While Luther Burbank experimented with the plants in his home and garden in Santa Rosa, he did most of the work at Gold Ridge, his 11-acre property in Sevastopol. It was there that he grew the famous tree on which 500 different varieties of cherries have been grafted.
He made these transplants to grade the cherries side by side and make his selections for taste, ripening times, yield and other desirable qualities. He put his picks into breeding programs which, during his lifetime, produced over 800 new varieties of fruits, nuts, vegetables, flowers and timber trees.
So if only to honor Burbank techniques here on its own land, consider adding a grafted combination fruit tree to your yard or garden. But you don’t have to look far for other great reasons to plant one of these horticultural wonders.
Combination apple trees, for example, can have three to six different varieties growing from a single trunk. Depending on the type of apple on the branches, it can produce early, mid-season and late fruits on the same tree. Some apples can be good for making cider, others for eating out of the blue, and others for making applesauce or baked pastries and pies.
If you had a separate tree for each type of apple, they would make an orchard on their own and take up a lot of space. But they can all be on a semi-dwarf tree that you can prune so the fruit stays close at hand and you don’t need a ladder. So many people get more fruit than they can eat, leaving a lot to be wasted. These multi-variety trees are surprisingly efficient ways to grow fruit in your garden.
Due to genetic differences between scions – the term for varieties grafted onto the main tree with its roots in the ground – different grafted members can grow at different rates. You will need to keep an eye out for limbs that are stronger than others and trim them to maintain balance. If you let the vigorous branches grow freely, they will invade your tree and other varieties will wither and die.
Ask your supplier which varieties of your combined tree are the most and least vigorous. This will help you keep the tree balanced and will also help when planting. Pick a location for your tree that is in full sun and orient it with the slower or weaker branches facing south to southwest, so that they receive the most light.
Hard to get so plan now
These combination trees are very popular. They tend to sell out quickly when growers deliver potted grafted saplings or bare root trees in the winter, when the trees are dormant and can be easily planted in moist soil in the winter to wake up in the backyard. spring. That’s why it’s wise to be proactive and order these trees now, if your retailer keeps a list of people who signed up or prepaid in July for trees in January.
One more thing: you can learn how to graft and do the work yourself. It is not difficult, but you have to know how to do it successfully. While apples should be grafted onto apple stock, stone fruits like peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines can be grafted onto almond stock as they all belong to the genus Prunus.
Local nurseries for combined fruit trees
Friedman’s Home Improvement: All three Friedman sites in Sonoma County have multi-grafted fruit trees. Check the store closest to you around mid-December to see when the trees will arrive. 4055 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, 707-584-7811; 360 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-939-8811 and 429 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, 707-774-8400.
The king’s nursery: King’s Nursery has been a local garden center and plant nursery in Santa Rosa since 1896. It is the oldest nursery in the county. It bears multi-grafted fruit trees in pots. He currently has a six-in-one espalier apple tree for sale and will have more combos around the first of the year. 1212 13th Street Santa Rosa, 707-542-4782.
Sonoma Valley Wholesale Nursery: They say they sometimes have multi-grafted trees depending on the year. Call during bare root season (December through March) to see if they have any. Open for retail 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. 19655 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-732-8019.
Urban Tree Farm Nursery: Multi-grafted trees in large tubs arrive towards the end of the year and tend to sell out in February or March. Others start arriving in June for the summer months. Currently available is a six-in-one apple tree in a seven gallon tub. 3010 Fulton Road, Fulton, 707-544-4446.
Raintree Nursery: Virtually a one-stop-shop for combined fruit trees. They carry many apples, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums and more three-in-one and four-in-one.
They also carry what they call the Fruit Cocktail Tree, each of which has at least four of the following six varieties: Jelly Peach, Puget Gold Apricot, Hardired Nectarine, Honey Cherry, Italian Plum Plum, and Rabbits Cherry. They are grafted with a special inter-trunk which allows to have cherries on the same tree as the others. Make sure you have 800 to 1,200 hours of cooling to ensure successful flowering and fruiting. (Most of Sonoma County has 900 to 1,300 cooling hours.) Raintree’s combos are selling out early, but they’ll take orders this month for shipping in early 2022. Morton, Washington, 800-391 -8892, raintreenursery.com
Home deposit: The Home Depot sells four-in-one apple, cherry, plum and pear trees, as well as a three-in-one combination of apples. They are only sold by mail order, not in stores, and are mailed to you bare root in early 2022.
To see what they have, go to homedepot.com and look for the box that says, “What can we help you find today?” At the top of the home page. Type: orchards combination fruit trees online. You will find all of their combined mail order trees on the pages that appear.
Jeff Cox is a Kenwood-based food and garden writer. Contact him at [email protected]