Blossom Trees: garden plants of the month for March

Whether you have space for an orchard or just want to harvest fruit on your balcony, there is a blossom tree to suit you which will offer you great natural entertainment over three seasons.

Flowers, bees, blossom!
Rarely is ‘Made by Nature’ so fascinating to watch as with a Blossom Tree. You acquire it looking rather bare – that’s inevitable. Luckily fabulous blossom quickly emerges on those bare branches, so that you have a cloud of white or pink interspersed with twigs and the first green shoots. Most Blossom Trees self-pollinate, although that doesn’t stop honeybees and bumblebees from getting involved too. When the blossom had drifted to the ground, the greenery really gets going. Before you know it there’s a thick crown of fresh, fairly pointy leaves on your fruit tree. And amongst them sit the first fruit. They start green and modest, and grow and ripen over the summer into delicious juicy apples, peaches or plums. The plum tree is usually the first to be harvested, followed by the peach and the apple tree. Sometimes the sequence is different – Nature decides. And that keeps things interesting.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces I would still plant my apple tree.” Reformer Martin Luther

These are the Blossom Trees
Apple tree Crab apples, eating apples, cooking apples – they all start with a fabulous apple tree (official name: Malus) which flowers from mid-April to the end of May with beautiful white blossom with a yellow heart. There are some 7500 cultivars. That’s quite a range to choose from!

Peach tree Born in China, raised in Persia. In order to be able to produce the fruit with its soft skin, this blossom tree first needs a bit of frost and then lots of sunshine. That makes it extremely suitable for a temperate climate with the new style summers that are predicted.

Plum tree Plum blossom may be the most beautiful of the lot.  The associated tree is native to central Asia and has been popular with humans for centuries. The most popular cultivars do not grow in the wild, but were cultivated some 12,000 years ago around your ancestors’ home.

Because the blossom appears before the leaves, the tree symbolises vitality in China. The wood is said to offer protection. Not a bad thing to have in your garden!

How to harvest fruit from them
• Blossom trees like to be placed in the sun with some partial shade during the day as well.
• Plant blossom trees deep so that they’re firmly secured.
• It’s good if the soil is well-draining. It’s better for the roots not to stand in water too long.
• Give plenty of water immediately after planting, then water normally after that.
• Give organic fertiliser once a month during flowering and growth. Outside that period you only need to feed once per season.
• Prune apple and peach trees in March, immediately after winter and before flowering. Plum trees are best pruned in late summer after harvesting.
• Blossom and night-time frost? Cover the tree with fleece or spray the blossom so that it freezes temporarily. This will give you a good chance of harvesting fruit later.

Adam and Eve, William Tell, Snow White – apples appear in both Greek myths and the Norse Edda sagas. It is the ‘fruit of knowledge’ that brings about awareness.

Freeze the blossom? Really?
There can still be night-time frost in early spring. If a blossom tree is already flowering, the delicate blossom can freeze which will greatly reduce the chance of fruit. You can prevent that by spraying it. When the water transitions from liquid to solid form – i.e. ice – this releases heat. That heat is called freezing heat. This means that the temperature never drops below zero and the buds therefore do not freeze.

Old plum tree branches are often twisted and mossy. After pruning they can enjoy a second life in a vase with a fabulous botanical look – pure ikebana.

Garden Plant of the Month
Blossom Trees are the Garden Plants for March 2019. The ‘Garden Plant of the Month’ is an initiative from the Flower Council of Holland. Every month the Flower Council works with representatives of the floriculture sector to choose one or more plants which are particularly popular with consumers, or which are not (yet) particularly well-known but which have the potential to do well in the garden, on the patio or on the balcony.

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