Apple. Malus spp.
Probably the most predominant, successful but disease-ridden fruit tree in our region. Particular attention needs to be paid to dealing with bacterial canker. We offer a random assortment of grafted apples on M7 , M26, M11 . In 2012 i offered my first round of apples grafted onto Wild Crab Apple Seedlings (Malus fusca). This union allows for apple cultivation in extremely waterlogged conditions: ie you can grow apple trees in standing water with this trick. Based on the success of this trial i have hundreds of malus fusca seedlings growing in flats in the greenhouse for future grafting.
Varieties in stock depend on the season. I’m small so my selection is variable.
Autumn Olive (Aki-goumi). Elaeagnus umbellata. var. Superhero,Garnet Amber, Ruby and Seedling
Our most successful experimental import to date, hands-down. These trees are amazing: in growth rate, hardiness, speed to bearing and fruit production. They also boast large volumes of sweetly perfumed flowers in may/june, are easily managed as a small tree and are a favorite of both humans and livestock (we fight our poultry for them). The Superhero, garnet and Ruby are red fruiting. Superhero has the best fruit quality but the latest to ripen so it doesn’t always work on more northern/cooler sites or during cool summers but is totally reliable on the south island. Ruby and Garnet are the earliest to fruit and the smallest trees at only 6′ or so. Amber is Yellow and medium timing, in between ruby and superhero. Fruiting Seedling tend to fruit with great temporal variability. Phenotype will be unpredictable but i have several mature seedlings in our orchards that have decent fruit and absolutely amazing blossom fragrance.
***Google lists Autumn Olive as being “invasive” and “bad”. I don’t agree with this at all. It doesn’t self-propagate in southern bc. and even if it did i would still support its planting. *** Watch for my upcoming article on the concept of plant “invasiveness”.
Cornelian Cherry. Cornus mas. var Seedling
One of the earliest spring blooms. Masses of yellow flowers in March. Really nice deep red fall colour. The fruit is alright. Is not the best fruit in the world but it is super nutritious. For somebody looking for a great ornamental that also produces fruit it can be a good choice.
Fig. Ficus carica. var. Black Spanish/ Desert King/ Brown Turkey/ Latturulla/ Peter’s Honey/ Stella
Desert King and Brown Turkey are the two best locally sourced and adapted varieties for growing unprotected outside. Figs are fast growing and fast to production, on the order of several years to the first fruits. They are susceptible to extreme cold in their youth but once established in the ground for a few years, and winter-dormant, they can tolerate -12 degrees Celsius for extended periods of time. A small to medium sized tree in the long-run that require specific pruning techniques to maximize fruit production. We also sometimes stock the “black” figs for indoor (or outdoor) growing and a few other experimental varieties…but stick with King if you can.
Medlar. Mespilus germanica.
A weird fruit. Medlars are eaten after they “blet” in the fall. At this point they are lump of cinnamon-y spiced-fruit-sauce that is gingerly sucked from the skin. The tree is small, resembling a dwarf apple and is otherwise treated as an apple. They grow well, are cold hardy and reliable. Nice white flower in spring. An issue called “delayed graft incompatibility” has come to our attention recently. The best solution is to “plant the graft” below the soil line to ensure the top growth (scion wood) grows its own roots and is independent in the event of potential graft failure.
Meyer Lemon, Improved. Citrus meyeri.
The best greenhouse citrus for our region, requiring only an unheated greenhouse that needs to stay above 0 degrees Celsius. The Meyer Lemon is technically a cross between a normal grocery-store type of lemon and an orange, thus making is much sweeter and tastier. One eats the fruit whole, skin and all.
They don’t seem to be happy in fully heated (and dry) living spaces, preferring the additional humidity of unheated winter spaces on the coast. Our biggest issue with them has been dealing with occasional spider mites and scale. This has been easily managed with safers soap and blasts of water.
Mulberry. Morus spp. var. Illinois Everbearing, Hunza (alba), Black Seedlings (nigra), Russian Seedlings (alba)
Mulberry fruit is like really sweet but crunchy blackberries. But- way better than blackberries. They ripen slowly but continuously over a long period, which is why they haven’t been commercialized and shown up in the grocery store. These trees, all varieties, do really well here and can be at the top of the list of the-first-weird -fruit-to-plant.
The universe of varieties is large and wonderful. They range from large trees with average quality fruit (the local white mulberry, Morus alba.) to smaller garden trees with excellent fruit (the Illinois everbearing) to small to large sized trees with mythically proportioned fruit. The black mulberry, Morus nigra, boasts 3” long fruit with some varieties. Seedlings take longer to come to sexual maturity but are, as a whole, better plants. Cultivars, via cuttings and grafting, produce almost immediately but never gain the full potential of a seedling in size and vigor.
Mulberry leaves are extremely nutritious as steamed green, as tea and as livestock fodder
Olive, european. Olea europaea
The european olive is on the edge of survivability for us on denman. I’ve had a few die outside when the temperature dipped below minus 10 deg. celsius. They are best kept in an unheated greenhouse. But, on some of the southern gulf islands there are some folks planting full plantations in favourable microclimates. It depends on your site. You’ve been warned.
Paw Paw. Asimina triloba
The book’s call it the “banana of the north”. They have been slow growing for us on Denman but folks up and down vancouver island are getting fruit in several locations. Its fantastic fruit! Creamy custard with tropical fruit hints: mango, banana and pineapple flavor. We are producing seedlings from friends’ fruits. They seem more vigorous and there’s always a chance we’ll strike it lucky with random seedling variation.
I have learned from direct observation that they much prefer light aerated soil and that they (surprisingly) want a lot of heat here on the coast. Those which have been treated like figs (against walls and fences) are out-pacing those planted in the open. But there’s a third weird factor. They want shade, diminishing from 100% in their first year in a linear fashion. Which means that some are doing really well on the north side of fence. And as they’ve grown they’ve passed the fence and gained the sunlight
Plant more than one for pollination – Although deliberate hand pollination or a visit by the rare Coma butterfly can result in a single tree setting fruit.
Persimmon. var American, Russian and Asian
The persimmons are doing Great here. They progressed slowly but we are now getting fruit on many varieties. I’ve learned that they respond well to pruning: it speeds them up. The fruit is generally fantastic. All display amazing and strange fall colour for the ornamentally inclined gardener.
Asian Persimmons require high levels of sun and heat to ripen their fruit.They bloom and leaf very late in the year and the fruit doesn’t start to ripen until November. I’m finding that the Japanese varieties are far outperforming the mainland Chinese varieties on Denman: Izu, Nishimura, Tanenashi, Chocolate. The Chinese Fuyu, Jiro and Saijo and generally later to ripen.
American persimmons don’t need quite so much sun so they are a better choice for people with less than ideal growing conditions. I say the flavors are actually superior, but with smaller size and sometimes more tannins.
Plum. var. Italian Prune, Denman Damson, Japanese Prune
The Italian prune plum is a choice local variety. Small tree, excellent quality fruit and is true to its roots for easy propagation. It should be top of the planting list. Otherwise i sometime stock GreenGauge but this variety has more disease susceptibility.
I’m starting trials using St. Julien Seedlings are rootstock. This gives a larger and more drought resistant tree that often won’t require irrigation. I’m also trialling growing Prune Plums from seed looking for variation in fruit quality.
Quince, fruiting. Cydonia oblonga. var the Denman Post Office Specimen
A nice looking tree with an extremely aromatic fruit. It resembles a hard waxy pear that needs to be softened by cooking. Slow growing but totally successful on the coast. Likes light soil. A little bird has recently informed me that we can thank the Kirk family for this tree and its offspring being on Denman.
Shipova. A cross between pear and mountain ash from Yugoslavia. A real weird one. Very slow to bear but a successful tree with fantastic fruit. Its like a small dense chewy pear with novel aromatic overtones. No disease or special growing requirements noted expect patience.
Sour Cherry, Prunus cerasus. var. Montmorency
Another species to place at the top of the planting list, sour cherries have the distinct advantage of being small enough to easily protect from the robins. Without nets you get no cherries, at least around here. The fruits aren’t sour at all and can be eaten out of hand or preserved or baked. Extremely cold hardy. True to its roots for easy propagating via transplanted root suckers. Top of the list for any planting scheme.
Sweet Cherry, “Shooshtari Gem” and Persian Seedling
We started this cultivar from seeds spit into a beer can from pits from dried cherries from a fruit and nut confection mix sent from Iran by the parents of my Persian friend. This is a very special tree. It is big, vigorous, precious, and delicious. It hit over 12 feet in 3 years and produced heavily within 5 years.
I’m grafting this cultivar onto Mazzard Cherry rootstock and continuing to grow other seedlings.