Old pear tree and barn


Avoid Extremes

A week or so ago, fruit trees were so full of blossoms that they looked like giant snowballs, foreshadowing a heavy crop of fruit later this season. Too heavy, perhaps, for the branches to support. Too heavy, perhaps, for fruits that are large and luscious. Surely so heavy that next year’s harvest could be paltry.Pears in bloom

Some fruit trees are more prone than others to getting into a feast and famine cycle of a heavy crop one year and a light crop the next. My Macoun apple tree, although it bears delectable fruits, is the worst in this regard among the few apple varieties that I grow. Read more

asparagus seedlings


The Evidence

I’d like to make a case for growing asparagus, even if you’re not a vegetable gardener. In fact, vegetable gardeners need not relegate asparagus to the vegetable patch. The plants hold little interest to deer, rabbits and other furry invaders that must be fenced out of vegetable gardens.

The ferny stems can provide a wispy lime-green backdrop to mounded flowers like lavatera and gaillardia, or an airy foreground to the broad, glossy leaves of holly bushes. My present asparagus provides a backdrop for three clematis plants trained skyward on wire trellises.Asparagus and clematis

Asparagus is especially easy to grow, in part because it is a perennial. My patch is about 25 years old. Read more

Espalier in Normandy, France


Espalier Goals

Espalier (es-pal-YAY) is the training of a plant, usually a fruit plant, to an orderly, two-dimensional form. The word is derived from the Old French aspau, meaning a prop, and most espaliers must, in fact, be propped up with stakes or wires. This method of training and pruning plants had its formal beginnings in Europe in the 16th century, when fruit trees were trained on walls to take advantage of the strip of earth and extra warmth near those walls.

Espalier in Normandy, France

Espalier in Normandy, France

Why go to all the trouble of erecting a trellis and then having to pinch and snip a tree frequently to keep it in shape? Because a well-grown espalier represents a happy commingling of art and science, resulting in a plant that pleases eyes and, if a fruit plant, also palates. You apply this science artfully (or your art scientifically) with manipulations such as pulling exuberant stems downward to slow their growth, by cutting notches where stems threaten to remain bare, and by pruning back stems in summer to keep growth neat and fruitful.  Read more