March 26, 2012

Pyrus, Prunus and Malus, Ubiquitous

When the pear tree flower buds showed the first a hint of white, the Blue Orchard mason bees were pulled put of the fridge and placed outside in their bee chalet. When they emerge, this is what they will find blooming all around them.
Pyrus calleryana
Before the Chanticleer Pear became overplanted, it was the Bradford Pear. They are planted in shopping center parking lots, along highway exits, in median strips, etc., etc. throughout the metro area. Both are covered in white flowers at this time, usually the larger Bradford first. Often a late Winter storm will destroy the entire year's crop of flowers, but the leaves are usually OK as they emerge after the bloom. The leafy canopy of the Chanticleer is narrower in profile than the Bradford, making it an ideal tree for small yards or for planting between the closely-spaced houses in newer developments. With our neighbor's overbuilt deck overlooking the Backyard, the Chanticleer Pear makes a high privacy screen that doesn't require a lot of square footage.
Pear tree nectar is not very sweet, but honeybee colonies coming out of Winter strong and mason bees, who need copious amount of pollen, are highly attracted to the smelly flowers. By Summer's end, the trees will be loaded with tiny ornamental fruits, which the squirrels seem to relish. Since the fruits are small, the trees do not require a lot of water, but an occasional deep soaking keeps the limbs flexible. This enables the trees to withstand the seemingly incessant chinooks. In late October, if an early Winter storm does not freeze-dry them, the waxy leaves turn various shades of red and burgundy before falling to the ground a drab autumn brown.

Prunus cistena
Cherry trees and shrubs are baby-pink flowered and just as sweetly fragrant. Inevitably, Winter tries to make a last stand in April, so it's nice to snip a few long branches to force in a vase. Even when the flowers are sparse, the red bark brings a welcome splash of color into the early Spring home. The leaves are red as well, at first. In full sun, they eventually turn green as they mature. The shrub form tends to get leggy but takes well to pruning. This encourages new growth, and you end up with a touch of red at all times. Come July, when it's too hot for anything to be flowering and all you see is green foliage and grass, the cherry bushes really stand out. In the Fall, the leaves turn an orange-y shade of burgundy before falling off and blowing away. A good hard pruning to put them to bed for Winter both reduces breakage and encourages new growth (more blooms) the following Spring.
Honeybee on Sandcherry

Malus x ‘unknown’
Crabapple flowers are white or deep pink to red, and the trees bloom profusely. Since they are the last to bloom of the three, they usually flower unimpeded by Old Man Winter. This one can be ornamental or edible-fruit bearing. Two Octobers ago, we found a nice big crabapple on a sidewalk, cold stratified it and now have a tiny crabapple tree living on the kitchen windowsill. Anyone out there ever bonsai'd a crabapple?
Grove of small crabapple trees near downtown.


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