Monthly Archives: April 2010

Welcome Orioles!

Baltimore Oriole

With orchard fruit trees coming into bloom, we should be seeing the Baltimore (Northern) Orioles any day now. Our hummingbird feeders have been out for a month, in anticipation of the earliest hummingbird scouts, and last year the orioles drank freely the sugar-water provided for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Sugar-water recipe for orioles and hummingbirds: 1/4 cup granulated sugar to 1 Cup warm water. Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Wash feeders in hot soapy water, with white vinegar added, and replace sugar-water on a twice weekly schedule, to prevent mold.

Earth Day Forum

EARTH DAY FORUM

Presentation and dialogue re:

• Successful options for sustainable affordable housing

• Repeal Chapter 40B Law

• Restoration of local control in community planning

• Development that respects the environment and community

When: Thursday, April 22, 2010, 6:00-8:00

Where: Rockport Public Library

17 School St.

Rockport, MA

ALL CAPE ANN RESIDENTS WELCOME!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Flowering and Fruiting Apricot Trees

Prunus armeniaca ‘Harglow’

The genus Prunus evokes a multitude of images of picturesque spring flowering and summer fruit-bearing trees. The wands of branches shrouded in five-petal blossoms hold their color high up while the floor of the garden is carpeted in companionable tulips, jonquils, forget-me-nots, and lily of-the-valley. Falling blossoms swirling like snow sift their fragrant petals through the floral carpet, clinging and scattering along the pathways.

The apricot tree (Prunus armeniaca), abricocke as it was known of old, may seem like an odd selection of fruit tree for a garden in the northeastern region of the United States. Apricots are generally considered more suitable for a warmer Mediterranean climate, though several cultivars are hardy through zone five! Prunus armeniaca was formerly thought to originate from Armenia, therein the name armeniaca. There is little doubt that its original habitat was in the temperate areas of Asia. Never having seen a living apricot tree, nonetheless we were inspired to grow Prunus armeniaca from an old photograph of one pictured in an enclosed garden setting, as well as by our desire to make apricot tarts from our own tree-ripened fruit.

With its ornamental round-headed silhouette and broad, oval leaves, it is a tree of graceful beauty. The sweetly scented pure white flowers issue forth from plump violet colored sepal-enclosed buds. The two colors of violet and white are visible while the tree is leafless and in bloom and, from a distance, create the illusion of a delicately pale pink flower. We sited our apricot tree at the top of our fragrant path to savor the lilting honey scent of its blossoms.

The apricot buds swell at the earliest hint of warm air and are the first fruit bearing trees to flower in our garden. Unfortunately the flowers, and therefore the fruit crop, may be damaged by a late spring frost. Spring in New England is predictably unpredictable; some years the tree sets fruit and some years it does not. Nevertheless, the apricot is a worthy specimen for the beauty of its blooms and branches alone.

There are several varieties of European apricots that are suitable to grow in a northern climate. We chose ‘Harglow’. Named varieties beginning with ‘Har’ (‘Harval,’ ‘Hargrand,’ Harcot,’ and ‘Harlayne’) were developed in Canada at the Harrow Research Station. For the most part, these cultivars are resistant to fungal and bacterial diseases caused by exceedingly damp, wet springs and humid summers. They are an ideal choice for a garden in a temperate zone where the growing season is shorter than a Mediterranean climate and are grown extensively in the Pacific Northwest.

Apricots are also a sound selection for the urban garden as they are less affected by air pollution than other fruit trees. ‘Harglow’ is a perfect cultivar for the small garden. They are self-pollinating and grown on a semi-dwarf rootstock, ultimately reaching only fifteen to eighteen feet in height. For four seasons of beauty I encourage every gardener who lives in a suitable climate, including those with only a wee bit of space, to consider growing the elegant apricot tree. When planning where to site an apricot tree, choose a sunny, sheltered location out of the path of drying winter winds. Plant apricot trees in loose soil with excellent drainage. After the first hard frost, cover the root area with several inches of compost. Water apricot trees deeply, once a week during the growing season and more if you are experiencing drought-like conditions.

Standard and semi-dwarf apricot trees require regular pruning to maintain their height for ease of harvesting fruit and to allow light and air to penetrate the interior of the tree. Most fruits are borne on one- to three-year-old spurs that look like short, stubby branchlets. To best see the overall shape of the tree, prune in late winter or early spring, just after flowering, while the tree is leafless.

Apricots are plagued by many of the same pests as peach trees. Be on the lookout for signs of the Oriental fruit moth and peachtree borer. Peachtree borers burrow into the bark of the tree, leaving a gummy exudate of sap and tree dust. To prevent this problematic creature from destroying the tree, wrap the trunk of a newly planted tree with strips of brown paper up to the first lateral branch. Cultivate the soil four inches deep within the drip-line of the tree, being mindful of the tree’s root system. With its distinguishable black body banded with vermilion or yellow, the adult peach tree borer moth is easy to detect, and unlike most moths, this one flies during the day. From the first indication of an infestation of Oriental fruit moth, you will observe the new growing tips have a drooping and wilted appearance. Caused by adult moths burrowing into the tips of the tender new shoots, the subsequent generations of larvae will then burrow into the fruit. Cut (and discard) the infested twig tips back to healthy growth. Again, working the soil at the base of the tree will help to destroy the pupae and therefore any future attacks by the Oriental fruit moth. The adult Oriental fruit moth is a mottled gray-brown with a relatively small wingspan (1⁄2 inch).

At the first sign of disease or pest problem, cut out the infected growth. Practicing good housekeeping and growing disease-resistant varieties may be the best remedies for growing healthy, strong fruit trees. Weak and stressed plants are at a much greater risk than those that are healthy and vigorous.

Apricots are ready to be picked when all traces of their green color have disappeared and they turn a glowing golden yellow. Gently grasp the fruit and pull with a bit of an upward twist. As with pear trees, do not pull the fruit off vigorously. The fruit-bearing spurs may be damaged, thereby reducing next year’s potential harvest. The Persians referred to apricots as “seeds of the sun.” Some cultivars (‘Stark Sweethearts’ for example) produce fruits with large and edible sweet pits inside the stone fruit. And since apricots and almonds are closely related, the edible pits taste characteristically like an almond.

Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden, written and illustrated by Kim Smith (David R. Godine, Publisher).

Three Bees

With family visiting for the past week, in honor of our darling daughter’s senior recital, I have been up to my elbows in cooking. I did manage to run out into the garden to photograph our apricot tree in full glory. Apricot trees provide a fantastic source of nectar for native bees in early spring. The blossoming time of apricots is fleeting and, as the petals were drifitng like snowflakes all around me, the pollinators were working furiously. I counted at least seven different species of bees, some so tiny they did not photograph at all well. The first photo is of a carpenter bee and the other two have yet to be identified.

Apricot Blossom with Carpenter Bee

Apricot blossom native bee

Apricot tree Native bee