Color Me Spring

Monday, March 25, 2013

Granny Smith Apple Tree in Blossom
Backyard fruit trees and a whole lot more are literally "springing" to life in the Bird Back 40. The brightest color so far? That would have to be my neck and arms: now a deep shade of red and quite tender to the touch. You may have guessed by now that I'm Irish. People of Irish descent do not tan. We burn. It's enough to drive the wife that is Venus downright crazy.

Wife: "And did you put sunscreen on?"

Me: "Uh, no."

Wife: "Did you at least wear a hat for the last six hours?"

Hungry Ladybug at Work
Me: "I was too busy to wear a hat."

Wife: "You're a moron."

Spring means it's time to get ready for summer. The yard is mostly clear of mud, but now it's weeds that are the big problem. Time to get that fallen citrus away from the base of the many citrus trees that grace the Bird Back 40 -- and while you're at it -- clear away those pesky weeds as well.

Spring is also the time to fix and repair those nagging leaks that inevitably appear in the drip irrigation system. And that's when you come to discover, after plugging the first leak, that you failed to spot that second leak. And then there's going to be a third that will shoot up from nowhere and strike you right in the eye. And just about the time you're done? There's a major league blowout on the other side of the yard.

Repaired Drip Irrigation Line with Brick to Block Dog
Point is, when you keep this many garden areas, fruit trees and citrus trees in the yard? One needs to practice drip irrigation to not only conserve precious water supplies (which is important), but to make sure that every last plant and every last tree gets a nice drink in the morning. I always believed running drip lines against the fence line was a master stroke of genius. That is until the neighbor's dog discovered that he could easily dig them up from the other side of the fence and shred them into itty bitty pieces.

Stupid dog.

June Pride Peach Blossoms
But as I use my weekend time to move here and there about the Bird Back 40, the yard pays me back with one dazzling show after another. The Granny Smith apple tree, now in Year 3, in full bloom for the very first time. This tree bloomed in exactly two places last year and delivered a whopper harvest of exactly two apples. Worse yet? The Honey Crisp and Fuji apple trees planted in the same raised bed failed to even flower.

But that's not the case this year. The old Granny is a mass of pink buds and white flowers. The Honey Crisp is about to flower for the very first time. The Fuji is slowly springing back to life, but I'm quite confident it will flower as well. Though the three trees are still relatively small and don't grow quite as fast when planted together in a confined area like a raised bed, they have developed strong trunk and branch supports. This is a nice sign.

Royal Rainier Cherry Blossoms
The Royal Rainier Cherry tree is now in full blossom as is the Black Tartarian, putting on a dazzling display of  white and yellow bloom clusters that honeybees simply cannot ignore. Hornets also race from one side of the yard to the next, sharing space with the carpenter bees that have taken a liking to a wisteria bush that is now in full bloom for the very first time. Ladybugs, meanwhile, feast on the bad bugs of spring. The yard is alive and buzzing after a winter that was far too long, but could have yielded more rainfall.

First to flower on the Flavor Finale pluot tree were actually the branches that I successfully grafted to this tree last spring. The Flavor Finale is the last pluot variety offered by Dave Wilson Nursery to ripen, so it makes sense that the varieties I successfully grafted would fire up first with multiple blooms.

Pluot Graft
Why graft? Pluots, like many of the newer introductions from the mind of Floyd Zaiger require pollinator trees. I had always believed that the Santa Rosa plum planted nearby in the front yard would be that pollinator. But as the years went by, and with less than impressive harvest results from the Flavor Finale, it dawned upon me that the marriage that I'd hoped for just wasn't going to work.

The next step then? Graft. Find a donor tree that will pollinate the Flavor Finale and graft, graft, graft and graft one more time. Those grafts hold varieties (which I've lost track of) that ripen earlier than the Flavor Finale which is why some branches flowered earlier than others. As the tree buzzed with the hum of pollinators moving from one tasty blossom to another, I hoped and prayed that those grafted branches would provide the spark that the Flavor Finale needed.

Flavor Finale Pluot Tree in Full Bloom
No need for prayer. The tree is loaded -- for the very first time I might add. The pollinator branches -- or grafts -- also hold fruit. This means the pollinator branches will also produce a tasty treat or five. Hey! Why do one pluot when you have can three or five?

As I move from here and there, much like the pollinators who do the same, the story is always the same. The growth is green. The growth is lush. Winter is over. The bright colors of spring are here to stay.

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