It isn’t too soon to think about the spring bareroot tree sale
By Barb Gorges
Back in the spring Martha Mullikin told me I had to come and see her orchard. I didn’t get there until mid-August. It should have been a good time to see fruit, but it just hasn’t been a good year for fruit trees here, with blossoms getting knocked off by late spring frost. Other years have been much better.
Cheyenne is not a hub for commercial orchards. Besides unpredictable weather we don’t have enough water. Fruiting trees and shrubs are not drought tolerant and need to be watered at least every week during the growing season. To up the chances of success, they need to be the right trees—and shrubs.
Martha picked her trees over the course of several years of Laramie County Master Gardeners’ bareroot tree sales offerings. She showed me her receipts from as far back as 2017 where one tree’s caliper, or diameter of the trunk, was slightly less than one inch. Five years later it is nearly triple that.
Small trees are easier to get established than larger ones—they recover from transplanting sooner (and they are easier to plant). And if they are bareroot, they establish faster than any with their roots coddled by potting soil.
Martha’s first tree was a Compass Cherry Plum, a cross between a cherry and a plum. Her next was a Liberty Apple. Apples need another apple to fertilize their blossoms. Luckily the neighbor has a crabapple that blooms at the same time, and that works. That year she also added an Evans Bali Cherry. Then came a Ure Pear and a Summercrisp Pear—pears also need two to fruit. The Zestar Apple finally bloomed last year. This year the blossoms froze. And Martha picked up a few elderberry shrubs.
This year’s LCMG bareroot sale includes 22 diverse plants from Bailey Nursery, a wholesale nursery in Minnesota. The choices are rated for USDA horticultural zones 3 and 4, colder than our Zone 5 area. That won’t protect them from frozen blossoms some years, but it should keep the trees from being killed by cold snaps.
Look for the sale online at LCMG.org in January and place your order for delivery in the spring.
There are a few plants on the list that aren’t fruiting: a couple of hardy peonies, a Bloomerang Lilac that will bloom twice a year, as well as two shade trees, Greenspire Linden and Lewis and Clark Prairie Expedition Elm. The elm is a cultivar from an American elm in North Dakota that survived Dutch Elm Disease years ago.
The list includes fruiting shrubs like Serviceberry, Purpleleaf Bailey Hazelnut, Nanking Cherry, Red Lake and Golden Currants and also Fallgold Raspberry which produces fruit twice a year.
Then there are the fruit trees. My favorite, Yellow Transparent Apple, is an old Russian heirloom. We had one in our yard in southeastern Montana. Its apples don’t store well but they make terrific applesauce.
Other apples chosen by the Bareroot Sale committee were selected for their hardiness and taste: Wealthy Apple, an 1868 heirloom; Liberty Apple, like Martha’s; and Cortland Apple, chosen to reestablish the orchard at the High Plains Arboretum on the west edge of Cheyenne. The Chestnut Crabapple is also good for baking, sauces, jams and jellies, and for pollinating apple trees.
Ure Pear is on the list again this year. This variety was discovered in Manitoba and is rated for chilly Zone 3. But remember, you need two pears, so you could pick up the other pear on the list, Golden Spice Pear, also a Zone 3.
There are two plums. Toka Plum is self-fertilizing and a Zone 3 cross between American and Japanese plums. The other, La Crescent Plum, needs another plum for fertilization and is rated for warmer Zone 4.
There’s an apricot, Pioneer Chinese Apricot. It’s one of the smaller fruit trees, about 10 feet tall when mature. It doesn’t need a second apricot, but cross-pollination does improve the yield.
And finally, there’s Mesabi Cherry, named for a geographic feature located near its Minnesota origins. It’s Zone 4, self-pollinating, 10-14 feet tall. Best part? Harvest is in July, way before many of these other fruits.
Before you place your order at the Laramie County Master Gardener website, be sure you have a planting location in mind that gets plenty of sun and to which you can get plenty of water.
And then success is all about the whims of Mother Nature. At least these are nice looking trees and shrubs, even in years without fruit.