Some of you might remember this thread: https://permies.com/t/40003/Tree-Plant-Baby-Birthday, from three years ago when I was looking for a tree to plant for my son's first birthday. We had wanted a long living, fun, and edible tree. The wonderful Eric Thompson gifted us with one of his antonovka apple seedlings from his nursery. His tree is doing marvelously!
On the same thread, Dirk Maes mentioned,
Dirk Maes wrote: In Flanders ( Belgium ) they used too plant linden and pears for girls or aples and oaks for boys. But these are regional customs.
This was just too cool! I decided then that, if we had a girl in the future, we'd plant her a pear tree. And, lo and behold, my little daughter will be 1 year old in three months! So I've started looking at pear trees. We'd like her pear tree to live at least 80 years, be pretty disease resistant, as well as have tasty fruit.
Does anyone know of a suitable pear tree? What rootstock should I use? I've been looking at Orcas pears, since they seem to do well here...but they are only sold on semi-dwarf rootstocks. I asked the people at Raintree how long semi-dwarf pears lived, but they didn't know. I've never grafted, so I really don't want to try and then ruin her tree. Does anyone have any ideas? Thanks!
Trees you buy from nursery are about 3 years old. Seedling (on own rootstock instead of graft) is going to add another year probably so the tree should fruit at year 5 or later. Say 5-8 years. (I have one that is ten years old after I bought it from a nursery, set a few last year and dropped them at 2 weeks, this year the blizzard did unto it but bent all the branches out instead of straight up. So it gets one more year before it gets turned into dowels and spoons)
Seedling of my mom’s Pear: Could be a mix of Orcas/Barlett/Japanese pear. Seedling vigor, has family heritage, no idea WHAT the fruit will taste like. Be a long time until it fruits.
Keiffer Pear: Variety has been around for over 250 years. Well known to have long lifespan. Edible, but not very tasty fresh. Disease resistant. What’s the branch angle? Self-pollinating and will pollinate our other future pears. Is a mix of Asian "sand" pear and European pears.
Maxine/Starking Delicious Pear: Disease resistant, Asian/Bartlett mix like Keifer, but tasty. No idea about it's lifespan or branch angle.
Still need to research Bartlett, Bosc, Blake's Pride, D'Anjou, Red D'Anjou, and Hood. Could I get a bartlet as an ungrafted seedling, since they use them for seedlings? Would it be as tasty and disease resistant as the grafted Bartletts?
One thing that concerns me about pears is that they supposedly tend to have problems because of their shallow branch angle. The limbs break in storms or under snow or from freezing rain. I could probably train them, but I really was hoping to let this tree--like my son's--take it's natural shape. Are their pear trees that naturally have better branch angles?
Thank you again, for all your help. If you have any more knowledge or experience to share, I'd love to hear it!
And, as for it needing a pollinator, we plan on planting at least one, if not two other pears in a year or two, when funds allow. THose will likely be semi-dwarfs, so they'll be fruiting around the same time as whatever tree we plant for my daughter.
I'm pretty sure the pears we had when I was a kid were kiefer. It was so old no one really new. Produced every year with no care. No disease or insect damage. Closest pollinator was 1/4 mile away, but we did have lots of bees then. Maybe it was self pollinating? We liked to eat them like apples before they were quite ripe. I thought they were really good that way. We didn't try cooking any. I think when they weren't quite ripe the grit wasn't noticeable.
I wish I'd have grafted from it before it died. There is a seedling near where it was. Possibly a self pollinated seedling. I may try grafting from it. It's right next to a huge cedar tree. I don't think it'll ever fruit there.
Apple trees can live to over 100 years old and still produce. I have brought back an orchard planted by Johnny Appleseed, that means that in 1967 it was around 100 years old. The trees put out 40 bushels of golden apples the next year and I heard from the people who bought that property after we were transferred to California and it was still producing good fruit, probably because they were tending that orchard.
David, that is normal in my experience.
When I was in France in 1969 I went through an orchard outside of Paris that had producing trees that were planted in 1822, there were pears, apples, and apricots the main body were all pollarded and the border trees were espaliers.
It was a real treat for me to watch the orchard men and learning from them.
The head orchard man was in his seventies.
All pears, especially European types are infamous for trying to grow highly vertically like Lombardy poplars. This can make reaching the fruit (if not dwarfed on quince, which only a few types will take) difficult and espalier a battle (some of the trouble there is simply that the branches are stiff, but a branch trained at 45 degrees won't stay growing at that angle but rather turn upwards; a tuning fork shape, say to line an arch, might work better than my Belgian fence attempt). However I am not sure the branch angles really ruin pear trees structurally. I grew up with an Asian x European cross (fireblight resistant) that sailed through hurricanes that dropped pine trees. Neither after the storms nor at any other time have I seen ANY branch fall. It was in full sun, so perhaps felt no need to self-prune lower limbs (which is why tuliptrees are constantly dropping side branches to focus on their central trunk). However N. FL while a storm zone is not a snow zone and perhaps snow/ice loading is worse than 100mph winds. Have younger trees (the out of symmetry Belgian fence) in Chicago--which is icy--and have never seen damage here either. Bending branches lower might encourage them to bloom, but doesn't seem necessary from a structural point of view for this genus.
Actually someone had pruned the FL tree in "open center" form (typical for plums & peaches, not pears), so it effectively had 3 independent "central leaders" but was still fastigiate: 25' tall and less than 5' across. They just want to be narrow. Narrow trees like that can be useful (small footprint, generates less shade, possibly eventually gives you a long straight log for timber if you let it have only one central leader and have it on standard roots--pear wood is beautiful but the trees too valuable to harvest for wood), if you can get at the fruit. I've seen 8' pyrifolia ("apple") pears in Manchuria that had a ball shape, but am pretty sure that was due to really aggressive pruning to keep the fruit reachable. So far Hosui (a pyrifolia) looks like a regular pear tree to me.
If you have a resistant scion (top), I don't think fireblight will reach the rootstock. It usually gets in via pruning wounds or flowers. I consider it an STD for pome fruit. Maybe I am wrong and it can travel through the sap asymptomatically, in which case the rootstock does need to be resistant. I am no longer in a hot area where the disease is pervasive.
Pears don't draw bees over long distances like apples (which often get pollinated by neighborhood crab/apples up to a mile away) do, so a pair is usually best (or you can bud/graft in a pollinator). However in some but not all climates Seckel (small but delicious, and historic if that matters to you) & its larger offspring, Honeysweet, are at least partially self-compatible. Chinese "white pears" (bai li, the main ones grown here being Ya Li and Tsu Li [modern pinyin, as used by the USDA, would write that Tse Li, but I see the older romanization more often]) are rarely grown in the USA except where fireblight resistance and low chill are very important. However if you want one, be advised that they finish blooming before European pears start and therefore will not be pollinated by them (but might be pollinated by Callery pears and are pollinated by each other). Pyrifolia Asian pears bloom slightly earlier than do Europeans, but there is usually enough overlap for pollination. Sorbopears (which take far too long to reach sexual maturity anyway) bloom toward the end of the European season. I have no information on Xinjiang pears.