Combination Fruit Trees

          I was recently reading a news release by NDSU Extension forester, Joe Zeleznik, relating to trees holding their leaves into the winter.

(  He wrote about a couple of combination apple trees he has. While most combination apple trees have three or four varieties on the same tree, one of his has nearly a dozen varieties. He writes about the harvest being interesting as it varies from year to year.

I have one apple tree which is a multi or combination variety tree. I’m not sure if it was planted as a combo tree or if the some damage and partial dieback caused a new rootstock trunk to grow alongside the original so I get some small crab apples and some larger eating apples. I have no idea what variety the apples are. Joe could probably tell by looking or at least narrow it down to a couple of likely options. This year it was really loaded but the birds moved in a couple of days before I thought they were ready to be harvested. I’ve never seen them completely strip the tree before. I’ve seen Cedar Waxwings do that on a crab apple tree during the winter but these were a larger apple.

I have an area between my house and the old shelterbelt that I have removed the dead trees and the caragana making a somewhat sheltered area that should make a good location for some fruit trees. Joe’s article has made me think about multiple species of fruit trees. Many fruit trees need to be cross pollinated by other varieties of the same species. In a residential area, homeowners often are successful with a single apple or pear tree because their neighbor has a tree of the same species but a different variety. In my rural location I was thinking I would have to save space for pollinator varieties of each species I might plant. Joe’s article gives me hope that I might be able to try a few different species in my limited area.

I did a little research and found that it might not be so simple. Bowbells is sometimes listed as a Hardiness Zone 3b and sometimes as a zone 4a. Most of the combination fruit trees listed for sale on-line are listed as zone 5 or warmer! Some combination apple trees do have one or more varieties which are considered hardy to zone 4 but the nurseries won’t guarantee that that is what you will get because their grafting success is not always the same from year to year!

I may still try some combo trees. A couple of apples and maybe some pears or plums. At least the idea will provide some interesting research to spend some time on during a cold wintery day.