-tasting fruit is a prime consideration. While taste is subjective, I'm curious what people in the forum think of the taste of the listed fruits. I'd appreciate any and all opinions and recommendations by you. The cultivars I've found available locally (10- to 15-inch pots, 5- to 10-foot trees) in the desired mature size are:

Ginger Gold

Golden Spice
Red Clapp's
Red Sensation

Black Tartarian
Evans Bali
Utah Giant

Chinese Mormon

Golden Transparent
Green Gage
Mount Royal

The topsoil is in pretty good shape, with a pH of 6.5, which is supposedly ideal for fruit trees. Below 10 inches down it gets a little clayey. It's a slight north-facing slope. Last year I killed the grass, waited a while, spread out an inch and a half of Soil Pep, and planted a mixed cover crop. This year I lightly tilled in the dried-up cover crop and planted 14,000 lupine seeds, most of which have come up, bloomed, and gone to seed already. There's also a circular vegetable garden in the center. Next spring or even this fall I'm going to sow seeds of a variety of perennials friendly to birds, bees, and butterflies. I'm reading Michael Phillips' "The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way," which is a fantastic book. Thanks for your help.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Choosing fruit tree cultivars

If you can find Jonamac, give it a look.
Superior to Crapintosh IMO.

RE: Choosing fruit tree cultivars

I would expect the sour cherries, Evans and Northstar to be hardier and more reliable fruiting in your area.

RE: Choosing fruit tree cultivars

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 26, 12 at 21:22

From the apple list, Liberty and Zestar would seem best from a disease resistance standpoint.

Zestar is a good late summer apple which reminds me of Honeycrisp (but earlier and a less dense). It is resistant to cedar apple rust, powdery mildew, and fireblight, but not scab.

Liberty is resistant to all 4 and ripens a bit later. It's gotten mixed reviews in terms of flavor. I have a tree, but it was just planted this spring, so I haven't tried a home grown one. Years ago (~5?) I had one one from a PYO and remember thinking it wasn't that great. Maybe I picked it a bit early, as that seems to have a big impact (per the linked thread). It should give you a decent spread from Zestar in August to Liberty in late September.

RE: Choosing fruit tree cultivars

Bob's on the right track since diseases are the big issue in OGardening. Check out "PRI apples" on google, Most of the pears listed are FB susceptible. Try some newer ones like Harrow sweet/delight, moonglow, etc,
Looks like your planting and orchard!
good luck

RE: Choosing fruit tree cultivars

Not sure which part of the state you're in. I'm in Missoula and have been happy with Golden Spice and Flemish Beauty pears; Bartletts do well here as do Boscs. Frost, if you can get it is good. I hope to get good results from White Doyenne, Dana's Hovey and Seckel, but haven't yet.

I like Liberty when it's right; Prairie Spy is a real winner for a friend, as are Sweet 16, Fireside, State Fair, Montana Red, Macoun, Yellow Delicious and even Red Delicious. Gala is reliable and good. I want Winesap but doubt it will ripen here.

I got some beautiful Mormon (Chinese) apricots before the tree died.

Don't know anything at all about cherries or peaches, and the only plum I've enjoyed from area trees is an Italian Prune.

Good luck,


RE: Choosing fruit tree cultivars


Many years ago I sold bare-root fruit trees to nurseries/garden centers in MT, WY, Dakotas ect.

Your list is great but you do not mention what part of Montana you are in. I recall the western part of the state
being the warmest with sweet cherries surving along Flathead lake. Hamilton, Missoula ect were nice fruit growing areas.

However, Wolf Point or Miles City are totally different in climate. Length of your growing season, rootstock hardiness and a few other factors must be considered.

Fuji and braeburn apples ripen really late! Will your growing season be long enough? I recall Wolf River, State
Fair, Sweet 16 and a lot of other cold hardy apples did well there presuming they were on cold hardy rootstocks. Years ago the rootstock of necessity in such cold areas was
prunifolia, ranetka, antonovka ect. M7 rootstock was not always reliable.

I would check out what others in your area are having luck with or consult some of the local garden centers or University recommendations for your location in Montana.

If you are on the western side, I sure enjoyed all the huckleberries that are there. The trout fishing was phenominal too.

RE: Choosing fruit tree cultivars

Thanks for all the feedback. I live in Missoula, and we had a sweet cherry tree in our yard growing up. Some people grow apricots and even peaches here.

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