Probably one of the most attractive and useful of all the cool climate fruit trees is the apricot.
Its beautiful white blossoms adorn the branches in spring before the arrival of orange-tinted new growth and later on the golden ripe fruit becomes its crowning glories.
This sturdy tree is deciduous in nature, the outstretched bare limbs in winter let sunlight into the garden and in summer the dappling leaves filter the sun’s rays proving itself a valuable shade tree.
The most common apricot trees grown are the very productive Moore Park, the mid-season Travett while the rich flavour of Tilton makes it a firm favourite with jam makers.
The dwarf varieties make lovely potted plants for a sunny paved area with the colourful autumn leaves, tinted a beautiful red and yellow, adding extra interest to the garden landscape.
This member of the Rosaceae family is one of the earliest fruits to ripen and all varieties can be eaten fresh, stewed, bottled or preserved for future use.
Apricots can be grown in light sandy soil or on heavy clay soils, but it is essential when buying a tree to ask if the rootstock on which it is grafted is the right one for light or heavy soils.
A well-draining soil is required.
Chilly winters and frosts are crucial to temperate climate fruit trees because without a certain period of coldness during dormancy the fruit buds don’t get the necessary chilling they need to mature.
The number of hours required varies with the type of fruit but apricots require about 200 hours below seven degrees Celsius in winter to ensure a good crop.
Without this chill factor apricots will drop their dormant fruit buds before opening in late winter.
This is the reason apricots don’t bear in tropical areas and why they bear so well in the dry, hot inland regions where winter frosts are severe.
As with all deciduous fruit trees planting is done during winter, so now would be a good time because the young roots are beginning to grow.
Again, like all deciduous fruit trees the young tree is cut back hard at planting time.
Cut the top back to allow for transplanting shock or none of the hundreds of buds along the young branches will throw out strong enough growth to make the tree’s framework.
The result will be a spindly, weak, badly-shaped tree.
Only two, three or four well-spaced limbs of about equal thickness and strength should be kept and these should be cut back to three or four buds, with the top bud pointing in the direction you want the limb to extend to.
The cuts should be made just above the bud and sloping away from the bud.
If the tree doesn’t have two, three or four of these well-spaced shoots then the main or strongest shoot can be cut back with all the others removed.
After this initial trimming an apricot tree should only be pruned if absolutely necessary, and only after the fruit has been picked to minimise the risk of infection from the fungus gummosis which is a disease that will gradually kill the tree.
August 15: The Launceston Horticultural Society meets at Windmill Hill Hall, High Street, Launceston at 8pm. Guest speaker is arborist Frank Rosol. Visitors welcome. Home-made supper, trade table, raffle.
August 16: The Launceston Orchid Society meets at the Newnham Uniting Church Hall, George Town Road, Launceston at 7pm.
August 21: Australian Plant Society meets at the Max Fry Hall Gorge Rd, Trevallyn at 7.30pm.
Daily: The Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, Romaine, Burnie. Open 9am to 5pm. Tea room open 10am to 4pm.