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Apr 19, 2009 10:19 AM

Perennials, or planting for the future

What do you have in the way of long term plants or trees that you planted or plan to plant for years to come?

I have some mint and sorrel out in the lawn that seemingly will live forever. I just harvested my first spring sorrel -- what a treat!

I have my rhubarb plants to put in. And will prepare a bed this year for asparagus planting next spring.
I'm also thinking about raspberry bushes, because supposedly they're carefree, and raspberries are expensive, even in season.

Also thinking about a pear or walnut tree. Instead of an ornamental, I'm thinking why not a fruit/nut tree? I'm in the Northeast.

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  1. Over the past nine months I've often said to people "I'll be getting more for my retirement from the fruit trees we've planted than from my IRA."

    Shortly after we bought our property, we found old apple trees and several sour cherry saplings hiding in the brush. That led us to to add more to our "home orchard." We now have pears, a peach, nectarine, apricot and a couple different plums. Those new additions (about 5-7 years ago) are finally mature enough to have fruit. Yeah!

    Pears are very easy, but they come with a caveat: they need a pollinator (second tree) and not just any old pollinator will do. Pears are fussy. Your local nursery may sell fruit trees, among other things, but they don't necessarily have the knowledge of what will pollinate with what. Excellent sources for this information are the catalogs of Miller Nurseries ( and Stark Bros. ( They are also an excellent source for good, healthy trees. They ain't cheap, but we've found the added cost is well worth it.

    These nurseries have also developed some of their own varieties that can push the envelope in terms of planting zones. That is how we can have peaches and nectarines in Rhode Island.....

    "Instead of an ornamental" You can use fruit trees as both. There really is not a flowering shrub that can beat my nectarine for its lovely blossoms. And some of the plums have lovely purple foliage.

    Warning on the walnut: I'm not sure if this happens with a "regular" walnut, but I have read that Black Walnuts will inhibit the growth of anything within a wide radius of itself. The roots exude toxins (please nobody slam me if I haven't remembered this quite correctly) that prevent anything competing with it. For the walnut, it's self-preservation. For the home gardener, it's limiting.

    8 Replies
    1. re: clamscasino

      Heh, heh. Yeah, I'm thinking of my retirement rich with fruit and berries . . .and asparagus!

      Thanks for the suggestions of nurseries, and tip on fussy pears. And yes, black walnuts are the murderous demons of the plant world.
      (when I was a Master Gardener and people called in about their plants dying in one area, we asked: do you have a black walnut tree?)

      Is there a reason for planting fruit trees in rows? For the pollination?
      I want to landscape my property and not have it look like a commercial orchard!

      1. re: NYchowcook

        No need to plant in rows. You're on your way to an edible landscape.

        1. re: NYchowcook

          Orchards of trees are planted in regular spacing (rows) to optimize water, sunlight, soil nutrients; and to facilitate weed control, pruning harvesting.

        2. re: clamscasino

          Fruit trees are pretty but require more care than a lot of ornamentals.

          1. re: Shrinkrap

            I think that statement is waaay too broad....Certainly many types of fruit are fussy, but many are not. And much depends on one's goals. Our fruit may not look pretty enough to sell at a farmer's market, but it is quite suitable for home canning, freezing and putting up as preserves. And since we have no pressure to come up with a viable commercial crop year after year, we are free to let nature take its course.

            That being said, it is important to select varieties that are appropriate for your zone. Site selection is also important - a sunny southern slope is ideal. If you want good apples, yes, you are going to have to do a lot of work (pruning in particular). But the sour cherries and pears can be relatively maintenance free. Their success from year seems to be entirely dependant on the weather during blossoming and shortly thereafter.

            1. re: clamscasino

              You are right of course. In looking at what I wrote, I can only say, writing on a tablet PC makes me lazy. I am usually much less opinionated. I agree choosing the right thing for the site and climate makes ALL the difference. My citrus, figs and grapes require WAY less than my stone fruit. As much as I don't like it, not spraying the nectarines, etc., causes problems not just for me, but for my neighbors. But even the roots of the fig tree, and trimming the vines of my grapes seem a bigger nuisance them most of my low maintainance, low-water garden. Then theres cleaning up the dropped fruit if you want to avoid.what that brings. You don't have to spray sour cherries?

              1. re: Shrinkrap

                I'm curious as to why NOT spraying the nectarines causes problems for you and your neighbors. Last year was really only the first that we had more than 5 fruits on the nectarine tree, so we are inexperienced in growing them. Last year they had to be picked just before they were ripe as they went right to mold if left on the tree. Perhaps we do need to start spraying with dormant oil. (I think that's what it's called.)

                No, the sour cherries do not need spraying. If there was poor weather during blossoming the fruit is of a lesser quality though and there's far less of it.

                We don't need to to worry about dropped fruit, 'cause the deer take care of that for us. I well remember mowing someone's yard as a teen though. They had a pear tree and the wasps and bees just loved that dropped fruit!

                1. re: clamscasino

                  Cherries are pretty tricky around here, and it's very close to some commercial growing areas ( but for sweet cherries). Rain has to be enough, but not too late. Also the fruit nd leaves can be prone to fungas if they are damp at the wrong time. Our lots are smallish, so I believe things like peach leaf curl and a few other fungal diseases are easily spread. Could be wrong, but it seems when we both spray, everything is good.The oil is for smothering certain insects ( scale, aphids, maybe some worm larvae, and things that bore into the bark) which can be a problem in close proximity too, but spraying things like lime and sulphur tend to be for fungi ( fungeses?).Dropped fruit and "mummies" left on the tree can make the fungal things worse over time.

        3. Planting in the past:

          When I grew up in Fresno my parents filled the yard (in addition to the ornamental stuff) with productive perennials: black walnut, pecan, grapefruit, oranges, pomegranite, kumquat, Japanese pear, Fuji apple, avocado (huge productive tree), asparagus, grapes (mostly for the leaves), mint, ...

          1. Careful with the raspberries. Mine sent out suckers all over the yard. I finally took them out and am still finding the random new growth.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nvcook

              I hear you about the raspberries...I think I am going to start a new thread on this subject. and tap into the wisdom of the board. I have many happy memories of my grandmother's rapsberry canes (pies, crisps and bowls and handfuls of berries in season). But, like kids everwhere I have no idea how much brutal labour went into this miracle crop and more importantly, I don't want to invite trouble into my Dream Garden.

            2. Artichokes!!!! We planted two last spring, and they are producing like crazy. Apparently there are now varieties that will tolerate colder weather, so you don't have to live in a Mediterranean climate to grow them. And they're very attractive plants, especially if you have lots of ladybugs to take care of the aphid problem.

              Mint can take over a garden, though -- I grow it in pots only. I grew up in a house whose front yard was overrun with mint and whose backyard was a blackberry jungle.