Spreading the pollen love
THOSE of you that have visited a plant nursery in the past month or so will have noticed the small forest of sticks that is this season’s bare- rooted fruiting trees and shrubs.
With everything you have to take into account when selecting your fruit trees it’s understandable that people can become openly fearful when it comes to selecting the right pollinator.
The good news is it’s not all that complicated and in many cases not necessary at all.
Pollination is that magical plant love process, the end result of which provides us with delicious juicy fruit.
Fruit trees use many tools to spread their pollen such as wind and birds but by far the main one is the humble bee.
Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
Some of the available fruit trees such as peaches and apricots are self- fertile, meaning they will set fruit on their own without the help of another tree.
Many tree species such as apples, pears, cherries and plums will need a partner tree to cross- pollinate.
At the risk of sounding like a “where do babies come from?” discussion – crosspollination happens when two trees that are fl owering at the same time and of the same species but of a different variety exchange pollen.
There is an idea that there is only one or a couple of exclusive varieties that will crosspollinate your tree. This is in part right, the chances of synchronised fl owering between certain varieties is certainly more regular from year to year.
I suppose my problem with this idea is that trees do not necessarily always fl ower at the same time each year so there can be a lot of cross over from different varieties that may not be considered as compatible pollinators.
Stresses and the climate can affect the timing of a tree’s blossom so trees that have been cross- pollinating quite happily for years can suddenly have a year where their fl owers don’t open at the same time so there is no or very little fruit set.
If you have a small garden and only have space for one tree and you are wanting a variety of fruit that needs a pollinator then it is still possible to have your cake and eat it too.
There are multi- grafted trees usually with two to three varieties that will pollinate each other on the one tree.
Training methods such as espalier, cordons
Pollination is that magical plant love process, the end result of which provides us with delicious juicy fruit
and fans mean that you can have two trees in the space of one. It is also worth checking to see what other fruit trees are in and around your neighbourhood because there is an extremely high chance that there will be at least one compatible variety.
All apples require some cross pollination for good fruit set, there are some varieties that are considered self fertile like the Jonathan and red Fuji but even they will produce bigger crops more regularly with the aid of another tree.
There are a few varieties that are incompatible like a Golden Delicious will not pollinate a Gala. Some popular varieties like the Mutsu and the Jonagold are termed triploid which means they produce only sterile pollen.
One of the best pollinators for apples is the crab apple as not only can their fruit be crafted into a sublime jelly but they also put on the most magnifi cent autumn display.
Pears are fundamentally self sterile so they are a fruit type that is defi nitely in need of a pollinator. The two best varieties available as pollinators would have to be the Beurre Bosc and the Williams.
The plum varieties available are split into two categories, the large red fruited Japanese plums and the smaller purple European plums. The two categories are not compatible all, the Japanese plums pollinate Japanese plums and all the European plums pollinate themselves. The Santa Rosa plum is a partially self- fertile Japanese plum and makes a great pollinator as does the Damson and sugar plum for the European varieties.