Howard Spencer

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since Feb 02, 2019
Central Oklahoma
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Recent posts by Howard Spencer

It sounds llike you are living pretty basic out there in Western Oklahoma. A medlar tree might be more effort than it is of value for you just now. But it might be something to experiment with some day. Osage Orange is a native tree and is a traditional hedge row tree in these parts. It bares fruit but you can't eat it. Medlars have edible fruit once the fruits are bletted. Years ago they planted Russian Olive trees on the American plains as a wind break, but they do not have edible fruit and they became invasive. Medlars are a non-native tree, but they probably would not become invasive as they do not grow readily from seed.

Medlars might be something to keep in mind for planting later, once you have settled in. They are an interesting fruit tree that might do well out your way due to their apple cedar rust resistance.
1 month ago

At present I have a Marron medlar that fruited this fall, and a Royal Medlar that was planted just this past spring. I purchased both medlars from One Green World in Oregon.

They were recommed to me me by a friend who runs a nursery in Colorado. He had not planted medlars but he had ordered from One Green World on many occasions. The trees were just bare root whips when they arrived but they grew quickly. The one that fruited produced several dozen fruits in its third year planted here.

Other medlar varieties are available from Raintree Nursery. I haven't ordered from them.

They have done a study on the genetic diversity of medlars. Some differently named varieties are actually the same genetic variety. Others seem to be quiet different genetically. The chart near the bottom of the below link is informative. Having two different tree varieties is not necessary but I figure that it might help to produce more fruit.

Some claim that the Iranian medlars taste best. Royal is often called a Russian medlar but the genetics say it is an Iranian medlar. Mine has not yet fruited. So, I am interested to see what differences there are between the fruits of the Marron and Royal medlars. Maybe next year!

I have a small property with limited space for planting trees. If I can find suitable space, I woulld like to add to the Marron and Royal medlars that I now have a Pucia Super Mol, a Macrocarpa, and a Sultan from Raintree Nursery just for the sake of added genetic diversity.

Medlars are a romantic fruit, the stuff of Medieval cloisters. In an age when cane sugar did not exist and only the wealthy could afford honey for sweetening, even a peasant could pick wild medlars from the hedgerows and have a sweet treat at the end of the harvest/winter holiday season. Sort of a fruit cake for those who could not afford cake.

Medlar trees have a very hard wood. They make walking sticks out of medlar wood in the Basque country of Spain. But the trees are said to be vulnerable to wind damage. So I have planted my medlars on the East side of my house with some protection from the howling west and north winds.

In Europe, the wild medlars grow in hedgerows. The wild medlars have thorns and smaller fruits. But all of the domesticated medlars come grafted to rootstock. Medlars do not grow all that quickly and even the old ones are not huge. Judging from photos, a mature tree is in the 20 foot range. And unlike most fruit trees, medlars can live for several hundred years. Like hawthorns, they beome more rustic with age. They become twisted and contorted and their limbs tend to spread horizontally.

My medlar trees are near to my house and I keep them well watered. They say that the young trees should be kept well watered for their first four or five years but then they become drought resistant. Since they are native to places like northern Iran, and grow wild in northern Spain, they would appear to like hot dry summers but also enjoy cold winters. The wild non-grafted medlars would appear to be pretty tough trees.

Planting the medlars wiith their grafts below ground level would allow the medlar graft to root on its own. The root stock keeps the trees at a dwarf size of 12 feet or less. But as noted a medlar on its own roots is not a huge tree. Check out the photos on the Internet. They tend  to branch within a few feet of the ground. I planted my medlar trees in raised beds about 18 inches off the ground so that the limbs would be higher and I would be less likely to hit my head when mowing the lawn.

I have a very large red cedar tree within fifty feet of my medlar trees. Trees that are contract apple cedar rust do not surive here. The medlars that I have showed some signs of the apple cedar rust but have not been seriously effected by it.  Hawthorns or quince would not surive here. The medlars that I have are most likely grafted on a quince root stock. Which seems to be another good reason to plant the graft underground level.

I have heard that medlars are not easy to grow from seed and do not grow true to variety when grown from seed. But if you have the time and patience, growing medlars from seed might be the best way to eventurally have a quantity medlars that would survive in a hedgerow. The wild thorny medlar fruits are said to be very tasty, just small. But, you should plant a few of the grafted ones first, and see which ones do best or survive in your area. And then maybe you can plant seeds in mass from your own medlar trees.

1 month ago
I just thought that I would note that I just had my first harvest of medlar fruit this autumn and have become a big fan of the little fruit. I planted a Marron medlar three years ago. The fruit is very tasty, and complex in flavor. Some folks think it tastes of apple butter. Some hints of dried dates and figs. A bit like apple brandy sometimes. Each little fruit from the same tree tastes a little bit different. I planted a Royal Medlar this past spring and it also seems to be doing well.

Cedar apple rust is a big issue here. I tried  to plant an Azarole Hawthorn but the cedar apple rust quickly killed it. It didn't survive four months. The medlars seem to pick up just a little bit of the cedar apple rust, but they still do well none the less. They are not cedar apple rust proof but they seem to be cedar apple rust resistant.

The fruits are funny little things. They each invividually ripen on their own sweet time via the process of bletting. I waited until after we had an ice storm in late October that caked the trees and their fruits in ice. A few days later I picked the fruits off the tree and brought them inside where I laid them out on sheets of newsprint. Some fruits in a matter of a few days were quicky ripe. Weeks later, some are still yet to ripen. Some medlar fruits seem destned not to ripen at all but to just dry up into little mummy fruits. But the majority become brown, mushy soft, and sweet. And good to eat. But there is not much too these fruits to eat. It is hard to see how they could ever be commercialized. But they do make nice sweet treats to snack on through the holiday season. A little taste of Medieval times. Something to eat slowly, just a few fruits at a time as they ripen, and to savor each bite.

Now that I have tasted medlar fruit and see that they can grow well here in Central Oklahoma, I plan to plant a couple more trees when I can make the arrangements.

I should note that I planted both of my medlar trees with the graft below ground. I planted them in a protected area. Here in Central Oklahoma the wind comes whipping down the plains, and even non-grafted medlar trees are known to be brittle and to break easily. So far, the little trees seem to be taking the wind in stride.
1 month ago
After my azarole tree died from cedar rust, I gave up on growing hawthorns.

From what I have read, the only hawthorn that seems resistant to the cedar rust here in central Oklahoma is the Cockspur Hawthorn. The Cockspur Hawthorn is native to Oklahoma. It has long horrible thorns and produces small fruits best left for the birds. No one sells these dangerously thorny wild hawthorns.

A thornless Cockspur Hawthorn branded as the Crusader Hawthorn , Cruzam,  (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis) used to be sold but in recent years was unavailable.

However, this spring Jackson & Perkins began offering a thornless Cockspur Hawthorn. I ordered one and am looking forward to delivery of the bareroot whip soon.

I am not really concerned about the quality of the edible fruit. I can leave it for the birds. But I wanted a hawthorn tree of some variety for the garden. They are an extremely decorative small tree. No Medieval cloister is complete without a hawthorn tree. It should go well with my medlar trees.

I will let everyone know how well this thornless Cockspur Hawthorn  does  in Central Oklahoma and if it truly is resistant to the cedar rust and to the other diseases that kill off hawthorns planted here.
10 months ago
The Mexican Hawthorn, Tejocote, would likely do well in your climate.

It has crossed my mind to try planting a Tejocote  here in Central Oklahoma, but having been burned by the azarole  hawthorn, I'm thinking that my best bet would be to give up on hawthorns and stick with medars which show much more disease resistance to the cedar rust which is a major problem in these parts.

I have microclimates around my property so that I can grow cactus and yucca in some areas and ferns and hostas in other areas. I like to experiment as to what will survive where.

The Central Oklahoma climate is extreme. It can be very hot and dry in the summer, and cold and icy in the winter. And the wind comes howling down the plains.

Good luck with the azarole trees!  

1 year ago
Good luck with the azarole trees!  The golden azarole tree that I planted as a whip last spring is still a whip but is barely alive. Just a few tiny leaves on the stick. The whip was leafless for some weeks, but struggled to grow a few more as the summer progressed. The new leaves were also touched by the cedar rust disease. I plan to dig up the azarole, and replace it with a medlar in the spring.

The Marron medlar that I planted in the spring of 2018 is doing well. I will try to plant a different variety of medlar in the spring, to see how it does.

The drought tolerant, thornless and cedar rust resistant Crusader Hawthorn was the only hawthorn that seemed to do well here in Central Oklahoma, but it no longer appears to be available as a mail order tree whip from any of the nurseries. So, I am giving up on planting a hawthorn here, and am going with another medlar.

1 year ago
Maybe you'll have more luck with the azarole hawthorn in AZ? The azarole appealed to me because it grows all around the Mediterranean Sea, including North Africa and the Middle East. It should survive in a hot inhospitable climate.

I don't know if cedar rust is a problem in AZ. If not, the azarole might do well there. But it is definitely not cedar rust resistant.

I am not sure as to how well a Medlar would do in AZ as the medlar seems to require cooler temperatures, especially during the winter. It likes some days with frosty weather.  

Here in Oklahoma, we have had an exceptionally wet spring. The unusual weather is testing some plants that are considered "drought resistant" with fungal and bacterial blights, while other plants that often struggle here to survive the high heat and drought of the summer are thriving like crazy with all of the additional rain.

And as for farmland, all of the most desirable "bottom land" is a sea of mud these days. Farmers can't get into the fields to harvest or plant a crop. And as they say, cattle have five mouths in a muddy pasture.

1 year ago
The azarole hawthorn tree that I planted in early April looked good for about a month and a half. Then it contracted the dreaded cedar rust. Although sold as disease resistant, it seems that the azarole hawthorn is quite susceptible to cedar rust, as are most hawthorns.  I will have to pull up the azarole tree by the roots and replace it with something that is resistant to cedar rust.

On the bright side, the Marron Medlar tree that I planted in the spring of last year is doing very well. No sign of cedar rust. And with all of the rain that we have had this spring in central Oklahoma, the medlar tree seems to be thriving. Whereas, in my xeriscaped front yard, black spot and rot have affected the cactus and yucca in their raised beds. I've needed to prune a lot of prickly pear cactus this spring to save it from the rot. However, the iris and daylilies have loved all of the rain. It balances out in the end.

So, now I plan to remove the azarole tree, and order another medlar tree to replace it. I'll order another variety of medlar tree, other than a Marron Medlar, and see how that variety will do here.

I'm giving up on trying to grow hawthorns here in Central Oklahoma. The cedar rust disease is just to virulent here. But I am pleased to see that medlars seem to resist the disease.
1 year ago
I've never attempted to eat one. I am told that they are outrageously bitter. The joke is that you can make an orange aide out of one little orange, a bucket of sugar and a 55 gallon drum of water.

I have heard that birds can not taste bitter, and only mammals can taste bitter. So, I suppose, the fruit has evolved so that the seeds would be spread by fruit eating birds. However, I can not say that I have ever seen a bird eat one. Maybe we have the wrong type of birds around here. I have heard that all forms of citrus, including the trifolate orange, originated in China. I am hoping that the fruit might one day attract orioles. I have rarely seen orioles here. Orioles are noted fruit eating birds.

The trifolate orange is a favorite nesting spot for many species of birds. A lot of critters avoid the thorny trees and shrubs, and so they make for protected nesting spots.

I am more interested in creating an oasis for birds than I am in producing my own veggies and fruit. Mine is more of a contemplative garden than it is a functional space for growing human food.

1 year ago
Trifolate oranges thrive in the red dirt of Oklahoma. To create my hedge, I just dropped little oranges into a series of holes. They grew into a hedge that I need to prune back frequently or they will grow into a tree. The little yellow orange are infamously inedible. But the trifolate orange can be grown into a dense and  impenetrable hedge that even a bison will not break through. The spring blossoms smell like orange blossoms and the little yellow oranges are decorative in the autumn. I find the formidably thorny branches decorative. The foliage is shiny and lime green. They have become a weedy invasive species in some parts of the South. I got my little oranges from my brother who lives nearby. His originally came from an old family homestead in northern Mississippi, also in red dirt country. His trifolate orange has grown into tree form, and it is about 20 feet tall.  My trifolate oranges in hedge form have yet to blossom and fruit, but they are less than five years old and grown from seed. I have kept them trimmed back to about 4 feet tall.

The trifolate orange is best grown to create an impenetrable hedge. If you want to be walled in by thorns like Sleeping Beauty, then it is the hedge for you. But the fruit is really not edible. Even the squirrels, possums, and raccoons won't eat them!  And if you don't want a lot of them sprouting up randomly, it is best to rake up the little oranges in the autumn once they fall from the tree/shrub and dispose of them. The crushed little oranges have a strong scent of orange.
1 year ago