Explainig the enduring popularity of fruit trees in the yard can be as easy as reasoning by analogy with the architect world and saying that fruit tree form and function fit the modern family. Many fruit trees grow to a medium height, making them fairly easy to prune and trim. They provide flowering and food for the family from season to season. What's not to like about them?
Geography mostly explains consumer fruit tree preferences. Non-citrus fruit trees such as apples, cherries, plums, peaches and pears grow well in northern climates. Citrus trees such as orange trees grow well in southern climates.
The multiple varieties of most trees available in the market means that a local nursery will stock the varieties best suited to the local climate. For example, three types of plum trees, European, Damson and Japanese grow in the United States. Each type exhibits variety specific pollination and habitat preferences. The European plum, for example, is suited to temperate climates.
Apples rightly stand out in most North American fruit tree discussions. A quick look at the some statistics shows that in most cases over the past thirty years, per capita fresh apple consumption outpaced per capita consumption of the other non-citrus tree fruits by a four to one margin. In 2010, the preliminary per capita apple consumption rate stood at 15.41 lbs/person. Peaches came in a distant second in per capita fresh tree fruit consumption with a rate of 4.73 lbs/person.
While often touted as the all-American fruit, apples also top the all-Canadian fruit chart.The Canadian Government reports that "Apples are the most important tree fruit crop in Canada".
North American history can often be told as apple history, starting with colonists introducing seeds and grafts of their favorite varieties. Westward expansion expanded the range for now orchard development, with pioneers such as Johnny Appleseed remaining with us today. Today Washington state leads the United States in apple production, growing almost half of the total.
America's favorite breakfast fruit, oranges, grow on trees in the warmer and subtropical areas of the United States. In fact, southern and sub-tropical climates also provide fertile ground for growing a variety of other citrus fruit trees such as lemons, limes, grapefruit and tangerines. California and Florida orchards account for the bulk of the domestic market, with California oranges used primarily for fresh consumption and Florida oranges used primarily for processing into juice.
Tangerines (and tengelos), the other orange fruit, grow sparingly in the subtropical areas of the country. While never an overly popular citrus fruit, tangerine per capita consumption remains fairly stable over time, with the average person consuming anywhere from three to four pounds of tangerines every year.
Two types of limes, Citrus latifolia (Tahitian lime) and Citrus aurantiifolia (key lime), grow in the United States. Neither type is a native species, and the lime tree is temperature sensitive to the degree that it is impracticable to plant them as a commercial endeavor. Almost one hundred percent of the limes used in the United States are imported.
Still, their small size makes lime trees a popular patio and landscape fixtures in the southern areas of California, Texas and Florida. Some escape to grow in the wild. Key limes matures to a yellow fruit and the branches of the trees have thorns. The Tahitian lime matures to a green fruit and the branches of the tree are thorn-less.
Technically not trees, raspberry and blackberry plants, commonly called brambles, are fun fruit producing plants for the yard. Their tasty fruit and easy grow nature make them a popular plant. In fact, they often grow so well that keeping up with pruning is always the biggest growing challenge.
A simple two step process guides bramble pruning. First, remove dead and dying brown canes by clipping them as close to the ground as possible. If the goal is clearing an area of brambles, the dead canes need to be removed down to the roots.
Pruning the green canes finishes the project. Live green canes take two forms.
The plants grow clusters of canes which fruit every two years. First year canes, primocanes, need food, water and sunshine in order to get them ready for next year's fruiting. While raspberry and blackberry canes grow in most climates and soil condition, fruit production is maximized when the canes are placed in sunny areas with soil that drains well.
Experts differ on the amount of pruning that primocanes need during the summer growing season. Suggestions range from no pruning, to keeping the canes at a three to four foot height, depending on the cultivar of the plant.
© 2004-2016 Patricia A. Michaels.