Fruit Trees – adding value to your property and your budget.
By Mary Francois Deweese – Landscape Architect, Founding Principle Acorn Landscapes
I am often asked “I only have room for one tree in my yard, if you had to pick just one kind of tree for me to plant what would it be? Now, this seems like a simple question, but, as a landscape architect, and certified plant nerd, it is NOT an easy question for me to answer. Usually, I start asking people things like, what kind of soil do you have? Is it in the sun or shade? Do you need privacy? Etc. But, I think that a good general answer for that question might just be “plant a fruit tree”.
Fruit trees live a long time, they are generally small to medium sized, and they have nice flowers in the spring. I am particularly fond of cherry trees (my ‘Northstar’ cherry is doing very very well with little care other than watering it and trimming off a few stray branches here and there) and plums (the ‘Stanley’ prune plum I have is growing super fast) Just be sure the tree you plant is ‘self pollinating’ unless you plan on having more than one tree.
Another great, but lesser known option is the serviceberry tree (Amelancheir x grandiflora) which is not only a fruit tree, but a native tree to much of the US as well. It has delicate white spring flowers and fairly vibrant fall color most years making it an outstanding ornamental. It also has edible fruit that is really quite good. The fruits are small berries, about the size and shape of a blueberry, and taste like a cross between an apple and a strawberry. I pick them off the tree and store them in freezer bags in the freezer and add them to smoothies or sprinkle them on pancakes just like you would do with blueberries. I’ve also made serviceberry jam!
From an environmental standpoint, planting a fruit tree will give you the same general benefits of planting any small ornamental tree. They help shade hardscapes which reduces the heat island effect of cities, they help reduce soil erosion, they help rainwater infiltrate the soil, they create habitat for birds, provide nectar for bees, etc. They also provide you with valuable fruit!
Trees add value to a property, and a mature fruit tree adds even more value than a non fruiting species. I recommend getting disease resistant varieties that won’t need to be sprayed with harmful pesticides. From my own experience I can recommend both ‘Freedom’ and ‘Liberty’ apples (you do need 2 for proper pollination unless you can find a tree with both varieties grafted onto one tree), as well as the Cherry and plum mentioned above, ‘Stark Honey Glo’ tangerine, and ‘Shiro’ or ‘Red Heart’ plum. I have gotten good quality fruit off of all these trees without any type of pesticide spraying in my St. Louis Missouri garden. I do lose a portion of the berries and cherries to the birds, but I also get a fair share.
Spring is the best time to plant fruit trees, the hardest part is choosing the one you want…just start browsing the mail order fruit tree catalogs online and you’ll soon figure out how hard it is to choose just one tree!
Mary Francois Deweese is the Founding Principle and Lead Project Landscape Architect of Acorn Landscapes, a WBE (St. Louis, Missouri) landscape architectural design firm. She also writes her own blog on living sustainably in the suburbs at www.sprawlstainable.com