Fruit Trees in Boulder

Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)March 2, 2012

I need some advice for fruit trees in south boulder.

1) what works well here: apples, plums, peaches, pears,grapes, etc?

2) where would you order from? Who do you think knows enough about fruit trees here that could also advise how to plant?

3) Last summer we hired the owner of Harlequin Gardens to consult on fruit trees in our South Boulder- windy as hell back yard. We got some good pointers but he said that we should not espalier or use dwarf varieties because they are less hardy and can't survive our winters/wind. But, I have been reading on this post that some,including Ianb has espaliered his apple trees and pruned plums to keep them at 5'. That was our plan until HG said not to. Can anyone comment on this?

4)If someone has espaliered their trees, would you be willing to let me see them if your local? I know this is strange but I've only seen pictures online and want to make sure I fully understand before trying this. Or, whether I should just choose 4 trees and let them grow naturally. We have a standard south boulder yard.

We worked much of the summer getting our yard ready for a mini orchard- 2 roll offs to take away the 16 tons (the BF knows for sure) of rock and cement we had to dig out our yard with a mini excavator- good fun. So, I may be a little sensitive to making sure we actually have good fruit producing trees- sorry.



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You might search a bit, then post specific questions detailing the wind/temp cycle over on the fruit and orchard forum at Gardenweb - there are a lot of very knowledgeable and helpful people over there, particularly when it comes to stuff like espaliering trees and such.

The problem in Rocky Mt. gardening is late frosts - apple trees will give fruit most years, while plum, peach, cherry, etc. only once every 4-5 years.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 5:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am in a very windy neighborhood in Castle Rock, not Boulder. I currently have 5 espaliered trees...3 apples and 2 pears. I planted them 3 years ago and they are looking pretty good. I am doing them with 3 main horizontal tiers, so it's taken me all 3 years to get them shaped the way I planned. I bought them at Costco as regular semi-dwarf trees and chopped them off at about 12 inches high. (I didn't get dwarfs because I read they grow back too slowly if you lose a branch along the way). Below is one of the sites I used for guidance.

I also have a natural-growing semi-dwarf peach, plum, and cherry (2 from Costco, 1 from Arapahoe Acres, which is no longer in business). They all look great. The only things that have produced so far are the cherry (it's a Stella) and 1 of my pears. But I'm hoping this will be the year they all at least try to give me some fruit!

I have a one-year-old grape which is so far not growing much, but I know they do grow well on the front range.

Let me know if you have any questions. Hope this at least encourages you to give them a try!


Here is a link that might be useful: Espaliered fruit trees

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 7:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So far my fruit trees are doing well. In my espalier I've four pears on semidwarf pear stock, one pear on quince stock, and six or seven apples on dwarf stock. I'd be happy to share the names of the varieties and rootstocks if you'd like.

There's been minimal die-off, and even the quince rootstock seems to be holding up fine. They're pretty well protected, with a southern exposure and a 4' fence running parallel about 18" behind the espalier. I think if you're going to try dwarf apples, an espalier may be the way to go - the two apples I have (on M7 and M26) that are staked rather than in the espalier definitely have a tougher time getting battered by the winds.

The plums - 5, all European - are not in the espalier; they're also doing fine. A couple have begun blossoming well, but the rains in May last year kept fruit set near zero. They're planted 5' apart and all but one is 8-10' tall; the other I pruned very hard after 2 years to change the shape from a pyramid to a vase, and has yet to really recover. The only issue with the plums is with breakage of limbs from wet snow/freezing rain; they have had no problems at all with the recent winds. The plums aren't staked, and are on mazzard or mahleb stock.

The one tree that has gotten significant dieback is a Smyrna Quince (not espaliered), which will probably come out in favor of a Northstar cherry.

I think the key to the trees' happiness has been a drip watering system, which is set to give them a decent soaking once a week in the summer. The dwarf apples in particular have limited root systems that really appreciate coddling.

Grapes seem to work well around here, depending on the variety (though the local raccoons are very attuned to them). There are a couple of peaches in our neighborhood, and they seem to get frosted at least half the time.

Let me know if you have other questions.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 10:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh, and I ordered most of my trees from Cummins Nursery and Trees of Antiquity. No need to go anywhere else, as far as I'm concerned - got beautiful trees from both places, and terrific service from Cummins (I expect ToA also has great service, but never needed it.) You'll need to order as soon as you can - it's already late in the season for ordering trees. If in doubt over a variety, it may be better to wait until next winter to order, rather than get a variety you won't be happy with (and which you'll agonize over for years before you rip it out).


    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 10:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks David, Trish and Ian.

I'm asking on this forum because I wanted something specific to the front range. I have read much of the fruit/orchard postings but don't know enough to understand if certain aspects are relevant to CO.

I have been thinking about:
Apples: courtland, honeycrisp
peaches: reliance, red haven or elberta
pears: I want bartlett but read they are not resistant to fireblight. Moonglow and Magness are resistant but I am not familiar with these. Anjou and seckel- moderately resistant
plums: stanley, blue damson, Mt. royal or italian
cherry: northstar
grapes: looking for something other than concord

Ian- if you could share your types of trees that would be great. We have been looking for varieties at the store and farmer's markets to know how they taste but we haven't been able to find most varieties.

Also, Harlequins sells fruit trees in pots that are a few years old. Is it better to buy potted trees or bare root trees online? Harlequins said we have until May to plant the trees and wasn't sure if it makes a difference btn potted or bare root.

Has anyone read about backyard orchard culture? We were thinking of doing something like this but have been advised by many that it wouldn't work here. I was surprised when Ian said you trim back your trees to a smaller size. We had wanted to keep our potential peach and plum trees small- about 8-10'. Does anyone have any experience of this in the area?

Again thank you.

Here is a link that might be useful: backyard orchard culture

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 12:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If they are till available, Jonathan apples work well on the front range, getting ripe in early sept.

I'm growing one here that is rare, but just wonderful to eat and make into sauce, apple butter, pies etc and has produced a very decent crop every year, even when the others fail - a red fleshed variety called 'Almata' - but that you'd likely have to search for, bare root. But I'd guarantee you'd be happy with it.

I grow Red Haven and Elberta peaches. They seem to be the recommended varieties for Colo, and should work where you are.

Plums are an issue for me - the plants do well, but its pretty rare I get fruit due to late frosts. Right now, in addition to regular trees, I'm trying the non-grafted shrub version of both Blue Damson and Green Gauge.

I replaced a huge Concord grape vine that was killed by voles with a Reliance seedless variety. It has yet to flower.

Just stumbled across the linked site when I was trying to remember the name of some of the apples, might be worth reading......

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 1:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here's the list:

Apples (variety/rootstock)
Ashmead's Kernel / M7
Cox's Orange Pippin / Bud9
Northern Spy / Bud9
Calville Blanc / G11
Cortland / M7
Jonagold / G30
Kidds Orange Red / G11
Margil / M7
Reinette Zabergau / G11

Seckel / OHxF333
Comice / OHxF333
Warren (self-sterile) / OHxF333
Magness (self-sterile) / Quince

Green Gage / Myrobalan
Geneva Mirabelle / Myrobalan
Shropshire Damson / St. Julian
Imperial Epineuse / St. Julian
Golden Transparent / St. Julian

Oh, going through my notes I saw I bought the plums on St. Julian from One Green World, also recommended.

I tried to select all for relatively late flowering dates. (Also, I grew up in New England and have spent some time in Europe, so had a chance to taste most of the varieties I've chosen.) The rootstocks were selected to keep the trees at an appropriate size. One caveat: Bud9 is very small, and very slow growing. For most espaliered trees I'd probably go with G11 or G30, with M7 for the bigger ones (ie fans 6-8' across).

A couple of specific notes: Cortland is a 'tip-bearer', meaning it flowers & fruits on branches at least a foot long, so you can't really put it in an espalier (mine is in the front yard). Magness is self-sterile, so you'll need to have another pear tree nearby to pollinate it.

Anything you put in an espalier you'll want to buy bare-root, as you'll be cutting it way back anyways (to the point of the first branching you want, which will generally be less than 2' from the ground). This also gives you access to many more varieties and rootstocks.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 7:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

David and Ian- thank you very much.

It is a relief to know what varieties actually taste good. And, I'm understanding the rootstock stuff a little better now. I had focused on fireblight resistance and pollination but did not consider flowering dates or that rootstocks determine the size of the plant (I did know about semi-dwarf and dwarfs).

I'm very excited. And thanks for the tip on the courtland, we were probably going to get it.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 10:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

With the wild temperature swings we get here in the spring, a good fruit year is about 1 out of 5. Then, its a contest between me, the bugs, raccoons, and the birds on dividing up the harvest - sometimes ya win, sometimes ya lose. :-) There is absolutely nothing more frustrating than doing all the other chores one day, line up the jars, sugar, etc planning to spend the next processing 50 lbs of perfectly ripe plums, only to go out and discover that yes, a pack of raccoons can eat 50 lbs of plums in one night. Strong language ensues.

So I end up picking a lot of my fruit before its perfectly ripe, otherwise I won't get anything. But thats ok, you can still let it ripen up a bit after its picked, and you still can make some wonderful syrups, jams, jellies, and so on.

This past year, I was using a steam juice extractor to juice slightly under-ripe apples - we then made this into syrup and cinnamon apple jelly - about 20 pints. Just fabulous.

Anyway, back yard orchards are fun. Just don't spend a whole lotta money, and don't expect to fill bushels every year, and remember, people ate fruit with worm holes for millennia, long before mankind invented pesticide sprays.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 11:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks David. This will be a great test of patience.

You've probably heard this before (and maybe tried it) but I was told to keep rose stem clippings- the thorny kind to pile up at the base of fruit trees to keep the squirrels from crawling up. I don't know if that would also keep the racoons out but I just wanted to throw it out there.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 4:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My raccoons use Russian Olive thorns to clean their teeth, rose thorns to brush their hair.......

I have a Bartlett pear tree planted 10 years ago. When it was just getting started, maybe 3 years in the ground, I had a two-point buck come in the yard and start scraping its horns on the thing, stripping off all the bark about 2 feet up. Cut that off, and several shoots took off from the stump. Put a fence around it, and four years later, I pruned out all but the 3 biggest branches. So now it flowers, but I'm lucky to get 4 or 5 pears with the late frosts.

This last year, there was one pear, about 10 feet up. I had my eye on it, but so did the magpies, and so I saw they'd chewed a hole in it. Figured it wasn't worth bothering to get out the ladder and haul it all the way to the tree, just left it.

And so some raccoon climbed up to get it, breaking off the branch down at the joint with the stump.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:01AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Ready for Harvest :o)
Here's what some of the plants look like in my greenhouse...
roof ice damming in Denver area?
I know this isn't garden related, but was wondering...
Anyone interested in unusual peonies take a look at Adelman's
Just got the catalog for Adelmans Peony Paradise for...
Thornless blackberries in CO?
I've got a front yard veggie/fruit/perennial garden...
Great Backyard Bird Count - 2015
Great Backyard Bird Count - Cornell Hi all, It’s...
Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™