Landscaping with Fruits and Nuts
by Max Phelps
Yards to Paradise
While it is a fact some folks don’t want to deal with fallen fruit and nuts in the yard, nor colorful bird poop after they steal some of the smaller fruits and then ‘nature calls’, we are writing for the rest of you all who have a yard and wouldn’t mind doing double duty by having both shade and fruit or hedges and fruit. And, who knows, a few of the no-fruit people might change their minds if they read along.
For larger yard trees, typically it’s maples and Bradford pears we see on every city block, in practically every yard. Large trees to consider instead might include oaks, ginkgo, fruiting pears, black walnuts, white walnuts, hickories, pecans or American beech.
A pecan, chestnut, walnut, fruiting pear, plum, persimmon or mulberry tree could just as easily provide shade, plus edible nuts and fruits for people and wildlife. Full sized apple trees on seedling or Antonovka rootstocks make a 30 foot tree someday which might produce ten or more bushels of apples per year ten or twenty-five years form now. With careful selection, rather than grabbing a tree at the big box store, you can even find varieties of apples that will hold their fruits for several weeks after they are ripe, or even all winter for a few—unless a great big windstorm comes along, in which case all promises are off about hanging onto their fruit. Some apples can be as pretty as flowering crab apples.
If you don’t have room for a shade tree, then you might replace a redbud or white dogwood with a kousa dogwood or cornelian cherry dogwood that have edible fruit and pretty blooms. Maybe a pawpaw tree or a cherry or a peach. Or dwarf or simi-dwarf apples and pears. Maybe serviceberries.
Here’s an idea: Bud-9 and M-27 and G-41 dwarf roots produce apple trees no more than 6 to 8 feet tall. Since these little guys need staking, consider an espalier, or how about a hedgerow or cordon with a couple posts and wires to support the trees and plant them three feet apart like you would boxwoods or viburnum shrubs? You could have a thick hedge…. loaded with lovely fruit you can pick with no ladder. Wouldn’t look bad either—a cordon acting as a hedge with lots of apples for eating and cooking.
Hedges and screens could also be created with jujube trees, currant or gooseberry bushes. A bed of blueberries…especially ones with red or yellow limbs that show in winter, with pink and white blooms in spring, and blue berries in June and July…would look nice.
Borders. Instead of phlox or candytuft or monkey grass, how about a dwarf blueberry or a creeping raspberry or some strawberries? The forsythia bush might be replaced with a honeyberry bush. A burning bush might be replaced with a dwarf cherry bush.
Most have seen contorted filberts, called Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick? Well, since hazelnuts need a second variety to cross pollinate, why not find a spot for a couple more hazelnuts, and your contorted one will have one more added attraction. Nuts!
Arbors and fences could be covered with grapes, kiwi, passion flower vines, hops or magnolia vines.
You might not have to give up your fall color with nuts and fruits either. Some apples have red or orange fall color, hickory trees have golden yellow and some grapes have red leaves in the fall.
For everyone, a couple blueberries or gooseberries worked into the flower bed will not even draw attention to your fruiting ambitions. Add in sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes which look like sunflowers) and they will fit right in with black-eyed-susans and echinacea.
Other edible cuties would include asparagus, service berry bushes, or a raised bed filled with strawberry plants. Strawberries would look good most anywhere you would have a raised flower bed or a terraced wall with flowers just beyond it.
Then, let’s don’t forget you already probably grow some edibles….for you can eat daylily, hosta, nasturtiums and a whole bunch of things you probably never even considered.
Oak trees drop nuts and sweet gum and sycamore drops stickyballs, so why not some pears or chestnuts? And a full sized apple tree can be limbed up like a maple, with fruits way up high and you can walk and mow under it’s limbs. Should you have trouble finding a full sized apple—you can plant a dwarf one really deep so the graft union will be buried and the top part of the tree would put out roots just below the surface and become a full sized tree. Look for a graft union just above the roots—for budded trees have the new variety a foot or more above the root and you don’t want to be planting your apple tree that deep.
Not every nut, not every apple or peach, just like not every maple, will make a perfect lawn tree. But, there are good ones if you search them out. They may be old varieties your grandparents grew, and hard to find. Yellow and red delicious aren’t much to look at in the front yard. But, a Liberty or King David apple just might work. I know a well planned yard with fruits and nuts can work, for I’ve done it more than once over the years. My hope is it will also work for some of my readers.
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