Thursday, March 24, 2011

Experimental Fruit 101

Last weekend I visited (for the first time) our local Fruit Scion Exchange, held by the Home Orchard Society in Canby at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds this year.

As an avid fruit grower with just a middling knowledge on the subject, it was a thrilling sight!  Hundreds of people cramming excitedly into the building for the chance to get their hands on some rare variety of fruiting plant.  Isn't it great that food gardening has become so popular?

For the novice, this event can be overwhelming and confusing with so much to choose from and little explanation of procedure. The volunteers work really hard to make it come together, so it's not meant as a criticism... but the noise level inside made it nearly impossible to ask questions. Would have liked to watch the expert grafters at work but those lines were forever long, as was the rootstock table.  I took some grafting in horticulture school but never did enough to get really good at it-- yet.

Female Seaberry leafing out
Basically the way a "scion exchange" works is that you pay an entry fee, which entitles you to as many fruit scions as you want, for free.  Scion wood is the part on your tree/plant that produces the edible variety.  That part is grafted onto a rootstock, which determines overall height and vigor of the tree, among other characteristics.  Your free scions must now be grafted onto something... so you can either stand in the long line to buy rootstock ($5 or so) and do it yourself, or pay the experts to graft it for you (another table).  Now you have a complete fruit tree to take home and baby for a year so the graft can knit together.

The other option is to take your scions home and graft them onto existing trees in your landscape.  Perhaps you have an old vigorous cherry tree that only produces the tiny sour cherries and you want some sweet ones.  Or you have an apple tree with a single variety and you'd like several on that tree.  Some folks even graft onto related plants, like a named apple variety onto wild crabapple.

Since I was unprepared as to variety information, I picked up a few scions knowing nothing about them.  Some had been recommended to me as a coastal gardener, from folks on the HOS forum.  Everything fruit-wise on the coast is an experiment, so I'm willing to give things a shot. Here's what I brought home:

Apples - Honeycrisp (a favorite), Airlie Red Flesh (also known as Hidden Rose), King Luscious
Pear - Orcas (a Puget Sound variety), Swiss Bergamotte
Asian Pear - 20th Century
Grape - Swensen's Red

Other fruits I'm growing in my home landscape in Lincoln City OR are experimental, those already bearing fruit successfully are marked in bold.  Others are quite young so it's too soon to tell, stay tuned.

Lingonberry 'Red Pearl' (OGW)
Espalier apple, 3 way: Liberty, Akane, Melrose (BL)
Espalier pear, 3 way: Bartlett, Rescue, Anjou (BL)
'Rescue' pear blossoms
spring peach blooms
Peach 'Frost', fan-trained on south wall  (BL)
Thornless blackberry 'Black Satin'
Cascade Berry, gift from our clients' Seattle home
Purple-leaf fruiting plum, unknown rooted variety, heirloom from client
Olives 'Arbequina' and 'Leccino' (OGW)
Seaberry (male & female) 'Garden's Gift' (OGW)
Honeyberry 'Blue Pacific' and 'Blue Velvet' (OGW)
Strawberry 'Seascape' (BL)
Raspberry 'Saanich' (RT)
Asian pears 'Kosui' and 'Chojuro', training into pleached form as screen (BL)
Alpine strawberry 'Mignonette'
Hops- 'Golden' (BL), 'Nugget' and 'Cascade'
Grapes - Sauvignon Blanc, 'Price', 'Crimson Bunch', 'Ortega'  (RT)
Black currant 'Crandall' (RT)
Evergreen huckleberry, native
Blueberry- 3 bushes, 'Duke' and 'Blue Crop' (BL)
Cranberry 'Stevens' - creeping groundcover type (RT)
Fig 'Negronne' - potted in greenhouse
Hardy kiwi 'Issai' (OGW)
Pomegranate (BL) - potted in greenhouse, outside summer
Citrus, unknown orange variety - potted in greenhouse, outside summer
Nanking Cherry (bush-type) - heirloom from my grandfather's garden

Non-fruiting food plants, perennial:
Rhubarb, 'Victoria' (BL)
Asparagus - unknown (BL), this will be the 3rd year
Artichokes - 'Green Globe' I think (BL)
Cinnamon vine (tuberous) 'Dr. Yao' (OGW)
Ginger -potted, from organic grocery
Wintergreen - leafy groundcover (OGW)
Tea shrub 'Sochi' (OGW) - man, do the deer love this one!
Saffron crocus (OGW)
Daylilies (for edible flowers) - several

Deer protection on tea
Jerusalem sage - not an herb, but leaves edible - (BL)

Legend: Plants purchased mail-order from Raintree Nursery (RT), One Green World (OGW) or in-person from Blake's Coastal Nursery in Gleneden Beach (BL).  Some were obtained from other gardeners.  Please note whether they can ship to your state before ordering fruit.

What kind of fruit are you growing in your landscape or garden?


  1. I wish they had a scion exchange in my area (New Hampshire). Sounds like it is a great event.

  2. I planted a lot of fruit last year, and have plans to add more as soon as it warms up a bit. It's really unfair that we're at the same latitude and yet you have a much milder climate.

  3. Oh man I wish I didn't forget about this event!

  4. Your almost as bad as me!

    I'm just north of Seattle. Similar climate. This is my experiment.

    Blueberries: 10 bushes
    Sunshine Blue X2, Bountiful Blue X2, Chandler,
    Pink Lemonade, Spartan, Earliblue, Reka, Bluecrop
    Raspberries: 4 bushes
    Meeker, Unknown from cutting X3
    Cranberry: Pilgram
    Strawberry: Alpine Minionette, Tri-star
    Lingonberry: Don't remember variety
    Fuzzy Kiwi: Hayward
    Blackberry: Triple Croown, Loch Ness
    Honeyberry: Blue Velvet, Blue Forest
    Black Currant: Crandall
    Grape: Suffolk
    Nectarine: Flavortop
    Gooseberry: Hinnomaki Red
    Apple: North Pole Columnar
    Passaflora: Maypop
    Physallis: Pineapple Tomatillo, Ground Cherry, Giant Cape Gooseberry.
    Pawpaw: Mango, NC-1

    This is my 1st full year growing and I'm having a lot of fun trying new things. I am now eyeing an Orus-8 Jostaberry. Looks like fun.

  5. Glad I found this garden post. This kind of fruit scion exchange is new to me, and I have plans for more fruit in our landscaping west of Portland, in Beaverton.

    Did grafting in college, and am confident this would be worth my time. Pear and apple would be my top picks.


    M. D. Vaden
    Landscaping Design and Tree Care Portland