The Flowers of Spring

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Honey Crisp Apple Tree in Full Bloom
"April Showers Bring May Flowers," my mother once crooned. She usually started screeching after a surprise rain storm wiped out whatever her youngest boy had planned for the day -- an event that was usually outside. Because, what boy wants to be stuck inside when the sun is shining outside?

Thank God our house had some thick walls -- because mom's singing was pretty brutal. Brutal enough to drive a boy into a garage in an attempt to find some auditory relief. Perhaps that's the way she wanted it. Perhaps I'm not giving mom enough credit...

Granny Smith Apple in Bloom
Spring is special because it brings a bounty of flowers to the Bird Back 40. And, in our case, every single tiny flower brings the promise of a fruit payoff later this summer. I've come to that age (OLD), where I appreciate the finer things in life. And nothing brings greater joy than a Honey Crisp Apple tree doing it's best Granny Smith Apple imitation.

This is year five for the Honey Crisp. It's delivered exactly one eye-popping crop so far -- and that came in year two. The dreaded Fire Blight would strike in year three, wiping out an entire crop. And last year? Last year the Honey Crisp bloomed in exactly one spot. That's a crime, because the Honey Crisp Apple is that good.

Duke Avocado Tree in Bloom
But this year is somewhat different. This year is somewhat exciting. The temperamental Honey Crisp is covered with blooms and honey bees. The Fuji Apple is also blooming heavily -- a first for this tree as well. And the Granny? The Granny Smith apple was meant to bloom. It always blooms. When doesn't a Granny bloom? If you're looking for a good pollinator tree, look no further than the Granny. That tree is rather ridiculous. It blooms early. It blooms mid-season. It blooms late. Even after you think the Granny is done blooming, surprise! There's another set of buttery pink blossoms.

The story is pretty much the same across the Bird Back 40. The blossom period for the peaches and nectarines is just about over. The thorn less blackberry vines are in full bloom. The Shuksan strawberry plants are going to town. Even the Duke Avocado tree is covered with more blooms and bees than I can possibly count. Step anywhere near that tree and you'd swear there was a beehive hidden somewhere in there.

Duke Avocado Blooms
But the most surprising development isn't the surprisingly heavy crop of Royal Rainier Cherries. It's not the myriad of mandarins that are covered with a carpet of white. No -- the most surprising development was the number of blooms on the Harrow Delight Pear tree. I planted this tree three years ago. I dutifully chopped it in half to knee level to encourage low branch development. And I was told it could take 4-5 years before the Harrow Delight produced its first crop.

Instead, the Harrow Delight bloomed in year three and set a nice crop of pears. This is important because I fell in love with the Harrow Delight at a Dave Wilson Nursery fruit tasting event held several years ago at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. Even though the wife that is Venus were sampling a bevy of different fruits on this particular day, one item stood out among all the others. I kept going back for more. It was the Harrow Delight Pear.

Harrow Delight Pear in Bloom
The Harrow Delight is one of two varieties planted in a raised bed that are supposedly resistant to the scourge upon fruit kind known as Fire Blight. It was introduced in 1982 from the Harrow Agricultural station in Ontario, Canada. The Blake's Pride Pear, which is also billed as Fire Blight resistant, was developed by Richard Bell with the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia in 1998.

Unfortunately, I will have to wait on the Blake's Pride as it did now flower this spring. The old-fashioned Bartlett Pear, which is not resistant to blight and is planted in the same raised bed as the other two varieties, flowered heavily this year.

Harrow Delight Pears
No sign of the dreaded blight yet this year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and trying a new organic solution of water and apple cider vinegar to keep the blight at bay. I do have something stronger, BUT, I really don't like what this particular chemical did to the fruit composition last year. So it stays on the sideline.

Half the work of growing home-grown fruit takes place in the spring. Is the area clear of weeds (weeds steal water)? Has the appropriate fertilizer been applied? Is it getting enough water? Are the fruit trees protected from various ills, like blight, that can strike in the spring?

If the answer to all four questions is "YES," congratulations. You should have a tree full of fruit. Of course, a million and one things could happen between now and harvest time that could spoil that tempting looking crop. As backyard fruit growers, this is the cross we bear.

So -- congratulations. Springtime has arrived. The fruit trees are in full bloom. The honey bees are out in force. And, so far, mom hasn't been tempted to start crooning "April Showers Bring May Flowers."

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