|Le verger, Camille Pissaro, 1872
Ten springs ago when we were much younger garden enthusiasts, we went to a local Centre de Jardin and bought a whole bunch of fruit trees to plant in our backyard, including: peaches, nectarines, walnuts, cherries, apricots, pears, and, of course, apple trees. We were very excited about our project. We selected the strongest looking species with the best looking crowns and flowers. Each tree had a heavy price tag with an image of a gorgeous ripe fruit on it. There were also some zone numbers on the tags of which the garden center rep gave us short but sophisticated speech to help us to conclude that it was fine to buy all those trees for our climate zone. And we did. Little did we know that the zone factor was huge and there was actually no such thing as a Zone 3 to 6 swing. Next, we almost killed ourselves planting all those trees in one shot during one hot week-end. The trees looked great during summer and fall. Then, suddenly, the peach and nectarine trees did not ”wake up” next spring. So did walnut and pear trees in the following spring. Within three springs cherry trees joined the others and we had 12 trees dead out of 18. Heartbroken, we were looking at them thinking:
”Fey withouten fait is febelore þen nouȝt, and ded as a dore-nayl.”
[Faith without works is feebler than nothing, and dead as a doornail.]
Not that we did not take care about the trees, on the contrary, we spend hours trimming, watering and feeding them in seasons. So, why did they die? Because their tag said: ”Zone 5 or 6” while the sales person successfully maneuvered us into a sack with his elusive speech on the ”climate zones”. Needless to say, the guaranty for the trees was only 3 months at that time. We had our lesson.
Fortunately, there were some trees that did have correct ”Zone 3” tag, including few apple trees and one sour cherry which we still have in our orchard. They are alive and kicking and giving us plenty of wonderful fruit each fall.
As for the Garden Centre shopping, we are now well-armed with the knowledge of, both, how to select a tree for our climate zone and how to deal with those sales reps that are ”doing it wrong”. In Shakespeare’s words it would be:
”Brave thee! ay, by the best blood that ever was
broached, and beard thee too. Look on me well: I
have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and
thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead
as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more.”
King Henry VI, Part 2., 1592.
PS: I was actually planning to write this post as a reminder to all gardeners that it is time now to trim the fruit treeswhile they are still dormant. For Eastern Canada and New England zones you can still do it until the end of March. Pruning is important especially to remove damaged, diseased or the branches that grow straight up toward the sky, which do not produce fruit, but take lot of energy. Help your trees to produce some delicious fruits this year. Here is a good source on tools and techniques to use for pruning and trimming the fruit trees.