Fruit tree blossoms
Although grown primarily for their fruits, many fruit trees produce pretty spring blossoms too.
In horticulture speak, a woody plant that blooms before the leaves emerge is referred to as precocious. It seems a misnomer, since a fruit tree in full blossom is a fine sight. But however spectacular, early blooming trees are at risk of frosts damaging the tender petals and stamens.
Almond trees are notably early in their blossoming time, so are best suited to regions where frosts are not common. They produce a show of white flowers tinged with pink. As well as a feast for the eyes, almond flowers fill the air with the scent of honey.
The soft and tender petals, and fragile stamens of blossoms need protection from spring frosts, so swathe your trees in frost cloth or run a sprinkler over the trees through the night when frosts are expected. The water will form a frozen protective layer on blooms.
Encourage spring blossoms by feeding fruit trees with sulphate of potash in autumn. This is when buds in the branches of deciduous fruit trees are differentiating between vegetative and flowering/fruiting buds. The more potassium in autumn, the more flowers in spring.
BLOSSOMS FOR THE VASE
All fruit tree blossoms look great in a vase, but remember that you'll be sacrificing fruit if you remove flowering stems, so take only a few stems from each tree. Single stems look great on their own in small glass vases. But what to pick?
Peach and nectarine trees are spring stunners, with soft pink blossoms. The Flatto peach and nectarine varieties are extra prolific bloomers, with up to 50 flowers per metre of branch.
Japanese plum varieties such as 'Elephant Heart', 'Fortune' and 'Santa Rosa' flower with soft white single blooms in mid spring; European types such as 'Damson' and greengages bloom later (and thus are less susceptible to frosts in colder areas).
As spring progresses, the later-flowering pome fruit – apples, pears and quinces – get underway with their spring display, usually in September.
Apple blossoms range from pure white single flowers to pink-tinged, depending on the variety and are borne on spurs or the tips of branches. Pear trees all produce single white flowers. Quinces have richly scented, large floppy white blossom. Pomegranates have cute red-orange flowers that look like crumpled-up carnations, sometimes as single flowers on the branch tips but more often as clusters of blooms. They flower first in spring but the trees can continue to flower through spring, or may just flower again in summer.
Flowering cherries may have white or pink single or double blooms. New Zealand-bred 'Awanui' has an amazing show of shell-pink flowers in September.
Branches with unopened buds can be cut in winter and brought indoors to flower earlier in warmer temperatures.