Saturday, February 14, 2009

The blossoms have begun....

Bush Cherry Joel at Sybil's farm

Spring comes in fits and spurts here, long before the final warmup into summer. The "heat wave" of 70+ degrees last week brought out the local daffodils, flowering quince, forsythia and cherry blossoms. Does anyone grow quince for the fruit? I'd love to know about it.

I miss the little bush cherry (4') we had along the front fence which always burst into wonderful pink and white blossoms this time of year. It was a lovely little "Joel" developed by Elwyn Meader, an outstanding plant breeder in New Hampshire. He bred three bush cherries and named them for his grandchildren: Joel, Jan and Joy. We trialed all three to see if we would be interested in carrying them as a nursery plant but Jan and Joy perished quickly in the recent hot, dry summers. Partially shaded by a crape myrtle, Joel managed with virtually no care and produced delicious crops of "pie" cherries (I love tart cherries), despite being ravaged by Japanese beetles annually and gradually developing enough disease to require being removed.

Although catalog descriptions maintain that the each plants require a pollinator, our hardiest and last standing, Joel, produced cherries on its own for several years. Joel suffered the life of a test plant - I always trialed our new varieties to see how they would hold up under total neglect by a homeowner - but I was impressed enough that I probably will replace him with new plants next spring and treat them with Surround & Neem protection. I'd do it this spring but my happy reviews apparently fell on listening ears and the reliable sources say they are sold out for 2009.

If you don't know of Surround protectant spray,here's the info from in VA where I order mine every couple of years. Surround clay spray looks very wierd, turns the leaf and stem surfaces white and you'd swear the plant would smother along with the insects but the plants love it! SurroundTM Crop Protectant - Made from Kaolin clay, this white coating for plant surfaces suppresses pests and reduces harmful solar effects. Developed by the USDA, its micro-particulates link together to form a semi continuous porous "particle film" barrier that protects your fruits, vegetables and foliage but doesn't block light. Use on: Tree Fruit; protects against insects like psylla and plum curculio and reduces heat stress and sunburn, Vegetable and Field Crops; suppresses insects such as flea beetles, Japanese beetles, lace bugs, leafhoppers, thrips and more. Tank mixes with most other pest control products except dormant oil. Mixes well with lime-sulfur and wettable sulfur used for disease control. Surrround can be applied during bloom on crops. It is best to apply when bees are not actively foraging. You can increase wetting ability if you mix in Safer soap with the surround. This is especially helpful on shinny and waxy foliage. Trials at 7 Springs show flea and cucumber beetle suppression on many crops. Thorough coverage of fruit and foliage before infestation gives best results. Using our backpack sprayers, we find it easy to mix, apply and clean up.

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