Trees and Shrubs
Home fruit growing has seen a renaissance for the last 5 years and continues to be more popular each year. Fruit trees require different care than other garden plants as they are prone different pests and disease. Most common fruit trees are members of the rose family which have specific diseases and pests. Pests and diseases of fruit are more common in the eastern half of the U.S. If you growing fruit you have to accept this fact. In order to get abundant crops of you will have to adopt a spray program or go no spray and place paper bags over ripening fruit to exclude insects and fungi. You can use nontoxic organic sprays like Horticultural oil, Organocide or Neem Oil or a formulated organic fruit tree spray with good results. If using these products you will need to apply them from late winter through mid July if unblemished fruit is your goal. I would recommend The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips to anyone wishing to grow fruit organically.
Fruit trees also require specific pruning and thinning prevent disease and increase yields. Fruit trees also require a well drained soil to thrive – our clay soils need to be amended with compost to improve drainage. Fruit trees also require 5 or more hours of sun to produce adequate crops. Young trees should be staked for proper root development. You will also need to consider birds and animals and take steps to repel or exclude them. Fertilize with a low fertility organic nitrogen rich fertilizer like Tree-tone and apply lime to raise you pH for cherries, plums, apricots and peaches. Apples will not typically require additional lime in our soils. Do not fertilize if your tree was hard pruned last year or if it appeared vigorous.
It is extremely rewarding growing your own fruit; it is even more rewarding if one is well informed.
There is nothing more heartwarming than watching birds in the winter months. By planting native trees and shrubs that provide both food and shelter you will attract even more birds into your landscape. Here are some very worthy plants that provide winter food for overwintering birds. Eastern red cedar provides both food and shelter to a great number of birds that overwinter here. Winterberry holly has showy red fruit that persists into late winter, providing a food source when it's most needed. American hollies are evergreen, deer resistant and become majestic specimens in the garden. Southern magnolias are also a great food and sheltering resource for our feathered friends. 'Winter King' hawthorn is a great small tree that provides fruit in mid to late winter. Northern bayberry bears heavy crops of waxy fat filled berries that help birds stay healthy. So get some winter interest from these showy native plants and help these delightful creatures at the same time.
It’s easy to be distracted by all the azaleas and Dogwoods in bloom in the Washington metro area, but let’s look beyond the obvious to some of the lesser-known and less often planted ornamental trees for your garden.
- Stewartia pseudocamellia
One of our favorite flowering trees, the Stewartia is a garden aristocrat. Beautiful white 2-3” blossoms in May on an upright, often multi-trunk graceful branching tree. The smooth gray bark exfoliates to reveal shades of cinnamon and brown. This wonderful tree blooms for a period of several weeks but each blossom lasts only a day. You just can’t believe how many blossoms this tree can produce. Fall color is a range of red, burgundy and orange.
- Davidia involucrata ‘Sonoma’- Dove Tree
Also called Handkerchief Tree this unusual tree is little known in this area. The unique blossoms appear at a younger age on this cultivar and resemble a tree full of doves or white handkerchiefs fluttering in the breeze. Now that’s something you don’t see everyday.
- Styrax japonicus and Styrax obassia- Japanese Snowbell
Styrax japonicus are usually in bloom around Mothers Day. The white bell shaped flowers cover the tree like snow. This finely branched tree can be quite dense, but never looks heavy. It retains a delicate, graceful feel. Styrax obassium has a larger leaf and is not quite as graceful as japonicus, but the blossoms are more unusual and showy. Weeping forms of japonicus are available as well as a pink cultivar.
- Oxydendrum arboreum- Sourwood or Sorreltree
This native under story tree blooms in July with a creamy white panicle of fragrant flowers. This tree is the source of tasty Sourwood Honey (if you can find it). Fall color is outstanding and rivals our native Dogwood. Somewhat slow growing, it can be temperamental and inconsistent in ultimate size and form. This tree does not always conform to our wishes, but remains a valuable native ornamental.
If you live in the Washington, DC check out this money-saving tree planting promotion.
Casey Trees in the District offers a $50.00 rebate for most trees, see www.Caseytrees.org for details.